March 30, 2012

The Bloggiesta List: Update #5

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bloggiesta ole
Ola Senors! (I took French not Spanish.) Welcome to my Bloggiesta To-Do list. If you don’t know what Bloggiesta is you can find out about it on Suey’s blog post. This is not the list of snacks (not yet), but the list of all that I plan on getting accomplished on Bloggiesta weekend. 
    • Update Review Archive
    • Delete or rewrite saved Drafts
    • Update About Me page
    • Clean up sidebars Added an email subscription icon- the envelope, it’s so cute!
    • Clean out email accounts (and answer neglected emails: working on it)
    • Create Pinterest RSS feed as described on Mashable
    • Reinstall Ligit Widget for monetization
    • Make sure to update Blogher advertising network info is up to date
    • Make sure Google Analytics is working correctly
    • Save blog
    • Figure out how to fix sitemap, if possible (I might need help with this)
    • Do a few Bloggiesta challenges (Jacinda, April, Joy, Penelope)
    • Clean up Google Reader and Twitter Follow list
    • Write a review
    • Added: Changed Template
    • Added: Create Text Templates in WLW for blog features

I will be updating this post as I complete tasks or mini-challenges throughout the weekend. I’ll also be posting Mini-Challenge updates below this break. This is the first time I've used a "Read More" break on my blog!

March 29, 2012

11 Ways Book Blogging Is Like Running

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11 Ways Book Blogging is Like Running

Since I decided to take up running a couple of years ago, I've had my ups and downs with it. It can be a struggle, often a mental one, to push myself out the door or go a little bit farther. I'm not athletic. I don't run marathons. I run not to compete with other people but for health reasons, plus it makes me feel good mentally. Running clears my head. When I finish a run, I'm always glad I did it, even if I whine about it before and during. 

I've learned a lot about myself because of running. In many ways, book blogging is like running. No, it won't give you lean thighs, but some of the things I've learned about running applies to blogging as well.

  • You can do it! Unless you are physically unable, you can run. The girl who was always picked last in gym class? That was me. That girl would be shocked to see herself running now. Something clicked for me in my 30s, I believed that I could do it. The same can said about blogging. There is a certain mindset, a I-can-do-it attitude required for both. It's a lot of work, but the rewards are worth it, especially the intangible ones.

