Friday, November 22, 2013

Your Adobe info has probably been compromised...

If you have an account with Adobe, you should know that Reuters reports:
A computer security firm has uncovered data it says belongs to some 152 million Adobe Systems Inc user accounts, suggesting that a breach reported a month ago is far bigger than Adobe has so far disclosed and is one of the largest on record.

LastPass, a password security firm, said on Thursday that it has found email addresses, encrypted passwords and password hints stored in clear text from Adobe user accounts on an underground website frequented by cyber criminals.
This means not only that your Adobe account has been compromised, but that any accounts sharing email and password should definitely be overhauled as soon as possible! This is why you shouldn't have the same password on more than one website. Difficult I know, but if your greatest threat is a cyber rather-than a personal attack, consider having a little address book with passwords as a solution - just don't lose that book!

Stay safe.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Review: The Progress of Sherlock Holmes - Ivy Blossom

Fan Fiction Review:
The Progress of Sherlock Holmes by Ivy Blossom.
Hosted on AO3.

When I was living at Baker St once more, after my second marriage, I often came home to find Sherlock unmoved from his position that morning, or gone for long periods of time during which I heard not a single word from him. I worried as I used to, but soon remembered my old habits and did not expect to dine with him on any given night. He would make his dramatic reappearance when he could. Although, Sherlock was happy to fold me into his cases where he could, but my schedule did not often permit it. Indeed, in our chase across Europe for an individual who stole a certain object of whom and of which I am not yet allowed to speak publicly about, I was left with many hours to catch up on at the practice. How I long for the days of yore when doctors could hand their practices off for a day or so.

But Sherlock continued on, with or qithout his blogger, and one afternoon I came from a long day at the practice, and found Sherlock still in his dressing gown, a cheery fire fighting off the first frost that year, reading from a laptop balanced on his knees. My first impression was that the hearth probably hadn't seen a fire since before the Iraq War, but succeeded by frustration at the general disorder Sherlock had left untended, dissipating almost instantly when he muttered the smallest noise: 'Hmm.'

I'd known Sherlock to sit in silence when presented with a new case and decided to leave him to his thoughts. I proceeded to make the quietest cup of tea possible, but interrupted his reverie none-the-less.

"Wouldn't you like to know what I've been reading?" His eyes sparkled in that way of his, and I told him I would. "We've become players in an online drama," he said, his eyes diverting back to the laptop's screen. "The Progress of Sherlock Holmes."

I continued to stand by the counter and asked if he would like some tea. "How can you ask - tea? Full strength, please." I obliged.

"So, are they attempting to solve you, turn you into a mundane like the rest of humanity?" I brought the tea to the sofa, "She's not in love with you, is she?" I sighed, "poor girl."

"Just have a skim," he said, and I bent to read over his shoulder. I don't remember exactly what the text was, only that Sherlock was injured and had Tchaikovsky in his head. "I don't love Tchaikovsky," I balked and he snickered, "do I?" He conceded: "you seem to like everything, except Mozart. But no, I don't think you've ever said you love Pyotr." I continued reading and then froze. "Is it another romance?" His reply was curt and affirmative. I took the laptop from him and began to scroll through the thing, taking in Mary's name used so casually, and sat there in disbelief, looking from Sherlock, sipping his tea contentedly and back to the mass of text before me.

"Interesting, isn't it. Almost true to life." It wasn't a question.

"But this isn't true at all!" I objected.

His eyebrows rose in amazement, "Yes, but isn't that the point in fiction? It's elaborate and colorful lies, the conceit is that there is any truth in it at all."

"You sound like a fifteen year old girl, here."

"Perhaps I am, emotionally. Also, I am a virgin 'here', so perhaps there is a parallel."

"You don't give yourself enough credit." I continued to scroll.

"What about the cocaine."

"What about it?"

"What do you think."

I huffed. "Written by someone who has read about substance abuse online or in school?" I offered. He snorted: "Abuse." I fixed him a look. He slurped his tea loudly.

"I don't find your portrayal as sympathetic as you are in real life, but close," he said softly.

"Pardon?" He began to repeat his words, but I cut him off, "I heard what you said."

He paused before speaking again, finally saying, "you are even more companionable a person, and sympathetic a friend than the public could ever guess."

I began to speak, but he interrupted my appreciation. "I don't think I would act like that if I were to fall in love with you, though. Although I might, I've never given it much thought."

"Well," I fiddled with my tea, a bit annoyed at that point, "how would you call it true to life then?"

He wove his hand, "in the abstract, John." He settled the cup down and turned to me. The laptop felt a bit like a shield from his intense stare. "Our friendship has been invaluable to me."

"Yes, but not like this." I was exasperated. He rolled his eyes. "Obviously. But doesn't it intrigue you?" I turned away just as his put his face near mine. The seconds ran on in silence, the fire cracked away.

"Sherlock." I spoke calmly, awaiting explanation. His big nose was close to my cheek and I could hear the air whistling through nasal passages.

"John," was his reply. "Am I bothering you?"

"Doubtless it's another experiment." I cleared my throat and waited. He squinted at me, "you grow increasingly adept."

"Thank you." I repaid the compliment with a smile.

"It's promising... and yet irritating, somehow." He stood from the sofa and left. I smiled for my own enjoyment then, perhaps a little too pleased with myself, and contemplated the eternal debate between Ethiopian and Spanish take-out. I bowed my head and conceded, there's always curry.

213,458 words. Archive of Our Own. 22nd March 2011.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Autumnal Explorations

I realize I have one not-even-really-a-review sitting between this editorial and the last 'news' update, but I hope you'll forgive me. My review of Off-Topic was meant to be entertaining. I was inspired to contribute to that book and wrote the review the way I did because it's what I've always loved about Goodreads. Enough has been said on this blog about that topic already, but I'm hoping you'll enjoy it if my future reviews are more creative. I'm not working for the New York Book Review, after all, why do I have to follow a formula?

