April 15, 2014

The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches by Alan Bradley (audiobook): Review

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audio vaulted arches

The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches by Alan Bradley is the sixth novel in the Flavia de Luca series. This one is a little bit different and solves a lot of the mystery present in the other novels.

Flavia’s mother is returning home, though not in the usual way. As the family waits at the train station a man approaches Flavia and whispers a cryptic message to her. Just moments later, that man is under the train. Someone pushed him! She barely has time to process what has happened now that she must prepare for the challenges of the days ahead of her. Friends and family, as well as the Home Office, are descending on Buckshaw. What does it all mean? Who is her mother really? What does an airplane pilot, a sketchy cousin, and her Aunt Felicity have to do with any of it?

I don’t want to say too much about The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches. It’s a continuation of the last book, which ends with a phone call. A very important phone call. Bradley does tie up a number of loose ends and, by the end of the novel, it is clear that he intends to take the series in a new direction. I thought, perhaps, that this might be the last one, but it seems that he plans to keep going with the series.

The usual suspects are present: the two sisters, the enigmatic Dogger, Gladys the bicycle, and Feely’s German boyfriend. Secrets from the past are revealed. If you decide to never read another Flavia mystery, here is a good place to end. I’m still looking forward to more.

About the Audio: Once again Jayne Entwistle is Flavia. I must be getting used to her voice, though I could have done without the hymn singing.

April 14, 2014

Media Madness Monday: Dead Authors

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april 14 collage

I'm a media junkie, not just books, but TV, movies, music, podcasts, and internet nonsense. Every Monday I discuss something that's caught my interest this past week.

On the TV

On Parks and Recreation, I did not expect Lesley to discover she was pregnant. Seems like something she’d have planned out a year in advance. It should be interesting to watch her try to control that whole situation.

 

Tunes

New music I’m into this week: Let Go by RAC featuring Kele & MNDR from Strangers, and Glass from No Mythologies by Mø. I’ve been discovering new music through the Songza app. Anyone who thinks people don’t buy music because of streaming has never met me. I always end up buying the songs I like anyway.

Speaking of buying new music, I thought this Salon article was interesting and have to agree with the writer. Just because I’m over 30 doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy new music. There’s no rule that you have to only listen to Pink Floyd forever until you die. Sure, I like the older stuff because of nostalgia, but if I only listened to what’s on my iPod I wouldn’t have heard of new artists like Gary Clark, Jr and Valerie June. What if we only watched reruns of Seinfeld? Or only read books written before 1990? It makes no sense to me.

 

Big Screen

I watched the movie Hitchcock over the weekend. I was surprised by how much I liked it. Anthony Hopkins who played Hitchcock was barely recognizable. The movie focused on his time directing Psycho and what a stress it put on his marriage to Alma Reville (Helen Mirren). They had everything they owned riding on this movie. Alma was a screenwriter herself and worked on Hitch’s movies. They were husband and wife but also partners. Helen Mirren is so good, I could watch her in anything!

 

Podcasting

I started listening to the Dead Authors Podcast hosted by “H.G. Wells.” So far I’ve been enjoying the female comics interpretations the most, especially Charlotte Bronte (Jessica St Clair) and Tennessee Williams (Kristen Schaal). Who can forget Bronte’s most famous line, “Just because you’re a fairy, doesn’t mean you should be acting like an asshole”? Tennessee tells us how hard it is to write good plays when constantly drunk or high.

 

On the Web

My review of The Dream Woman goes live on the Project Gutenberg Project blog today. Hope you check it out!

April 10, 2014

Kobo Chat: Golems and Dream Women

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Kobo Chat

What’s new on your Kobo or other ebook device? First, let’s take a look at the electronic reading I’ve been up to lately. I’ll talk about what I’ve finished, what I’ve downloaded (bought or borrowed), and how that’s working out for me. Grab a coffee and let’s chat!

Finished

Over the weekend, I finished The Dream Woman by Wilkie Collins. You can find it for free in the Lock and Key Collection found on Project Gutenberg. I’ll be writing up a review for it for Project Gutenberg Project.