  • You set the pace. With training, you can be as fast as your body will allow. You don't have to be at the head of the pack if you don't want to be. There doesn't have to be a pack. You can enjoy the scenery or you can tear it up. It's up to you. You don't have to be a book blogging guru with a thousand followers. You can just write about the books you love.
  • There will always be someone faster than you, and someone slower. Even when you set the pace, there will be others with their own goals and some will be able to meet those goals faster than you can. There are bloggers who sneak up on you: where did they come from? Don't worry, there will be someone behind you trying to get where you are. Also remember that long after the fast ones hit the finish line, the slower runners are still out there, running like a boss. 
  • You might get injured. You pull something, you fall. It happens. It happens in blogging too. Your computer breaks. Someone hacks your blog. You get a nasty email. You say something that other people don't like and they leave angry comments. An author hates your review and says so...to everyone. Someone steals your feed or copies your review. Don't let it get you down. This is a temporary setback. You will recover.
  • There will be good days, there will be bad. I know as soon as my foot hits the pavement what kind of run I'm going to have. Some days are great and I feel like a real runner. Other days my body yells, "NO!" and I know it's going to be a hard go. On your blog, you might have days where your post is tweeted and pinned and stumbled and everyone and their Mom is commenting. Other days the sound of crickets is so loud you can hear it even when you're not on your blog. It's so arbitrary. You never know the day you will have.
  • Sometimes you need to adjust your goals. Sometimes when people start running, they get overzealous and say things like, "Next month I'll run a marathon!" Sometimes they do, but those people often have to take it down a notch and perhaps aim for a 10K or a 5K instead. They've learned to adjust their goals. Blogging is like that too. You may have started blogging with certain goals but then realized that they weren't right for you. Not at this moment, anyway. It's okay to change your blogging goals. 
  • You have to keep it up. Miss a couple of weeks running and you have to rebuild. You can't go as fast or as far without stopping. When you blog, you have to be consistent. If not, you lose those great stats you gained and possibly a few followers. Sometimes you have to stop though, so don't worry too much about it (more on that later).
someecards.com - If you're on the treadmill next to me, the answer is yes, we are racing.
  • There are treadmill days. If there's a blizzard or it's so hot outside your sneakers melt on the pavement, you're not running outside. It's to the treadmill! It's not very exciting, running in place like a gerbil. There are treadmill days on the blog when you think you've been reading the same old books and saying the same old things. You have no new ideas. You're blogging but the fire is not in you. It's called Blogger's Block. It happens. You will run outside again!
  • The technology is amazing! Running gear is unbelievable. You've got the special running shirts and pants with the pockets for keys and iPods. The iPods have special apps to let you know how fast and far you're running. And the shoes! They look like something created by NASA scientists. When I started my blog, I knew almost nothing about the technical stuff. I think I figured out how to install a feed in the first couple of months. Now there are codes for tracking blog statistics, buttons for pinning and tweeting, you can even make your blog mobile. There are so many things out there for blogging, I don't even know the half of them.
  • Pride and achievement. Yes, it sounds corny, but it's true. You have family and friends who are proud of you and cheer you on at the finish line. Most importantly you will be proud of yourself when you meet your goals. Forget about the people who think you are crazy. Do it for yourself. Okay, so with blogging there are those who think doing this and not getting paid is crazy too. Just think of the authors who appreciate what you do, the readers who say they are glad to find your review because they thought they were the only ones who felt that way about a book, and the new bloggers you'll inspire to start their own blogs. 
  • Running isn't everything. Neither is blogging. Sometimes these things need to simmer on the back burner while you deal with personal or work issues, have a baby, get married, deal with an illness or a million other things that need taking care of. That's okay. The friends you've made will understand if you put things on pause. The road or the blog will be there for you to take back up when you're ready.
Whether you run yourself or not, I hope you've taken something away from this post. Blogging is not a sprint but a marathon. Every time you post you take is a step toward becoming the blogger you want to be.

March 27, 2012

Getting Your Hunger On

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Ok, ok, I'm totally taking advantage of The Hunger Games movie hype to promote my past reviews of the series. Who cares, so what? Here are my thoughts on the books back when I read them. Click on the links to visit the review.

The Hunger Games. I was reluctantly drawn into reading this one in 2010. I was hooked right away.


Catching Fire. Later in 2010, I continued with the Catching Fire. Mockingjay was soon to come out and I wanted to catch up. This time I chose to listen to the audio. I wasn't a big fan of the audio but the story continued to intrigue me. I also used the time listening to it to make a hat that I call the Catching Fire beret.

Mockingjay. The final book in the series came out and I made sure I was first to get it from the library. I managed to read the series in one year, that way I didn't have long to wait between books and forget all the details. This was the most controversial of the three. Many people felt disappointed but I was satisfied. 


So there you go. 




I haven't seen the movie yet. Have you? Did you read the books? If you did both, how did it compare? How do you feel about the movie hype? Justified or too much? And what about the marketing and promotion of products based on the series, any thoughts on that?


March 26, 2012

The Wolf Gift by Anne Rice (audiobook): Review

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...or You Don't Win Friends with Salad.

Beware: I sooooo disliked The Wolf Gift. If you loved it, you might want to look away.

You know how it happens: man is bitten by werewolf, man turns into werewolf. That's the story. In this case, Reuben Golding is attacked while trying to save the woman he's just slept with from being murdered. Reuben survives but his girl does not. She does manage to leave him her mansion in the wilderness within the short period that he knows her. While recovering, Reuben finds that he has strange powers. He's stronger, more confident, and he hears the voices of people in trouble. Indeed, he becomes a furry Spiderman. He can do whatever a wolf can, plus leap over trees and climb atop buildings. Reuben now spends his nights trolling for evil doers, tearing them limb from limb. 

Reuben is a lonely boy. He finds himself an angel in white flannel. Together they hit the books, trying to find the answers to why he's become the Man-Wolf and find others like himself.