Liz Worth said in that Q&A I shared, and I'm paraphrasing, 'it's a shame that the people you see at a gallery opening are not the same ones you see at a concert or a book signing'. But why not? I'm interested in books, travel and tea, and these often intertwine. The music I listen to is in part inspired by the places I want to travel. I want to travel to those places I've read about, where I hear the tea is fabulous. My writing is inspired by the the things I listen to, so why not post about that, too? I'm pretty into translating more books into English because we have over 200 languages on this planet and lots of people read English as a second language.

Tea break under a glacier by Gilda (fairlybuoyant) CC BY-SA 2.0
It was unbelievably cold and these guys were just sitting down having yak butter tea.
I have a languishing travel blog and also write somewhat regularly on Lang-8, a social network focused on correcting blogs written in your native language while you practice the languages you are learning. I never blogged about tea because I didn't have enough to say. 

My latest blogging endeavor is linked to NaNoWriMo. On November 1st I decided to start a whole new project, without outline or any plan, and started posting a webserial called Bear's Claw, NY. It has evolved over the weekend into a young adult dramedy set in a school eerily similar to the one I attended for thirteen years. I'm a little cautious about deciding who ends up with who, but I've got one relationship underway, have one crush established, and am working on blossoming two more. But if anybody breaks up or makes up is unknown to me. Since I'm posting it as I'm write it, I'm hoping you'll chime in and tell me your thoughts. I'd like it if this could be interactive, based on your suggestions and interpretations.

I'm currently reading the second of Patricia Brigg's Mercy Thompson novels, Blood Bound and am going to be posting a review of the first, Moon Called, and Ruby Red (Rubinrot) by Kerstin Gier soon. John and Sherlock from Sherlock on BBC will soon be riffing about a Fan Fic in which they fall in love called The Progress of Sherlock Holmes by Ivy Blossom. I'm a big fan of the classic stories, so I hope you enjoy my homage. Today I got my first proof copy of Off-Topic: The Story of an Internet Revolt in the mail today - very exciting. Nora Olsen just posted on facebook that her next book, Frenemy of the People is coming out in May 2014, I'm really looking forward to reading it. I've also learned that an old classmate of mine is currently living in Amsterdam! I'll have to go see her and Van Gogh, I guess.
There probably won't be any Yak Butter Tea in the near future, but I hope to add a little more variety to my book blog.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Review: Off-Topic - G. R. Reader

It was overwhelming chaos that met Kara Erickson's announcement on the 21st of September, 2013. Tensions have been high since April, when uncertainty of the future began to stain our horizons following the acquisition by Amazon. I don't think anyone was quite prepared for the reckoning with which Mr. Reader's first words, under a different name, began to appear on the internet. To say, Mr. Reader, that you were a harbinger of doom, would be giving you far too much credit. But a storm did break when you appeared on the scene, perhaps you would agree that you are bad news: that you are somewhat unscrupulous and prone to consuming far more Coffea arabica than is wholesome. Unwed women - and men, for that matter - would be best kept away from you, lest you poison their minds with your wildly disproportionate ideas of social justice and free speech. I will allow this much sentiment to shine through: were it not for your first foray into the world of authorial misconduct on October 12th, we might not have known what to do with the swell of creativity on our shores of the prior few weeks and months.

I find myself changed in the aftermath of your book being published, Mr. Reader; perhaps it was the long nights, the legal team you had working around the clock, the untrained monkey who did relentless searches for images in the creative commons or your sock puppets. Whether this is an improvement upon my state or not, I will let my therapist decide.

Mr. Reader, I would like to interject a quote from the annals of British parliament, from Winston Churchill himself, in a speech given in the House of Commons on the 10th of December, 1936.
"Nothing is more certain or more obvious than that recrimination or controversy at this time would be not only useless but harmful and wrong. What is done is done. What has been done or left undone belongs to history, and to history, so far as I am concerned, it shall be left."
We should have been unlucky to remember these words one score and two days ago when your labor began, Mr. Reader. Due to impropriety and pretension on, I'll admit it, all our parts, you have curated a mixed bag of trophies and truffles, almost all easily found elsewhere, written by internet-famous personages, impeccably organized and with not enough run on sentences, and I cannot, in good conscience, rate it less than five stars. (Did not you yourself suggest in a drunken stupor that we rate books on a curve, Mr. Reader?)

Congratulations on your birth, I will send a baby shower gift with the next messenger pigeon, provided my copy of the book, ordered from lulu.com, arrives unscathed. Further, I will recommend my friends share the book freely as you so eloquently suggested in your email of the 3nd of November, 2013, received at 3:41 in the morning. Mr. Reader, you will forever live in infamy thanks to the toiling efforts of men and women (and monkeys) across the globe: I hope to God you can live with what you have done.

A Message from Mr. Reader's Untrained Monkey: The book can be found for free by those as unscrupulous as I [The Monkey] and could not be sold on Lulu's servers for less than the given price. This is a tragedy of the capitalistic world we live in, but one which one as unscrupulous as I [The Monkey] can benefit [buy more bananas].

Mr. Reader himself has declined to comment. Considering the barrage of emails I was receiving from him as recently as two hours ago, it is in keeping with his character. I also seem to have run out of bananas.

Too Long; Didn't Read 
Mr. Reader is a biased editor who is overly fond of Greek legends; his opinions are one-sided, his taste is common and he did not pay me!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Gothic Mystery and Booklikes

It's been a tedious couple of weeks. I have now made the discovery that handymen do not like to be called out to houses for small tasks like fixing wiring or shutters. They would prefer to sell you a whole new system which can be installed in fourteen days from now. It annoys me. Yes, I know my shutters are from the 70s, and my windows are even older than that, but telling me to save up instead of doing a temporary solution is not helpful.

"Herbst im Taunus" v. Peter Sieling
It's getting cold, harder to justify lugging a book out into the fields and reading it while the the wind freezes your ears. It seems to rain every night as well, making the farm tracks and forest paths muddy and slippery. I'll be leaving soon though, and I wish I had been able to see more of the forest.

I've finally gotten my but in gear and started reviewing books again. I was lingering with The Hill of Devi and then blew through Unbreak Me which I decided to just review on Booklikes as I couldn't think of anything interesting to say about it here. A review of Moon Called is on its way, although it's probably going to contain more original material than review material. We'll see how that goes.

