Thoughts on Agnostic: A Spirited Manifesto (Audiobook)

Agnostic: A Spirited Manifesto

A rather short book on what it means to be agnostic.

Being an agnostic doesn't necessarily mean someone can't make up their mind about God. Lesley Hazleton puts into words what I, an agnostic myself, can't explain well.  For her, agnosticism means being open to mystery but not buying into a specific doctrine. It means the freedom to doubt (which she maintains is not a bad thing). Being agnostic can mean a life of curiosity, of asking questions and being open to the answers without the baggage of being on one side or the other.

I've had very few good experiences with religion. A few but not many. I question just about everything. I disagree with a lot. I also can't get behind the internet screamers of atheism either. For me religious beliefs or the lack of them are personal. You do you. I don't think I have to share mine with anyone or have someone else's thrust upon me. Agnostic is a book that spoke to me. I was in agreement with so much of what she wrote.

Lesley Hazleton writes thoughtfully and beautifully. She shares her own personal experiences. I've never read any of her other books which focus on religious topics. I suppose it shouldn't surprise me that she has written so many. I enjoyed the beginning of the book more than the end. She went into philosophical musings on death, the soul, (and some parts about math). Deep stuff. She lost me for a little while there.

I would recommend Agnostic: A Spirited Manifesto if you are at all curious about what it means to be agnostic.

About the Audio: Lesley Hazleton narrates the book herself. She's an older lady with a gravelly voice. I did enjoy listening to her, but I think I would rather the text version to read certain passages again and maybe make some notes. 

Thanks to Penguin Random House for the review copy and the chance to review this audiobook. All opinions are my own.

Agnostic: A Spirited Manifesto

Blog Thoughts: I'm Still Blogging About Books Over Here!

Blog Thoughts

Jessa Crispin has been on an internet tour to let everyone know she is shutting down Bookslut, the website she founded many years ago. She's been busy.

Last week in an interview for The Guardian she said, "So we're not allowed to say, 'The Paris Review is boring as fuck!'" The Paris Review responded to their "boring as fuck" status by offering a discount code BORINGASFUCK to new subscribers. Well played.

I appreciate her honesty in these pieces. She has nothing to lose at this point, I suppose, but I can't agree with everything she's been saying. This week Crispin took on online book culture, which I take to include book bloggers, in another article for The Guardian. Her thoughts are that people writing about books these days are in it for the money and has nostalgia for the old days.
Back then (the early 2000s) the online book culture was run mostly by enthusiasts and amateurs, people who were creating blogs and webzines simply for the pleasure of it, rather than to build a career or a brand.
Sure. But she goes on to write as if those people, me, don't exist anymore. Um, we're still here!

I have myself lamented the changes that have taken place in the book blogging world. I've been book blogging for nearly 10 years. New bloggers arrived on the scene, the ones looking for the "free" books, the instant audience, but I think many of those bloggers found out pretty quickly how much work and little payoff there is in book blogging. If you are book blogging for the money, I have some bad news for you.

Even with the ads on my site, the ones that need you to click on them, I've a yearly income of approximately $20 from blogging. I can take my daughter to Starbucks twice with that kind of dough! Making it raaaaaaain!!!

It is true that I don't have a crazy amount of traffic. Yes, as an enthusiast I don't "get much attention." But I don't believe that attention is everything, as she says. I do like to have people read what I write, of course, but if a few dozen people read my review of whatever I picked up at the library last month, that's fine. I've made friends online, people who do read what I write and I've had some fun discussions with them here or on Twitter or their blogs or wherever. And, you know what, I've rarely had to deal with trolls, or had some kind of controversy involving how I communicate with publishers or any of that drama.

I get to write about what I want. I do write about the "books everyone has already heard of." I also write about books I bought, borrowed, or found for free. I've written about forgotten books, and books no one has ever heard about in a hundred years. Book blogs do give a platform, however small it is, to those books that need the attention. It's not clickbait, but a good review means something to the reader that loved that book too.