I used to love Anne Rice. All her gothic moodiness. Her vampires and witches. However, I become disenchanted with her writing over the years. It was also hard to ignore some of the odd things she said to fans disappointed with her recent novels and her comments about not needing an editor. Still, I wanted The Wolf Gift to redeem my faith in her. 

The first complaint I have with The Wolf Gift is the slow pacing. It takes ages to get going and when it does the same things happen over and over. It needs a severe edit. There is so much unnecessary information. I thought about starting a drinking game for every time salad was mentioned. One shot for "glistening salad", two if Laura made it. Damn, that girl made a lot of awesome salads. You would swear she was the Guy Fieri of salads. There's even a scene where Reuben and Laura make salad together. It's not hot. It's salad. In fact, food is mentioned so many times throughout, I wondered if Rice wrote those scenes close to dinner time.

Reuben is no Lestat. He's got money and looks but he's so dull. Plus, he does things that a 23 year old would never do or say. They were the actions of a 53 year old. It pulled me right out of the story. Laura was even less inspiring. She mostly makes salads, sobs softly, and wanders around in white flannel nightgowns. She has a whole suitcase of those nightgowns. Did she inherit them from her Granny in 1982? I did not care for the Insta-Love between them either. Also, I didn't think making out with a wolf was very sexy. The other wolfmen (they're all men) are so gentlemanly and free with the information. There's no mystery. Any baddies who appear are quickly dispatched. 

I continued listening to The Wolf Gift long after I thought I should stop. I kept waiting for something to happen. The structure of the story is awkward. The climax happens with at least an hour of the recording still left. After this, there is a lot of explanations and philosophizing. It reminded me of Ayn Rand's 25 page speech by John Galt in Atlas Shrugged. It's more Rice than the characters speaking.

I always try to find something positive to say about a book but I'm struggling with this one. I really liked the house. Oh, and Marchant. She's the sexy 38 year old who owns the house and Reuben is smitten by her. She was an intriguing character and had potential, except that she's murdered right away. What the truck?!

Opinions seem divided on The Wolf Gift. Either you love it or hate it. I think you can tell where I stand. Plenty of people whose opinions I respect love it though. All the little things got on my nerves. It lacked the fire of her previous novels. I think I'll stick with bad boy Lestat.

About the Audio: Ron McLarty narrates the story and I thought that was an odd choice. Though the story is not in the first person, the point of view is Reuben's, a 23 year old. I don't think that helped me think of Reuben as a young man.

Ratings:

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March 25, 2012

Lazy Sunday Thoughts: Out of Hibernation

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What a busy book week! The Hunger Games movie. I haven't seen it but hope everyone who did had a good time. Seems like a weird thing to say considering what it's about. 

Readathon signs up started, and today sign ups for Cheerleaders began. Bloggiesta's next weekend. It's like spring has brought everyone out of hibernation.

The latest dust up in the book blogging world involved an email to the BEA Bloggers participants. Here's the short of it: in this email they asked people for their blog stats. Some people were offended or suspicious or well...just didn't like it. If the convention is for bloggers to mingle, then why ask for stats? (Jessica from Read React Review has the long version.) The organizers later explained (on their Facebook page) what they were trying to accomplish by asking for this information. They admitted that they should have been clear about why they asked for it. 

funny pictures - This Life Lesson Brought to You by Hedgehogs!
Obviously, this was a of a lack of understanding on their part of the book blogger mindset. It's become a trend among some publishers to only consider bloggers with X number of subscribers, or page views, or followers, or worshippers, or whatever, for review books. Bloggers have been judged on their stats. So, people tend to get prickly when asked for them. Kelly from Stacked wrote a post about stats not really meaning anything (I have thoughts on stats too but I won't get into it). 

This incident prompted other questions about the convention and led to The Reading Ape creating the book blogger unconference. If you've ever been to Book Camp (they're all over the place), that's what the unconference is aiming to be. So now there's the BEA sponsored convention and the unconference. Depending on your personality or what you want out of your trip to New York, one or the other (or both) may be the one for you. 

OR

You can take the week off and stay home in your PJs for Armchair BEA. This is truly a blogger-run for bloggers event that costs you nothing and you don't have to get on a stinky bus or crowded plane. There is a lot going on behind the scenes right now as the organizers plot (maniacal laugh, maniacal laugh) the week's events. DO IT! 