I've also gotten to be (hyper)active on Booklikes. It's like tumblr, a bit, in that it encourages mico-blogging. Preferring short posts over long ones. It also allows me to unleash the full powers of my GIFs which I have been collecting for just such a purpose.

I'm currently reading Rubinrot the original language edition of Kerstin Gier's popular Ruby Red, first in the Gem Trilogy. It was really gripping at first, but reviews saying that the series seemed as though it could have been condensed into one long book seem to be proved already. More than halfway through the book and the adventure is only beginning, the first questions about the nature of the secret society are only just being posed, never-mind getting the first answers. Another fifty pages and we may see some action.

I've got a book I'm excited to be reading next though, the tiny little Gothic novella, The Jew's Beech by Anette von Droste-Hülshoff, a story taking place in the crumbling Holy Roman Empire, and one of the first murder mysteries ever written. I'm pretty stoked.

A friend of mine also heralded the fact that NaNoWriMo is coming! I'm going to be a rebel this year, which means, no, I am not cheating, I will just be using my writerly faculties for editing instead. I'm also hoping to get this housework done soon so I can travel a bit, maybe meet the writers in London or another city. I can't take all my books back to New York either, so I'll have to read the majority of them, taking the ones I want to still read. Which means I'll continue to muck around in book blogs and on Goodreads even during November. See you around!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Review: The Shoebox Project - Lady Jaida & Dorkorific

Fan Fiction Review:
The Shoebox Project by Lady Jaida and Dorkorific.
Hosted on their website, shoebox.lomara.org.

I swear everything you've heard about this is true, this is that good. But I think it's best to go in knowing that this story ends abruptly: it's got an ending that dangles you 20 feet above your destination - the place that anyone who has read the Harry Potter books knows it will end. For the sake of the 25% who haven't read Harry Potter and are still reading this review - hello, seems rather unlikely that you are reading this, even rounding up you'd be 1% - I won't spoil the books.

The Shoebox Project is a Marauder's Era fic, detailing the school years and beyond of Harry's parents and their friends. This is mostly appealing because the romance of Harry's parents, James and Lily, is assured, and these kids get up to some hilarious and dangerous trouble. This includes: getting high on Gillyweed, accidentally seeing Professor McGonagal in a bathing suit , and almost killing a fellow student. It's coming-of-age, long, illustrated and epistolary. It also features a thing that has become a sub-fandom of Harry Potter itself: Wolfstar, a portmanteau of the good ship Remus Lupin and Sirius Black, RL/SB for you old-school folks.


Now, I know what you're thinking: 'A girl like her who has reviewed the likes of Escape Velocity, what can she know about a book that other people would like?' Firstly, I find your tone a little alienating, but I've been there, I understand where you're coming from. Secondly, this is well written with great character voices, even Peter Freakin Pettigrew was interesting, and furthermore, sympathetic! Even by the lengths these authors went to make it clear that Peter was not a pity-member of the Marauders, I actually wanted to read more about him. The illustrations, done by Dorkorific, sometimes known as Rave, are really good, and the handwriting done by the two authors, examples included, made it feel like found mementos as it's purported to be. The premise of The Shoebox Project is, after all, one of memories, photographs, collected notes and journal entries all saved by Remus. Despite the fact that this story does not entirely coincide with the information that Rowling has released about her intrepid quartet in recent times, and canon established by the last couple books, this still holds up. I enjoyed it, many fans I encountered in London recommended it, and I was finally inspired to read it because of Mark. There is no happy ending, but with efforts of fans like these, you can pretend and just dwell in the fact that while some truly abject books get big-six published, a book like this can never get a cent. It is some kind of madness, I assure you.

Just a quick aside: I understand and believe we should be compliant with copyright law, not making a profit off others intellectual property, but then I remember all those Star Trek and Star Wars novels, some of which, if not most, are not considered canon, but are officially allowed.

Back to the review: It amazed me how slow the romance between the lads built, considering how many failed starts James and Lily have in this version of events, it was a good foil, and really kept me into it. I can't imagine how poor folks must have felt, back when this was hot off the hard-drives, waiting for each update until there were no more... They also made sure to make this story avoid any heavy angst, playing up the humor, allowing dark moments, but not detailing the tears and fears. It worked, and might seem crazy to the average fanfic reader, but I hope more people try writing a story like this. It's certainly still very enjoyable and effective. It's also hard to keep a balance between avoiding angst and holding your readers at arm's length.

Did I mention the notes and the pictures and the drawings?


Jaida Jones has since gone on to publish original fantasy that Peter S. Beagle has said was good. That's one heck of an endorsement. I've had no word of what Rave, Dorkorific, is doing artistically at the moment, but I'm hoping she illustrates her next project as well. I'm a huge fan.


Averages more than 500 pages in PDF. First published in 2008 on LiveJournal.


Saturday, October 26, 2013

Review: The Hill of Devi - E. M. Forster

The Hill of Devi by E. M. Forster.

E. M. Forster, Morgan to his friends, sits down after WWII and puts together this slim volume collecting letters and remembrances of two visits to India. In 1912 he is introduced to the Maharajah of Dewas Senior and nine years later is employed for a brief time as his private secretary. He recollects the time with minimal self-consciousness, his brief mentions of unrest and Gandhi relegated to his letters, and a tinge of antiquated nostalgia. In 1921 he already sees Dewas gone, absorbed into Madhya Bharat, before it actually happens. The India he visited in 1949, for the modern reader, has already changed dramatically. Sharing similar culture, having the history, but this India as different for us as pre-WWI India was for Forster.

I don't make it a secret that E.M. Forster is my favorite author, despite the fact that I've read only one of his novels. His style, openly visible in the letters he wrote home, is comfortable and focused, filling us in with only a few words, pulling us in and sharing with us an intimate friendship with a man very few new, while many knew of him. The casual modern reader will not be familiar with His Highness, the Maharajah of Dewas Senior, known as Bapu Sahib before he was king - and how he is known to his friend Morgan. You will also be unlikely to be familiar with the catastrophe that occurred after Forster left his service - but not as a result thereof. I would encourage you not to familiarize yourself but to experience India through Forster's eyes.