New to the Kobo

  • Bought: I keep my eye on the Kobo Daily Deals. Usually I don’t find anything of interest, but on Tuesday the deal was a 3 book bundle of Catherine McKenzie novels: Spin, Arranged, and Forgotten for $2.99 (regular price was $19.99). I couldn’t pass that up! I even had a little bit of money left on a gift card, so I only ended up paying 28 cents.
  • Borrowed from library: Nothing this week, but I put a hold on The Golem and the Jinni. I’ve been waiting to see if it would end up in the catalogue and my patience paid off.
  • Netgalley title: I was invited by a publisher to review What Has Become of You by Jan Elizabeth Watson. It sounds interesting, a teacher with student who is possibly a murderer.

Let’s Talk

At the moment, I’m reading Claire’s Messud’s The Woman Upstairs. It also involves a teacher. I hope that won’t be a problem for me when I read What Has Become of You. I bought The Woman Upstairs a few months ago. I hear it’s very good.

I hope The Golem and the Jinni isn’t available too soon. I’m curious about this one, but not enough to buy it. I’d like to finish both those ‘teacher books’ before then. I’m only 11% into The Woman Upstairs so I better get cracking.

Since I’m looking at stats…Do you pay attention to yours? I only pay attention to my progress but there is a section that counts the minutes for each time the book is opened and how many hours I’ve been reading. I haven’t bothered with this before. I wonder if it could end up being distracting. Tell me your thoughts on that in the comments!

How about you? Are you reading anything interesting on your device? Find any good deals? Tell me about it!

April 8, 2014

The Martian by Andy Weir: Review

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IMG_1861Mark Watney is alone on Mars. An unexpectedly harsh storm and terrible accident lead his fellow explorers to believe him dead. They leave him behind as they abandon their mission.

Mark survived but he might not be alive for much longer. Without communication with Earth, he has no way to tell NASA he’s stranded on Mars. The next mission is years away and he knows he will starve to death before it reaches the planet. That is, if he doesn’t die from a thousand other disasters first.

Still, Mark isn’t giving up, he’s going out fighting. He has some ideas that might get him through the next few years. If it comes down to it, he has one final way out.

So, what would you do if you were stranded on an uninhabitable planet alone? I would probably curl up in a ball and wait for death. Not Mark. As soon as he realizes the situation he’s in, he makes plans to keep himself alive. He has the right attitude for someone in his position. He’s realistic but optimistic. Every mistake he makes could be fatal and he makes a lot of mistakes. The Martian becomes a battle between Mark and Mars. There were moments when I thought, “There is no way he’s going to get out of this one.” Somehow he keeps calm and finds a solution.

Some people aren’t going to like The Martian’s bloggy writing style. It’s told as a series of log entries and Mark is no D.H. Lawrence. We get his thoughts on the events of the day, which no matter how harrowing the situation, are almost always positive. He doesn’t have deep ponderings about the meaning of life, he’s just trying to get by. The Martian is also quite a technical book. When Mark would talk about how he used math and chemistry to get himself out of something, I admit my eyes glazed over, but it wouldn’t take long for me to be pulled back into the story.

Space exploration is dangerous and will continue to be dangerous. In The Martian, NASA didn’t foresee a single human being getting stranded on Mars. This was a supposed to be just another mission. In reality, we’re a long way from sending people to Mars, but it’s interesting to read about what might happen.

The Martian ends up being an adventure story with an unlikely yet likeable hero. Even though Mark is fictional, there are people like him in the world willing to sacrifice themselves to expand our knowledge of the universe. That’s pretty amazing.

April 7, 2014

Media Madness Monday: Mindy’s Back!

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april 7 Collage

I'm a media junkie, not just books, but TV, movies, music, podcasts, and internet nonsense. Every Monday I discuss something that's caught my interest this past week.