So that's that.

In other news, the Get Moving Fitness Challenge is nearing the finish line. I met my goal. Yay! With all the sunshine, I even got to run outdoors this week. What a difference that makes. Speaking of running, I watched The Nature of Things: The Perfect Runner. It ties in well with the book Born to Run that I read recently. Annnnnd... Then Heather Said offers some tips on running in the evening, which I prefer. Check those links out if you are interested in running.

Reading-wise, I finished Lady Chatterley's Lover. I'm not sure how I feel about it yet. I'm conflicted. Also, I finished listened to The Wolf Gift, which I really didn't like. It's not often that I dislike a book so hard but it happens. If it hadn't have been an audiobook, I wouldn't have finished it. Right now, I'm in the middle of The Post Office Girl by Stefan Zweig. It reminds me of Summer by Edith Wharton. I don't think it's going to end well.

No new books came into the house but I didn't pick up two at the library: The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K Le Guin and Bedbugs by Ben H Winter. Have you read them?

How was your week? 

March 22, 2012

Once Upon a Time VI Challenge

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This time last year, I joined Carl's Once Upon a Time Challenge for the first time. I actually read several books that fell into the challenge's categories of Fairy Tales, Fantasy, Folklore and Mythology. I surprised myself! Since it's that time again, I thought I'd give it a shot once more. And really, who can resist that little fox face in the banner? He's so cute! 

Just like last year, I'm going with The Journey, which has the requirement of reading only one book. I can do that, right?


Here's my list of books I have around the house that fit the challenge. A couple were on my list last year but I never got around to them.

*Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen
*Ash by Malinda Lo
*Priestess of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley
*The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula Le Guin (buddy read with Kelly)
*Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by JK Rowling (I promised the girl I'd read it)
*Discovering Cape Breton Folklore by Richard MacKinnon
*Raven Stole the Moon by Garth Stein

So what do you think? Are there any favorites there? 

I'm hoping that the challenge will kick up my reading. I'm having a hard time finding books that I feel I need to read.

March 19, 2012

Red Means Run by Brad Smith: Review

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Oh, this was a FUN mystery! Lots of red herrings and a kick-ass lady cop.

Virgil Cain is charged with spectacularly murdering the lawyer who defended the man who killed his wife. Spectacular because the guy got it with a golf club shaft through the heart. Ouch. Virgil is the only person-of-interest and guilty in the eyes of Officer Joe Brady. Fellow officer Claire Marchand isn't quite as convinced. There are some things that don't add up.

Virgil sees that the way things are going, he'll be in prison before anyone can shout, "Fore!" At the moment, he's in custody and it doesn't look like he'll be free anytime soon. With police eyeballing him as the murderer, he figures the only person who can clear his name is himself. As soon as he's able, he wiggles himself away from the cops and is on the run.

There were so many things I liked about Red Means Run by Brad Smith. First, the characters. Virgil is a former baseball player turned farmer just trying to make ends meet. His deceased wife was a girl with big dreams until she was murdered by a record producer. With the trial over, Virgil gets back to cutting hay and reluctantly taking care of abused horses. Virgil is that strong silent type. He's slow to anger and thinks everything through. It's his demeanor that first tips Claire off that this might not be the guy they're looking for.

Claire is the smart, sexy, yet tender cop determined to get to the bottom of things. Virgil would be the best suspect and Joe Brady isn't looking too much farther. Claire doesn't like Joe anyway or the way he's handled the case for that matter. She wants real evidence, not the circumstantial stuff they have so far. As the story progresses, the sparks between Virgil and Claire glow and there is some witty repartee near the end that had me laughing. Brad Smith knows how to create chemistry on the page.

The mystery was fast paced with subplots involving abused horses and an angry vet, more murders, a crooked businessman, a killer's parents, and a congresswoman looking toward retirement. All these stories weave in and out of Virgil's leaving me wondering who really killed the lawyer as I raced to the end.

Not only did I appreciate the strong female characters, I also enjoyed the Canadian references. Virgil is a Canadian living in the US. In fact, the title comes from a Neil Young song.

The only criticism I have is that I thought the end was abrupt. Also I was a bit skeptical about a few things. However, that's mysteries for you. You have to suspend disbelief somewhat.