It is the catastrophe, and the small instances, discrepancies and hallows of everyday life that distinguish themselves to Forster. He omits the 'isn't India quaint!' but leaves the references to shoddy roads, holy cows, bad English, eagerness, affection and incompetence. His writing of India is not what I would consider quaint, not unless the definition has changed.

Instead, the humor and affection, despite his dislike of the unremarkable landscape of Dewas, shines though. He is bemused by the elderly pug, Lady, which accompanies the Maharajah everywhere. He is baffled by India in general, remarking:
"The arrangement must have been unique, and an authoritative English lady, who knew India inside out, once told me that it did not and could not exist, and left me with the feeling that I had never been there." p33
I was amused but frustrated by the intimacy with which his letters were written, we had no idea to whom he wrote, though most of his letters were written to his mother, I assume. The Maharajah's own mother was sorely missed and because of his familiarity with her son, the Maharajah would be affectionate in his own letters to her, knowing the worth of such a figure in his own life:
"Years after her death, he still mourned her, and one day he lamented to me, while tying a turban, that he no longer took pleasure in tying it, now that the beloved voice which could praise his skill had gone. 'It is only for the sake of those who love us that we do thing.' A dangerous creed." p37
Speaking of turbans, Forster was, for one reason or another, fond of relaying not only the unique fashions of India in his letters, but fabrics, colors and result effects thereof. While he might find a particular combination displeasing, it often works well among his peers in the royal court. He remarks on the colors and lovely dress of his friend's wife and his concubine, the intrigue and gossip easily following behind. The drama between the Maharajah and his courtiers, between the Dowager, his aunt, and Bai Saher, his 'diamond' concubine, is almost as ridiculous as what you might expect at any royal court - but H.H. gets himself as readily involved as the next man, suspecting a poison plot anytime he is forced from the Old Palace to the New Palace in the city, and chillingly comfortable around the spies sent to his court.

This slim volume is a collection of letters from a time in India, commentary and expansion upon his letters added thirty years later, but Forster amends himself in the end: it is the study of a man. I might even go so far to say it is the story of an uncertain and intimate friendship between intellectuals, men who respect each other and are comfortable with each other.

The subsequent tale of 'catastrophe' was carried by the Times of India and the London Times, but herein Morgan remembers a man who was complex and saintly, affectionate to those whom he judged sincere. He was intellectual and spiritual, even while unwise and prone to believing gossip. A wonderful effort.

175pp. Penguins Books. 1965.
(Read/Skim/Miss) (Buy/Borrow)

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Review: The Last Unicorn - Peter S. Beagle

The Last Unicorn: Deluxe Edition by Peter S. Beagle.

In a fairy tale, nothing is without consequence. The unicorn, supposed to be the last, steps out of her forest, and it begins to die, she begins to fear, and she becomes the heroine. There is a point in the novel where the unicorn is turned into a human so as to escape detection from the being that would destroy her. They have no other choice, Schmendrick the Magician argues, as she becomes upset, knowing she may never become a unicorn again, that she may die in a prison. However, she knows as well as he, that one must continue the quest, because if she doesn't, no one else will.

This self-awareness is present in the entire novel, making fun of itself, of the form of the fairy tale and the fantasy novels that came before and have come since. At the same time, as many young people do, Peter S. Beagle interwove fantastic ideas about immortality and life which aren't exactly trite. The work teeters on the edge between fairy tale and parody, and Peter Beagle talks in the introduction about his own acceptance that what he had written was actually alright. I found that those glimpses behind the story were what made this ebook even more appealing.

The balance of good and neutrality, instead of good and evil, is a much more interesting one. There is a conversation near the end of the novel between a wizard and a unicorn where he says he isn't sure if he'll continue to do good or if he'll simply be neutral, an extremely nuanced reflection, something which Diana Wynne Jones also commented on in The Darklord of Derkholm, just as briefly as Beagle does here. The wizard in The Last Unicorn though is the kind I like best, having a wary oversight of the world and mortality - knowing that good vs. neutrality isn't really what the storytellers chop it up to be.

I must tell you that while The Last Unicorn is one of my favorite books, it isn't flawless, and knowing that  Beagle went on to write Tamsin, another favorite book of mine, sets it as a marker of growth for him. But I hasten to add that the flaws found here are valuable to me, they are points around which we may compare the prose, which is lilac if any color should be ascribed to it, the characters, who aren't quite their archetypes, and plot, which is gripping if occasionally meandering. It's unusual and even while Schmendrick forces us through the ropes of the fairy tale, everyone knows that they live in such a world. They know the rules, even as they try to fight against it, even as they allow themselves to be pulled along by the course of it. It's a strange world that is as reliant upon participation as our own. If you don't participate, things just won't happen, a consequence seldom highlighted as it should be.

At times hilarious and bone-crawling, it is actually a bittersweet beautiful novel, much like it's protagonist. While the unicorn undergoes the most growth of all the characters, transforming from apathetic to heartbroken, I don't think we were privy to all of it. We know that while her time as a human showed her new things, I believe there was something already inside her which made her different from all the other unicorns, that made her leave the forest in the first place, and that had any other unicorn gone on the quest instead of her, the end result would not have been so heart wrenching. After all, not just anyone can star in a fairy tale.

For years fans of The Last Unicorn asked for a sequel, and Beagle vowed to never return to the tale. A casual promise made by his agent, however, pulled a story out of the fairy tale land 40 years later, promising us a future story with the kind of heroine YA fantasy aspires to. That Beagle could find her wandering around King Lír's kingdom, at ease among wizards and unicorns, kings and griffons, makes me very glad.

Two Hearts offers no promises, but in Sooz there is a great deal of potential. An adventure is lurking on her horizon. I will, however, only whisper of my anticipation. You know as well as I that this is a coda as much as a harbinger, but lets not jinx anything. Prophecy's have a way of being fulfilled, one way or another.