On the TV

Mindy’s Back! Yipee! I love Mindy Kaling as the perfectly imperfect Dr Mindy Lahari on The Mindy Project. With Mindy’s return to NYC, she ends up dealing with the consequences of her kiss with Dr Danny. Not sure where this is going to go. What is worse, waiting for a couple to get together or having them get together too early? The latter happened to Jess and Nick on New Girl and they’re already broken up.

 

Tunes

I’ve only been downloading old music lately. This week I bought some old Garbage tunes and Pop Song 89 by REM (featured on Parks and Recreation this week). It still the ‘90s in my head.

itsthe90s

As I was perusing the itunes page, I saw that Sarah McLachlan will have a new album out, Shine On (May 6, 2014). Hide your dogs!

Podcasting

Welcome to Nightvale, Episode: Cookies, begins with an update on the health of Khoshekh after last episode’s events. Poor Cecile is becoming more and more subversive, and hostile toward Management. It also featured an appearance by Intern Dana. Did you know she is voiced by Jasika Nicole, aka Astrid from Fringe?! I did not know until right now! I look forward to hearing more about her and The Faceless Old Woman Who Secretly Lives in Your Home and John Peters (you know, the farmer?).

 

On the Web

One of my favorite websites is My Modern Met, a website highlighting some of the most creative art and photography projects around the Internet. I don’t have much opportunity to see art in person where I live, so I appreciate what My Modern Met does. It makes it accessible to everyone. Every week there are interesting posts, like this week: an Icelandic ice cave proposal, Underground Iran, and my favorite Vivian Maier. Vivian was a secret artist, a street photographer, who took furtive photos of the world around her. Her photography was recently discovered by accident and it is amazing!

Any thoughts on TV shows, movies, etc, you want to share?

April 6, 2014

Lazy Sunday Thoughts Are Bustlin’

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What’s up, Buttercups?

I survived The Storm of the Century (that’s what I’m calling it). We had 2 days of freezing rain and then a ton of snow dropped on us. Everyone is slightly cranky about it. There’s a town that was without power for most of the week. Luckily, I didn’t lose power, though I expected it. The roads are still a mess, and no sidewalks have been plowed. Driving is an adventure on the back streets. We just weren’t prepared for a storm this late. It’s warming up now though, so hopefully the snow won’t last long. It’s been the worst winter that I can remember.

april snow

In happier news, I finished 3 books this week! Dare I say it? I’m out of the reading slump! It’s been so long since I actually cared about reading. I felt so blah about it for a long time. I also want to blog again. I even have ideas for posts! Because of Bloggiesta, I have a few new features I’m trying out. You might have seen the first one The Book Report (in my head Report sounds like how Stephen Colbert says it). I have a couple of other ones I’m trying out next week. I hope you check them out.

Have you seen this proposed statue of Edgar Allan Poe? What a bad ass mofo! Look at him strutting down the street with the wind blowing his coat and hair back. And that raven. It looks like something from Harry Potter. Good work Stefanie Rocknak! What other writers could be immortalized in this way? I can’t think of one with such a recognizable symbol like the raven. Can you?

Tomorrow I’ll have another new feature up. Have a great Sunday!

April 3, 2014

Beggars in Spain by Nancy Kress: Review

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beggars in spainChildren who never sleep! “Sign me up for that,” said no one ever.

In Beggars in Spain, genetically modified children are en vogue. You can have a child “fully loaded” with all the bells and whistles: specific hair and eye colour, height, intelligence, whatever. The most controversial and least tested alteration is the secretive sleep modification. This removes the need for sleep, so you have a kid who is awake all the time! Yay! It is recommended that the parents of a child like this be wealthy enough to provide 24 hour childcare. Just because your kid doesn’t sleep, doesn’t mean you don’t have to.

Roger Camden is an uber rich asshole who wants one of these modified children. The theory is that a human who can’t sleep is able to do more and learn more than all those dumbass regular kids who need their 8 hours. I guess he doesn’t expect his kid to be robbing banks, or plotting his murder with its free time. Roger gets what he wants, a perfect sleepless daughter he names Leisha. There was a problem though during the implantation and Roger and his incubator, I mean wife, are expecting twins. The second daughter, Alice, is just a regular unmodified girl. Gross.