This is the first Virgil Cain mystery and I can't wait to read more.

Thanks to Simon and Schuster Canada for the review copy.

Ratings:

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March 18, 2012

Lazy Sunday Thoughts: Return of the Chrisbookarama

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Good morning to ya! How's she goin'? I have returned from a brief vacation, though you didn't know I was gone, which was a shopping vacation into the big city areas of this province. Also I drank lots of coffee. Why can't we get a Second Cup here??? Why?!!!

Mostly the trip was to purchase spring duds for the fam. Not that we don't have shops here but sometimes we want something different. Also March Break makes me and the girl shack happy so a little excitement goes a long way. I was, however, on the hunt for the elusive Bed-in-the-Bag. A hunt I've been on since Christmas. I'm fussy. I finally found one, got it in my sights, bought it, and tied it to the hood of my car (not really). It will be stuffed and mounted upon my bed soon.

While in the car, I listened to some of The Wolf Gift by Anne Rice. Lord, that's a long book. And slow. I just want things to happen! So, I'm not sure if I like it or not. I like parts of it but it's so repetitive. We'll see.

I also picked up Fingersmith by Sarah Waters while I was away. I hope it's a good one. I've heard great things about it. 

Other than that, I finished Red Means Run by Brad Smith this week. It was so good! And I'm struggling to finish Lady Chatterley's Lover by DH Lawrence for bookclub. At this point, I don't care if all the characters die tragically. Tuesday I reviewed Xingu by Edith Wharton on the Project Guternberg Project blog. Check it out!

Finally...

Have you heard? Armchair BEA is coming back! It's going to be good. There's lots of stuff being planned right now for June. Stay tuned!

How was your week?

My girl took this pic in the car. She did a pretty good job!

March 15, 2012

The Flight of Gemma Hardy by Margot Livesey: Review

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Remember the plot of Jane Eyre, orphan girl with mean aunt gets sent away to school where some bad stuff happens, then she becomes a teacher to another orphan girl, falls in love with her boss, tries to get married, more bad stuff happens, she runs away and finds some relatives? Good. Now you know the plot of The Flight of Gemma Hardy by Margot Livesey. Only in this story Gemma is a girl living in 1950's Scotland.

Now, if you know anything at all about me, you know I love Jane Eyre. I spent a large part of last spring re-reading and posting about it. So, I was curious about The Flight of Gemma Hardy. It's not the first time a writer has been 'inspired' by the book. Daphne du Maurier took a swing at it with Rebecca which became a classic in its own right. However, instead of borrowing bits of the story, Livesey has taken the whole plot. This didn't really bother me much until later in the novel when Gemma meets Mr Sinclair. 

Here's my issue. I never really felt a bond between Gemma and Sinclair, not anything like Jane and Rochester. Gemma is more immature than Jane, even though they are the same age at this point in the plot. The men are much older but it seems a lot ickier in the case of Gemma. Jane is completely alone in the world; Gemma has a small circle of friends. Being alone makes the relationship between Jane and Rochester possible because they are thrown together and as intellectual equals build a relationship. Jane and Rochester are two halves of a whole, they have a connection. I didn't feel that with Gemma and Sinclair. When his 'big secret' is revealed, I thought Gemma's reaction was overkill. Was running away without telling anyone what she was planning really necessary? I don't think so.

The thing is I really enjoyed so much of The Flight of Gemma Hardy was when it wasn't being shoved into the plot of Jane Eyre. I loved Gemma's desire for an education and her determination to find out what happened to her parents. The writing is lovely and the sense of place, whether the Orkney Islands or Iceland, is enjoyable. Gemma's friends interested me more than Mr Sinclair ever did. 

Gemma herself often frustrated me, especially near the end. For a girl who wants so badly to have friends and a home, I don't know how she could so easily run off (again) the way she did. She has issues with communication. She's not terribly reliable either. Birds as a symbol crop up time and again. Gemma is a bird but she is no Jane, as Jane herself says: "I am no bird; and no net ensnares me." 

It's hard for me to judge The Flight of Gemma Hardy. If it could be thrown in a centrifuge and separated into two books, I'd be happy. 