You can read Two Hearts on the author's website.

236pp. Conlan Press. 1st July 2013.
(Read/Skim/Miss) (Buy/Borrow)

Monday, October 21, 2013

A to Z Survey

Vicky at Books, Biscuits and Tea recently did a 'Bookish Survey' and it looked really fun, so I've appropriated it. She in turn got it from Jamie of The Perpetual Page Turner.

Be prepared! to know more about my book-habits and book-life than you were asking for! Huzzah!

Author you’ve read the most books from: Lemony Snicket - unless we're counting Graphic Novels in which case it's Tite Kubo with his 40+ volumes of Bleach. I've read all of A Series of Unfortunate Events (12 books) as well as his Unauthorized Autobiography and will be starting his new series All the Wrong Questions when I get home.

Best Sequel Ever: Lirael by Garth Nix.

Currently Reading: Rubinrot by Kerstin Gier.

Drink of Choice While Reading: Tea or coffee/barley coffee. Summertime? Just add ice.

E-reader or physical book: Physical books. It's often easier to read on my nook or even on my iPod, but I still prefer the physical books, being able to hold them, write in them, and pass them along. Although looking up words in the dictionary is easier on a reader. (Also, the smell. My God Hill of Devi smelled ridiculously good. Unbreak Me on the other hand...)

Fictional Character You Probably Would Have Actually Dated In High School: Realistically? Probably someone like Nicholas Sayre from Lirael and Abhorsen, I would have adored him. I couldn't date him now though, unless this is post-Abhorsen Nicholas, which of course violates the idea that we're both in High School. This is also assuming that Remus Lupin is as opposed to student/teacher relationships as a guy like him should be.

Glad You Gave This Book A Chance: The View from Castle Rock by Alice Munro, I almost returned this book instead of keeping it that one last day. DING-DING-DING! Guess who won the Nobel for Lit this year? It's the first time I've actually read something by a Nobel laureate before they got the award. I'm chuffed.

Hidden Gem Book: PostApoc by Liz Worth.

Important Moment in your Reading Life: While reading Harry Potter certainly was important to me, I didn't read Harry Potter until the last moment I could. An earlier moment for me was when I began to track all the books I read in a notebook in 2002. A recent moment for me was the creation of this book blog, because I thought critical book reviews had to be boring like those we read in middle school, not like the fun snippets I wrote on Goodreads.

Just Finished: Moon Called (Mercy Thompson #1) by Patricia Briggs.

Kinds of Books You Won’t Read: I've always avoided Horror, but I've read a few scary books despite that. Out by Natsuo Kirino was a standout for me. I've recently developed a bad taste in my mouth from erotica.

Longest Book You’ve Read: Ignoring Sherlock Holmes: The Complete Novels and Stories, Volume I (1,059) - which is the invariable answer - Dune by Frank Herbert clocks in at 883 pages. That includes the appendices, though. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is only 870 pages by comparison. Of course I haven't read any of my Peter F. Hamilton books yet. :D

Major book hangover because of: The Assault by Harry Mulisch. I was buzzing for days.

Number of Bookcases You Own: In my bedroom - floor to ceiling - five. I recently stopped double shelving books and sorted them by author. This also does not take into account all the other bookcases in my house, which would probably be another 6 or 8 floor-to-ceiling IKEA shelves. We're bibliophiles, okay? (PS I think I also have two smaller bookshelves beside my desk filled with books I want to get rid of??) (PPS Also, all those boxed books still in the attic and garage from my Grandma, and the ones in storage in Germany - omygawd.)

One Book You Have Read Multiple Times: I've surprisingly never read the Harry Potter books more than once, except The Prisoner of Azkaban. I've re-read The Unicorns of Balinor by Mary Stanton a lot over the years, but I think I've read Lirael or Moorchild by Eloise McGraw most often.

Preferred Place To Read: Anywhere I can, really, but laying on my bed or on the couch is best.

Quote that inspires you/gives you all the feels from a book you’ve read: "[N]ot all those who wander are lost." - The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkein

Reading Regret: Spending more time reading about books than reading them.

Series You Started And Need To Finish (all books are out in series): Honey and Clover by Chica Umino, The Sand Chronicles by Hinako Ashihara, The Land of Elyon by Patrick Carman, Dune by Frank Herbert and Keys of the Kingdom by Garth Nix.

Three of your All-Time Favourite Books: Please Look After Mom by Kyung-Sook Shin, The Oracle of Stamboul by Michael David Lukas, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo.

Very Excited For This Release More Than All The Others: Raging Star (Dust Lands #3) by Moira Young. 15 April 2014!

Worst Bookish Habit: "Hoarding books." The source will remain anonymous.

X Marks The Spot - start at the top left of your shelf and pick the 27th book: Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind by Shunryu Suzuki.

Your latest book purchase: Otherborn (Otherborn #1) by Anna Silver.

ZZZ-snatcher book (last book that kept you up WAY late):  I've seldom read a book until the sun came out again, The Deathly Hallows was the last real culprit. Midnight release, yo. Although a couple romances have goaded me into early hours recently, and PostApoc was a serious offender. I had to make the conscious decision at a certain point, because when you're that tired, you can't really appreciate the book anymore.

Did you do Jamie’s survey? If you did, please make sure to leave me a link to your own post below so that I can check it out. Visit Vicky's survey here.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Showcase Sunday #8

 
Showcase Sunday is a feature on Vicki's blog, Books, Biscuits and Tea, which shows off the books which one has acquired in the past week, from any and all sources. Whether purchased online as an ebook or in hardback from a brick and mortar store, received for review or as a gift, it's just another way to make all your blogging acquaintances jelly.

This week I recieved a large number of Peter F. Hamilton books, and they are all long, almost unweildy. I have to figure out what order to read these in, so I thought I'd share with you the novels, short story and handbook at the same time as I copy and paste Hamilton's bibliography from Wikipedia. Addition of page numbers are my own, based on data from GoodReads.