Leisha and Alice grow up together with the worst parents in the world. Roger has no use for Alice, while dear Mom is disgusted by Leisha. As expected, nurture has as much affect as nature. Alice grows into an angry adult; Leisha an overachiever.

Leisha’s father drills it into her head that she is better than regular people. He has a system of beliefs called Yagaiism, which is like objectivism, where anyone who doesn’t have something to trade is useless. Leisha often questions this. Where does her sister fit in this system?

The world embraces these Sleepless humans the way it embraces anyone who is different: not at all. It becomes an increasingly hostile to these children as they grow into super-intelligent adults. People are afraid of them, and when people are afraid, they lash out. The Sleepless close ranks in fear for their lives, but a super race of humans creating their own community doesn’t sit will with anyone either.

Beggars in Spain is rather fascinating. First of all, sleepless children. Nap time is the best time. Why wouldn’t you want this? And as weird as sleep is, if you think about it being unconscious and vulnerable for hours is weird, sleep is wonderful! What about dreaming too? Think of all the art that would never happen. Then you have your kid wandering around watching everyone while they sleep. That’s creepy.

The novella was published in 1991. If you remember the 1990s, it was a time when some parents were obsessed with having ‘special’ children. There were baby classes to make them smarter. Parents tried to get them to potty train/walk/talk/read earlier than other people’s kids. There were the Baby Einstein videos too. This is just an example of that taken to the extreme- creating super intelligent children without thinking about the consequences. Unsurprisingly, even some of the parents of these kids turn on them. Not needing sleep is an odd thing.

Beggars in Spain is an interesting and thought provoking piece of speculative fiction. I’m not sure when this story takes place. It’s in some distant future time. There are hover cars and a safe renewable energy source. Some of the ideas seem quaint now. People actually print out newspapers from street corner computers. I guess Kress couldn’t imagine a device that could be carried in a pocket providing news from all over the world at the time.

April 1, 2014

The Book Report: The Martian

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The Martian Collage

A book has got smell. A new book smells great. An old book smells even better. –Ray Bradbury

New books, old books. Books never stop coming. What’s new to your house this week?

The Book Report discusses a book I received, whether they were bought, borrowed, or given, why I got them, and why I’m excited about reading them.


The Martian by Andy Weir

Where Did It Come From?

Borrowed from the library 

Why did I want it?

Twitter buzz, featured on Books on the Nightstand podcast episode 

Describe the book in 140 characters.

An astronaut is accidentally left alone on Mars.

Pre-reading thoughts

Lots of buzz about The Martian. It has a memorable opening line and is described as Robinson Crusoe in space. With the television series Cosmos on Fox now, it’s a timely book to read. How will humans survive on planets other than Earth?

March 31, 2014

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman (audiobook): Review

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ocean at the end of the laneI’m not a rabid Gaiman fan. I’ve enjoyed the books I’ve read by him, and follow him on Twitter, but that’s it. When The Ocean at the End of the Lane turned up in the library, I thought sure, why not? And I feel about it almost the way I did about his other books. They were entertaining books with just the right amount of weirdness.

In The Ocean at the End of the Lane, the narrator returns to his childhood home, but finds himself drawn to his old neighbours’ house. Memories come flooding back to him. The women who lived there were special. They could hear things others could not, they knew of things no one else did. When he was a kid, the Opal Miner, a man renting a room in his parents’ house, committed suicide setting off a strange chain of events. Something started trying to give people money, but in dangerous ways. Lettie Hempstock, the neighbour girl, took the narrator on a journey to a magical place to set things right, but something went wrong and put his life in danger.

Neil Gaiman likes to put fictional children in peril, which I’m not a fan of. I was really uncomfortable with some of the things that happen to the boy in this story. I suppose The Ocean at the End of the Lane is like the fairy tales of old where awful things happen to kids. Still. The Hempstocks are very old, even the girl is old. They are as old as the world if not older and they deal with entities just as old. They’re actually blasé about it. The boy, however, is just a human boy and these things are scary and can hurt him.