At the end of the piece, Crispin says that money is not the reason she's shutting down Bookslut. Her reasons are much the same as the ones I've seen from bloggers who gave up book blogging. Other interests are dividing her time. That happens. Book blogging is a time consuming hobby. Reading, then reviewing a book takes a lot of time. I found it difficult when I was working, and you would think that not working would free up all my time to write, but no. I have a busy teen, appointments, I exercise, I have an online shop that requires attention, other hobbies, and a husband. So many bloggers have left after a big life change: wedding, college, a baby, a move to another country. It makes me sad, but I understand.

Some of us enthusiasts are still here. Maybe we're not as prolific as we once were or we've spread ourselves throughout the internet. But we're here if you would just look.

7 Facts About Me and Running

7 Facts About Me and Running

Inspired by Trish and Andi who wrote about their running experiences last week, I thought I'd throw in my two cents about my own.

They both already did a great job giving running tips. I don't have a lot more to share in that regard. I know people like to write "Facts About Me" posts and I never do them because I can't come up with any interesting facts about myself. Running facts are a different story. After running for years, there are a few things I've learned about myself and running. So here are 7 Facts About Me and Running.

  1. It took me two attempts at the Couch to 5K for running to stick. The first time I completed the program, but I bailed on running soon after I ran my first race. I had a dozen excuses: it was summer and hot, I didn't have time, etc. I had to do the program again because my body forgot everything. The second time I kept running every week and it stuck. I've been running for 5 years since that second C25K.  
  2. I am not a natural athlete. I was never sporty. I was a skinny, nerdy teen. Running made want to vomit. When I decided to run, I was skeptical. Starting the program was hard! I almost gave up every week. I'm still not a fast runner.
  3. I hate races. Some people live for races. They sign up for everything: 5K, 10K, half marathons, marathons, Iron Man races. Not me. I don't like crowds. I don't like standing around outside listening to speeches waiting for the race to start. I just want to run! NOW! The advice I was told during the C25K program was to sign up for races to stay motivated. Races don't motivate me. I have personal motivations, mostly regarding health. If races motivate you, that's great! But it's not for me.
  4. I like to run alone. If I waited for all the people who said they were going to run with me to actually do it, I'd never leave the house. Those meet ups never seem to happen. Not that it matters. I like running by myself. I can go as fast or slow as I want. I can listen to my music. Most importantly I can just step out of the house whenever I feel like it and go!
  5. My favorite running weather is overcast. Overcast with maybe a light drizzle. No wind. Around 12 C. If every day could be like that, it would be perfect. Usually around here the wind is screeching like a banshee! (Like today. Argh!)
  6. I have RBF. Running Bitch Face. My husband saw me running one day and told me later that I looked like I was about to murder someone. Maybe this is the real reason I run alone!
  7. I have a distinctive gait. My daughter says she recognizes me on my route because of the way I run. One of my knees turns in when I run. I try to correct it but it doesn't help. It's because of how I'm built. It might explain #2. I hate running with my shadow. I can see how weird I look. It makes me very self-conscious. 

Miscellaneous. Both Andi and Trish mentioned music in their posts and I couldn't agree more! If you need a couple of songs to add to your running playlist, here are a few I can't do without right now: Army of Me (Bjork), Go (The Chemical Brothers), Enter Sandman (Metallica), and Dance (Rebecca and Fiona). I don't have any favorite running apps, but I love my Garmin watch. 

Are you a runner? Have you done the C25K? Can you relate to any of my facts? 

Armchair BEA: Beyond the Books

Day three of Armchair BEA brings this topic:

Beyond the traditional form of the novel, what are your favorite alternative forms (graphic novels, audiobooks, webcomics, etc)? Do you have any favorite works within these alternate forms? How do you think the changing format affects the reading experience?