Greg Mandel Trilogy

  1. Mindstar Rising (1993), ISBN 0-330-32376-8 (432pp)
  2. A Quantum Murder (1994), ISBN 0-330-33045-4 (384pp)
  3. The Nano Flower (1995), ISBN 0-330-33044-6 (608pp)

I got the whole trilogy, sweet!
Detective Science Fiction. YEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
(If you don't click that link I will embed videos in all my future posts and make loading even slower.)

Confederation Universe

The Night's Dawn Trilogy

  1. The Reality Dysfunction (1996, published in two volumes in the US: Emergence and Expansion), ISBN 0-330-34032-8 (1223pp)
  2. The Neutronium Alchemist (1997, published in two volumes in the US: Consolidation and Conflict), ISBN 0-330-35143-5 (1273pp)
  3. The Naked God (1999, published in two volumes in paperback in the US: Flight and Faith; the US hardback was one volume), ISBN 0-330-35145-1 (1173pp)

Once again, the whole trilogy!
This one clocks in at almost 4,000 pages. Whoop!
Dealing with a wide tapestry of characters in the 27th century, it's an optimistic view of our future based on current trends. Over 900 worlds have been colonized, and the souls of the long dead are flooding back into life via posession.

Others in the Confederation Universe

A Second Chance at Eden is a collection of stories defining the universe better, and well, the other is a Handbook written as being 'in universe'.

The Commonwealth Saga

  1. Pandora's Star (2004), ISBN 0-330-49331-0 (1144pp)
  2. Judas Unchained (2005), ISBN 0-330-49353-1 (827pp)

Complete as well..
This amounts to about 2,000 pages. No biggie.
 This is, like Night's Dawn, spanning many characters, many worlds, dealing with expanded life spans and advanced technology... Oh. I just skimmed the wiki page (trying not to spoil it) and I know I'm gonna enjoy this. 

The Void Trilogy

  1. The Dreaming Void (2007), ISBN 978-1-4050-8880-0
  2. The Temporal Void (2008), ISBN 978-1-4050-8883-1
  3. The Evolutionary Void (2010), ISBN 978-0-345-49657-7 (694pp)

I'm missing the first two volumes! Argh!
Therefore it sounds the most interesting: it's less panoramic than the Night's Dawn Trilogy. There's a self-contained universe at the core of a galaxy, and there's a Warrior Caste with Angel class life-boat ships, and something about mindwalking and a fugitive? I didn't want to spoil it, and have intrigued myself furiously.
Set in the same universe as the Commonwealth Saga but 1,200 years in the future. 
Hamilton even shared a timeline to bridge the two. Wow.

Other novels

Apparently not-really kinda sorta unattached?
Fallen Dragon
A mercenary is searching for treasure and finds something much more important.
Great North Road
A murder mystery of space opera proportions.

 

Short fiction

  • Watching Trees Grow (2000, novella) (96pp)
  • The Suspect Genome (1993, novella featuring Mandel published in Interzone
Watching Trees Grow 
Based in a world that grew from the Roman Empire (hmm), another murder mystery. 
The Suspect Genome 
Made a bit uninteresting with the revelation of CSI techonology following it's publication, but it's a part of the Mandel series none-the-less.

Hamilton specializes in Space Opera that spans multiple worlds and involves dozens of characters. The Commonwealth Saga including The Void Trilogy are set in the same universe and share some main characters, The Night's Dawn is the other. The thing that sets him apart from other Space Opera seems to be that while he freely mixes Fantasy into his Science Fiction, it's all based in fact and has somewhat realistic explanations.

I keep wanting to draw the comparison with A Song of Ice and Fire but I haven't read those books, and I'm not sure I ever will. I'm looking for more modern high fantasy. I'm not sure what sets ASIF apart from other long and cumbersome series in the genre.

I've been flitting around with disappointing novels recently, and I look forward to just wallowing in some space opera. Until I find a reasonable translation of Legend of the Galactic Heroes by Yoshiki Tanaka, I have to 'suffer' with what Space Opera I am given by my very nice friends.

Click here to see Vicky's Showcase Sunday.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Q&A with Liz Worth


Last month I read PostApoc by Liz Worth and wrote a review of it. (Cliffsnotes: I really enjoyed it, click here to read the review and find out why!) After sending in my review - part of the deal when you're given free books - I was asked to join the blog tour. Today marks PostApoc's publication, which means packages have begun their meandering travel across the United States to some friends of mine who are getting Hallowe'en presents. I'm chuffed to share some non-spoiler questions with you that Liz answered to give us some insight into the creation of this novel. The book is dark and the Q&A itself contains references to suicide, self-destructive behavior and drug-abuse, so please read with care.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

I Don't Want to Go

The other day I turned off Facebook and I heard something truly remarkable: my favorite social network, Goodreads, gave a sigh.

There's been an alarming commotion going on because of the new enforcement of the Terms of Service, which I understand, but is never-the-less a form of censorship. Unfortunately I'd been unable to give much energy to thinking in depth about the direction this may be headed. I don't pretend to know, but I made a comment amid the maelstrom that Goodreads was the only readers' social network I had, and if many more people left, I would be losing a lot.

Courtesy of Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries. UH Digital Library.
Goodreads has always been a somewhat anything-goes kinda place. Between hilarious attempts at reviewing the same old classics and really insightful comments on obscure and academic texts, I've learned a lot and my tbr pile has expanded in leaps and bounds. I've been reading with purpose for over a decade (that's long if you consider I'm almost 22) and I've been connecting with readers online since 2004, and a member of Goodreads since 2007. With the advent of the Goodreads challenge, I thought it would behoove me to read critically. A reviewer I found thereupon is Manny from whom I take the Hydra principle. Manny's reviews have been somewhat inspirational to me of late, and I may have stumbled upon something in these last few days of facebook-less-ness.

Goodreads, unlike the New York Times Book Review, was not built to support the old critical reviews which I have been recently trying to emulate - at least, not just. In fact, before I started blogging, my reviews would vary from one run-on sentence to several rambling paragraphs. My first reviews on aurora lector followed this pattern but in a more mature 'edit before you post' fashion, but I followed suit of formal reviews soon. But let's get back to Manny.