Fairy tales were originally not for children and, although this is about a boyhood experience, The Ocean at the End of the Lane isn’t either. Suicide, sex, adultery, abuse, psychological terror are adult topics. The boy sees all these things through the veil of childhood and he doesn’t always understand them. He does understand the facts about the Hempstocks as a child would though. He isn’t confused about what they are; he doesn’t find it unbelievable. Of course, they are ancient people with magic powers! Why not? He doesn’t need to know more than what they tell him. An adult wouldn’t understand.

I would describe The Ocean at the End of the Lane as a darker Coraline. Maybe it was too dark for me. I enjoyed the storytelling. It’s an imaginative tale. I didn’t enjoy the darker elements of it though. For me it didn’t have the right balance.

I’m kind of mixed on this one. I honestly had no idea what I was going to write about it until I sat down and started typing. It was that kind of story for me!

About the Audio: Neil Gaiman narrates the book himself. He has a wonderful voice. So British! I enjoyed that about listening to the audio. It a fairly short book, so it didn’t take me long to finish it.

March 27, 2014

Blizzarding Bloggiesta: Update (Sunday)

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bloggiestastart

It’s a nasty day here. The wind is howling as we’re experiencing a “winter hurricane,” which gave us snow and rain yesterday, and crazy winds today. The weather gives me a good excuse to stay in and work on my Bloggiesta list, as long as I have power. (Update: Today, Friday, it’s sunny and no wind! Plus, we didn’t lose power.)

My list includes a lot of the same old stuff I usually do.

  • Write 2 book reviews
  • Update my reviews page
  • Clean out my email
  • Backup my blog
  • Blog maintenance (fixing sidebars, etc)
  • Brainstorm some new ideas Edit: Working on it
  • Update my About Me page
  • Add reviews to other blogs (audio jukebox) Edit: turns out I had none.
  • Participate in one Twitter chat
  • Try to do a mini-challenge from each category

I’ve really just gotten a surge of blogger energy, so I’m hoping it will continue and I can keep Chrisbookarama going. I know it’s been a ghost town around here lately.

And just FYI, I wrote a review for Lady Into Fox on Project Gutenberg Project yesterday. I’d love some comments on it. Thanks!

I’ll be updating this page throughout the weekend. Hope you join us and have fun!


Mini-Challenge: Using Pic Monkey

Vacation Reading

Mini-Challenge: How to Tackle Google+

I’ve had a Google+ account for awhile, but haven’t done much to utilize it. Amanda provides a tutorial on how to use it. I joined 2 communities: Bloggiesta and Book Bloggers Do It Better. Check them out.

The only thing about Google+ that I don’t much care for is how it tries to have you link everything together or use your real name. I actually like privacy. Shocking! I like to keep my blogging life separate from my regular life, so I find I have to be extra careful with privacy settings and unchecking things that I don’t want checked. Just a warning to anyone else who feels this way.

You can find my Google+ profile here.

Mini-Challenge: Evernote

Tif created a mini-challenge for Evernote. I downloaded both the Evernote Touch app for Windows 8 and Evernote for Windows. I’m not sure which one I want to use yet, so I have both. I also downloaded the Web Clipper, and have the app on my iphone. They all synch up, so no matter what I use I’ll be able to access the information.

I created 3 new notebooks and added notes to each.

Evernote notebooks

So far that’s all I’ve done.

As for what I already use, I like Pocket which I have connected to my Flipboard account on my ipod. Anytime I read an interesting story I’d like to use for blogging later I’d “Save to Pocket.” I used this a lot for bookish links. It’s a great tool. You can sign in on your PC too. There is a Chrome Extension that you can click when you find something interesting while surfing the web to save it to your account.I highly recommend it.

Mini-Challenge Net Galley

Lettie asked participants to go through their Net Galley approvals to improve their feedback rating. I took a look at mine and can’t do anything else with it. I have an 81% approval rating at this time.