If you check out my Review page, you'll see that I listen to a lot of audiobooks. So many in fact, that it's becoming the format I choose most to engage in literature. This is something that happened due to a couple of factors: they became easier to access, and I spend too much time on things other than sitting down and reading. I'm crafting or walking or cleaning or working on some project. I can't seem to sit still! An audiobook helps keep me involved in the book blogging world.

Access became much easier with the rise of iphones. It used to be I'd have to get a book on CD (usually many CD for one book), put it on my computer, then transfer it to whatever listening device I had. If the CDs came from the library, they were usually in bad shape and parts were corrupted. Now I can go onto Overdrive and borrow from the library where the book gets added to my phone's app. I'm fortunate enough to get audiobook ARCs and can access them through an app or download them from Dropbox. It's so much easier!

This format does affect the reading experience. Obviously, there is the narrator, who can make or break it. A good narrator should be unobtrusive. They should be like that little voice in your head you have while reading, or as close as you would imagine. They shouldn't overwhelm the text with their own personality, but become the characters in the book. This is more than reading. This is acting! This can have the effect of being forever associated with certain characters. I'll always hear Susie Riddell as Jane Steele.


Here are some audiobook experiences that I really enjoyed:

  • Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye read by Susie Riddell
  • Carmilla by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu read by Megan Follows
  • The Monk by Matthew Lewis read by James K White
  • Bossypants by Tina Fey read by Tina Fey
  • The Winter People by Jennifer MacMahon read by Cassandra Campbell and Kathe Mazur

How about you? Do you listen to audiobooks? Or do you have another format you enjoy?

Armchair BEA: This Is Me. This Is My Blog.

Oh hello!

I decided to join Armchair BEA. I was on the fence about it, I wasn't in the mood until today, but now I'm here. Yay!

So, I'll give you a brief intro:

I'm Chris from Chrisbookarama. I've been book blogging for over 9 years now. I live on the east coast of Canada. I'm a mom to one teenager. Currently unemployed. I like to run. I like to craft. I like to read. My favorite kind of books are creepy, gothicy books, with creaky old houses and family secrets. Maybe a ghost or two.

Day One accomplished!

Onto Day Two.

Let's talk about aesthetics.

The Books: How often do you judge a book by its cover? How often are you surprised by what you find? Do you strategize and make sure every book in your series has the same cover design (as far as you are able to) and type? How important is it for the visual art on the outside of the book to match or coordinate with the literature art on the inside?
The Blog: As a book blogger, in whatever form that takes, branding is important. Your colors, your fonts, your style of review, all of these things come together to make the "brand" of your blog - something that makes your reviews and posts and websites, all your various content, immediately recognizable to the people looking for you. What do you do to create a brand on your site? Do you think about these things?

The Books: Well, I'm not sure. Sometimes I will buy an ugly book because I want the content. I've bought some real doozies.

On the other hand, I've bought books because I like the covers. Sometimes the art is beautiful. Or the publisher hires an artist to do a series of covers for a special collection, like the Penguin cloth covers. Some publishers have a particular aesthetic I like, like Persephone Books. Once I put off buying a Simon Van Booy book until it came out in paperback because all my other books by him were paperbacks.

The Blog: Chrisbookarama has gone through a lot of changes over the years. In the beginning, it was Book-a-rama. I changed the name to set myself apart from some other websites with similar names. I don't know if Chrisbookarama is a good name or not, but it's what it's going to stay. I use that name on blog comments, I bought the domain, for my Twitter and other social media platforms I use that name. In a way, that brands me. Chrisbookarama is the book blog and the author of that blog.

The design of my blog has gone through changes too. Over the last couple of years, I've been using this very simple design that I bought from the Etsy Shop, Blogger Template. There are so many pretty Blogger templates available for sale there. I'd buy from there again if I wanted a change. I chose the colour scheme of gold and mint because I like them together and made avatars in the same colours. I'm pretty happy with my blog right now.

I've also gotten into photography and am really just finding my style. I've been using my own photos to punch up my posts- like the one for today's.