Manny isn't unlike many of the other reviewers on Goodreads, but sometimes his posts are unusual, instead of reviewing the work, exactly, the form of the review is filled with an off-center redirect and illumination, functioning as a way to initiate laughter and, often, discussion. Following a flurry of deletions of author-centric reviews, Manny's reviews of Civil Disobedience and Other Essays, An Uncommon Whore, That's Not What I Meant!The Art of War and Moving for Dummies have all been in this vein, and have been deliberately not about the book, riffing on the title or on a topic discussed therein. Note: as of 10/13/2013 21:45 GMT only three of these reviews have been removed by staff and reposted by Manny. But Manny has not rated them, and this is where I think the greatest disservice by staff to the Goodreads community lies. What ultimately what makes the community and it's content valuable to us, and to the owners, is the value we place in each other and in the reviews we post. I don't find reviews about the author, reviews wherein Alice talks about being inside a review, or reviews which take a topic of the books focus and draw their own conclusions, based on the book or other things, to be unhelpful, in the same way I don't find unyielding enthusiasm, rhubarbarism and .gif-laden reviews unhelpful.

The Goodreads experience, what is it? This is the title of a shelf which Manny has created rather than using due-to-author or a more sardonic variation there-of, as many users did before the crackdown, and some brave ones continue to do. I don't want to stop reading serious and fleeting and joking reviews. Because despite the fact that all the reviews on the front page of The Hydra are all variations of Manny's, there is still discussion and posting going on! While this rages on I'll be forced to unusual activities, but I will continue to socialize and won't delete reviews of my own accord, and will fervently hope that Goodreads will come to it's senses posthaste. I don't want to miss out on .gif reviews, rhubarb reviews, traditional reviews, or - whatever category you fall into, dear fellow reader. I will fight for the right to write off-topic reviews because I want to stay.

My pre-read review of I Don't Want to Go by Niki Burton.

Review: Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes - Arthur Conan Doyle

Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle.

I've had coffee this morning, which is probably as effective as cocaine is on Sherlock Holmes. Don't take my word on it though, because I've never done cocaine. Also, this collection, free from Kobo, lacked any of the habitual cocaine use. Why are we still on this point?

The point, dear reader, is that this collection showcases my favorite part of the canon: John Watson. It's his voice and the almost childlike, glad-to-be-here role that he takes at 221B Baker St which make these stories endearing. I'd read many of these before, which was not fortunate in that I would remember who the culprit was halfway through a story, making it a jarring experience. Also if I read more than one story in a sitting, I began to imagine how nice it would be to feed Sherlock to some manner of beast while John watched. They deserve it sometimes, the cocky bastards.

But watching Sherlock work has some intrigue, otherwise John wouldn't stick around, considering how he just takes the condescension, he knows there's a reward coming to him. Hoo-boy. As I said, the coffee.

Arthur Conan Doyle is a bit smarmy isn't he? I'm defining the word to mean something along the lines of as cock-sure of himself as Sherlock but also believes in fairies - even when he's run out of absinthe. Another thing I haven't tried so I can't assure you of making-you-believe-in-fairies, but I do know that Absinthe is sometimes known as 'the Green Fairy'.

The Absynth Quintet - The Flight of Green Fairy

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Sherlock Holmes is infuriating, but we love to see real conclusions drawn from impossible circumstances. Why do we love this? I'm sure Freud or Jung (or Nietzche, yuck) has weighed in on this, so I don't want to sound pretentious, but... I think it's three parts fantastical escapism, one part lust, and two parts god-envy.

This is why I usually drink tea.

Gutenburg edition.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Review: A History of Hitler's Empire - Thomas Childers

From the Great Courses page.
A History of Hitler's Empire, 2nd Edition from Thomas Childers.
The Great Courses, The Teaching Company.

Do not be put off by the course's price, many libraries have these available, which is how I was introduced to The Great Courses and to Modern Scholar which has been around a little longer and seems to be very popular, judging by the long wait periods.

Thomas Childers is introduced in this course as an expert on World History, with many books published about WWII. I enjoyed this course very much, but have little to compare it to by way of history. I'd never seen the history from the perspective of someone living through it. All my relatives were born once Hitler was already in power or had died before I was ready to listen, not to mention the ones who don't want to talk about those times. I don't think I need to convince you there were many tragedies in this period of time, but I was struck at how devastating Hitler's rise to power was. His ideologies frighten me more the longer I look at them, since I know the places they come from. But as this course clarifies, Hitler was only one part of this, albeit it an important and powerful one. Knowing some of the theories which allow for such a man to come to power, the reverse propaganda popularized by Bismark, the reactionary rioting, the clear abuse of power while the Republic floundered... It was a fascinating look into those times.

It should be made clear that this is a relatively short series. It does not go into depth about the battles or detail events of World War II which do not directly make clear how Germany came to think it was winning and then lose all that hope. This does not go into depth about the final hours of Hitler either, those are the end of the man, not of the Empire he sought to build. And I think it makes for a much more evocative lecture series, that way.

It made me angry, it made it me sad, and, shockingly, it occasionally made me laugh. Although it was sometimes a joke that Childers made, it was probably more often a gasp of disbelief: we forget how much the world changed because of Hitler, for better and worse.

6:26. Audible. July 2013.
(Read/Skim/Miss) (Buy/Borrow)

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Review: Rule of Three - Kelly Jamieson

Rule of Three by Kelly Jamieson

Kassidy and Chris are successful, happily committed to each other, and still going at it like bunnies. You'd think there's nothing missing, but when an old friend of Chris's comes into town, bad boy image intact despite his million-dollar business ideas, and a little alcohol loosens their inhibitions and leads to a crowded night, it turns out good for everyone. But when it turns into a repeat event, things start to get interesting.

Kassidy begins to worry about how this looks, what this means and the boys, treading old planks, only worry that she worries. Until it comes out that Dag has been getting over Chris since the day he met him. And it's entirely possible that Chris also has ulterior motives for repeatedly jumping into beds beside his college buddy.

If they're honest though, there's a lot of stuff going on besides the pleasure. And while the graphic sex is hot, for those of you who look for that in a romance, the character development between these three was heartbreaking and really well done.

Kassidy realizes that she loves them both very much, and when she feels that she may be the problem in their relationship, she determines that she is willing to do anything for these two guys. I think the fact that she is the most faceted character, and really the linchpin in their relationship, makes for such a compelling read. She's a little blind where it counts though, but still picks up on things almost as fast as we do.

Kelly Jamieson has won me over with her too-perfect cast of characters finding trouble and love. They do the obligatory talk it over, but they don't talk it to death. There's conflict, mostly in the form of Kassidy's family, accidents and surprises, but it doesn't feel like last-minute additions.

I'm also thrilled to hear that Rule of Three will be getting a sequel where, I hope, we get a little more angst about this unconventional relationship, and some more surprises. That'll be along October 29th.

262pp. Samhain. 14 Feb 2012.
(Read/Skim/Miss) (Buy/Borrow)
3.5/5

Sunday, October 6, 2013

The Trouble with Genres

Genres are a sticky wicket. Do romantic elements in a more Literary work mean it's a Romance? Aren't all Drama movies comparable to Romances in one way or another? Seldom does a Drama not have Romance, but not all Literary fiction has Romance. Further, a memoir is not exclusively non-fiction, but more are based in reality than a Fantasy epic, for instance.

Collecting books for readers in the reserve stacks, 1964
This leads me to a conundrum of tags and links. Since I read mostly Romance (all sorts) and Fantasy (including Sci Fi, another can of worms, that) it makes sense to divvy them up for the discerning blog reader. However, while John Green's novel, The Fault in Our Stars feature's a romance between two cancer patients, it is not what I would call a Romance, such as Pride & Prejudice (by Jane Austen). I think the main difference between these is that Pride & Prejudice ends with the culmination of the couple being a, well, couple, while The Fault in Our Stars goes beyond that. John Green's Young Adult book has, I would argue, just as much or more literary value than Pride & Prejudice.

This leads me to the problem of Literature vs. Genre Fiction. We can argue that Literature is more philosophical, posing questions and sometimes answers to life, while Genre Fiction runs along less interesting tracks of the mind, stirring emotion rather than thought, built to entertain rather than to provoke. This, I would not agree, makes some consider Genre Fiction lesser than Literature. Further, Literature also costs more, as though 'loftier' ideas are costlier. I think it also encourages the idea that Genre Fiction is less thoughtful and Literature less passionate, though neither is the case, as many readers will tell you.

What to do then? Do I lump The Fault in Our Stars and Pride & Prejudice in with Slammed, all Romance? Do I designate one as 'Literary' and the others as Romance, respectively historical and contemporary? And what about Memoir, that fickle family member who is both Literary and Non-Fiction?

I think I'll stop labeling all my books Fiction, for one, and just point out the boring, non-fiction ones, haha, as they come along. There's always the Melvil Decimal System.

Also, Ceridwen has written an interesting review musing on this after reading Losing It by Cora Carmack, one of the drivers behind the New Adult trend. She asks, should we label the books by their target demographic? over on soapboxing.net. I will continue to do so, and while this may lead to some interesting conundrums - is Slammed really lumped in with PostApoc? - I'll keep poking around until something sticks.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Review: Slammed - Colleen Hoover

Slammed by Colleen Hoover.

Layken Cohen's father has just died. She's forced to pack up her life and move to a place that no one wants to live. Her hot neighbor, Will Cooper, is a sweet guy, and their romance is the best thing that's happened to Lake in a long while. Until it turns out they can't be together when she shows up at school on Monday and sees him again, in the front of the classroom as Mr. Cooper.

They toil through trials and tribulations, music mellows and manipulates many moments, and there will eventually be a light at the end of the tunnel.

The surprise hit that it was, I didn't pick this up for a long time, waiting for it to become available on one of my cheapskate avenues. The other night I plucked up the courage to load it onto my ereader and enjoy some forbidden romance. Instead, I found myself comparing it to Twilight and laughing really hard. While I knew this book is self-published, I also learned it was never intended for publication, written for and initially only shared among friends. Though it lacks sex, it's still slipped into the New Adult genre. A genre which I was whole-heartedly on board with until it turned out to be Romance about Younger Adults who-are-totally-legal, a my-first-romance, if you will indulge the idea. This does read like a self-published book that should have gotten a few more combings. It follows the cookie-cutter of the romance novel well enough that it feels uninspired.

I am, unabashedly, a fan of forbidden romance. I even like that borderline despicable romance about students and teachers. I honestly thought I would like this book. I thought I would be a shoe-in, and bounce from this popular book and into bold new adventures. But all my complaints feel shallow now that I know that this book wasn't intended for a mass market, but since it has since been deemed fit, I'm going to go for it.

It's overwritten, the similarities to Twilight are uncanny but thankfully infrequent, there are hilariously ridiculous portrayals of drama. He's authoritative. He talks the talk but doesn't walk the walk. I would have abandoned this book 5 chapters in, but I was laughing so hard as things got increasingly serious and everybody was communicating in a very healthy fashion, but giving in to their emotions anyway. Dear lord.

And since I became a fan of spoken word poetry just before picking job this book I was not impressed by what the author brought. You can argue that it's like that in reality, not every performer is amazing, but this is fiction. I read it to escape. I was disappointed to find that the Avett Brothers are a real band, their lyrics used to prelude every chapter, which strikes me as lazy. When I reflect on my notes from reading they all run along the same line; irony between the intent that Hoover has and the advice that Layken's mother, Julia, gives her daughter. Which is, honestly, great advice, and does not match up with the romantic hero Hoover sets up. This book should have gone to an editor once it became more popular.

The final straw is the fact that Slammed can not even measure up to my favorite portrayal of an illegal student/teacher relationship, that of Ezra Fitz and Aria Montgomery in Sara Shepard's Pretty Little Liars. This book merely solidified my need to re-read and catch up with that series. Talk about interesting forbidden romance!

214pp. Amazon. 4th Jan 2012.
(Read/Skim/Miss) (Buy/Borrow)

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