What about you? What style is your blog?

Ketchup Post


I feel like I only post now when I review something. So I'm popping in today to be more than a review robot.

The last few weeks I've been attending a lot of End of the Year events for my daughter. I can't believe school is almost over. Time is going by too fast. It's May!

I've been working on cross stitch patterns for my Etsy Shop. I've got so many new ideas. I just have to turn them into reality. I like to test out the patterns before I sell them to make sure they work out the way I want them too. I almost always end up changing something before I add them to the shop.

This takes up a lot of time so I'm not getting a lot of reading done.

I did end up buying three ebooks last week: Girl Waits With Gun, Mr Splitfoot, and Wolf Winter. I'm reading Girl Waits With Gun and I'm loving it. Amy Stewart, the plant lady, is the author. I was surprised that this was the same Amy Stewart. There are no deadly plants involved. Not yet.

I'm also almost done my second sock of a pair I've been working on since March. Can't wait to be done!

So close!
I feel like on my death bed I'll be reaching for some project I haven't finished, muttering, "Just..a few more...stitches."

What projects are you working on? Book, work, home, or hobby, doesn't matter. 

Welcome to Night Vale (Audio): Wish I Could Say Nicer Things

Welcome to Night Vale novel

Welcome to Night Vale is one of my favorite podcasts. The Voice of Night Vale, Cecil Palmer, hosts a radio program informing the local residents of events like the annual marathon Through the Narrow Place, PSAs like the dog park is not a place for people or dogs, and news like an attempted takeover of the town by a five headed dragon. Just small town stuff.

I like the podcast because it's quirky and weird. It creates a world where the laws of nature don't apply, yet there is a strange logic that makes sense within that world. I've become attached to the recurring characters who appear on the show: the Faceless Old Woman Who Secretly Lives in Your Home, Old Woman Josie and her angels, and the revolving door of interns who meet untimely deaths. These are fixtures of the show now.

I was really looking forward to more of this in the first Welcome to Night Vale novel, written by the creators of the show, Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor. I knew I would have to listen to the audio version of it, especially since it is narrated by Cecil. Unfortunately, I think I had built it up too high in my mind.

The book focuses on ordinary people living in Night Vale. Diane Crayton is a single mom with a teenaged son who constantly changes physical form. Jackie Fierro is the owner of the pawn shop who has been nineteen years old for decades, maybe centuries. Diane keeps seeing her son's estranged father, Troy, everywhere, apparently the same age as the day he left. Jackie receives a paper with the words "King City" written on it that she can't throw away. Both women are forced to work together to solve their individual problems. All roads lead to King City, even though it is impossible to get there.

I guess the book is a look at what is happening to regular people while Cecil is reporting the weird news. I'm not sure I really like it. I enjoy thinking of the residents as a collective. It would be a bummer to focus on all the people lost during "Street Cleaning Day." Some of the best parts of the book were the Voice of Night Vale sections, snippets of Cecil's radio broadcast, and are in the spirit of the podcast.

I didn't feel emotionally invested in the lives of these characters at all. I didn't care about them and thought a lot of what they were going through was angsty navel gazing. The best parts were when they were in peril and a lot of action was happening, like at the library (I'm serious). At least we end up finding out who the man with the deerskin suitcase is. (Though it was disappointing.)

The pacing of the story is slow, especially at the beginning of the novel, I kept waiting for something to happen. In a town like Night Vale, there should be a lot of things happening! Instead, lots of thinking from the characters. And repetitive sentences too.

This was a disappointment for me. I wanted to love it, but... I will be sticking with the podcast because I think that is really the format for this kind of storytelling.

About the Audio: Cecil Baldwin narrates the novel, with appearances by Retta and Dylan Marron. Cecil is Cecil. There could be no one else to narrate Welcome to Night Vale. Maybe this isn't fair because the podcast is so well produced and I don't know anything about audiobook production but I didn't find the quality of sound to be as good. 

Welcome to Night Vale