Big thanks to Trish and TLC Book Tours who went out of her way to make sure The Flight of Gemma Hardy got to me. Check out the tour info page for more dates on the tour.

Ratings:

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March 12, 2012

Born to Run by Christopher McDougall (audiobook): Review

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Cover of Born to Run by Christopher McDougall
Born to Run is one of those books I saw on the library audiobook list, thought about borrowing, but for some reason or other didn't, that was until I read April's review over at Books and Wine. Sometimes I need that little push.

McDougall goes in search of the mysterious Tarahumara Indian tribe in search of some answers about running. If the modern science of running has convinced millions of people to buy cushy shoes, why are there so many injuries? Shouldn't we all be super-athletes by now? How are these barefoot runners able to fly around canyons from the moment they learn to walk until they drop dead? McDougall dodges drug dealers, snakes, and the desert sun just to talk to them. Inadvertently, he discovers an American living like the Tarahumara, a man called  Caballo Blanco. He tells McDougall a story of ultra-racers and the attempts of one man to make the Tarahumara runners a household name. Much later, Caballo Blanco reaches out to McDougall. He wants to pit the best runners in the US against the Tarahumara, not for big prizes, but for the love of running.

I can't really explain Born to Run as well as I'd like to. That's a pretty sad synopsis. The reason is because Born to Run meanders all over the place: into the past, into science, into Africa and Mexico. Sometimes I would wonder how I got where I was in the story? "Wait, some guy is hunting deer in Africa now?" But I was always entertained. I also thought McDougall was pulling my leg at times. Some of the antics of the people in the story seem way out there. Also, there really can't be these nutters who would run 100 miles straight up a mountain for fun, can there? Yes, there are. Good gravy. 

What I found most interesting (and a bit more relateable) about Born to Run is the science behind the barefoot running movement. It seems like common sense that humans are meant to run barefoot. Evolution built us for it. Our ancestors had to run if they wanted to eat and they didn't have Nikes. I'm almost convinced, though those guys only lived to be about 35. Anyway, I did actually go out and buy a pair of Puma Faas 250. They're a minimalist shoe. I've only ran a couple of times in them but so far, so good. I'm never going to be an ultra-runner but I can pretend. 

Don't be put off by all the running. You don't have to be interested in that to get something out of the book. It's quite an adventure story too. 

About the audio: Fred Sanders is the narrator. He has a good storytelling voice and injects lots of enthusiasm into the story.

Other books on running I've reviewed:
Run Like a Mother

Ratings:

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March 11, 2012

Lazy Sunday Thoughts: One Lost Hour

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How I hate setting the clocks forward! That hour missing kills me. I'll be messed up for a week now. At least it will be light out later. We've had some fabulous weather this week too. I hope that means spring is on its way. I can't wait to start gardening. Right now my garden is a big block of ice though. 

So, I was sick earlier this week and couldn't do much of anything. It really wiped me out. I'm back in the swing of things now. I thought lying in bed would mean more blogging and reading but really it just meant more feverish sleep. I did get a book read for a blog tour later this week: The Flight of Gemma Hardy. I have mixed feelings about it. Tune in later this week.

Let's see what else can I tell you.

No new books came in. I have a gift card for Chapters which I need to spend. I keep looking but then don't spend it because I can't make up my mind. Not making up my mind is a problem lately. I can't even decide on what book to read next. 

Bloggiesta is coming! Bloggiesta is great because there are so many little blogging duties that get put off until 'someday when I have time.' Bloggiesta is that someday. It's also helpful to have other people doing the same thing. Someone out there will be able to help you if you have a problem.

I watched all of Season 1 of Downton Abbey this week. I cannot wait to watch the next episodes. I don't always like Lady Mary. I know what Edith did was terrible but Mary can be a bitch. Matthew is too good for her. I guess it's too much to hope that Edith marries that guy she wanted. Sybil is adorable though. I'm sure all of you who've seen Season 2 already are biting your tongues!



March 8, 2012

Impromptu International Women's Day Post

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So...it's International Women's Day and I'm an international woman and was not prepared for it. Shameful. But Ana was! Go look at her reading list and learn 'bout some womens.

I will celebrate by sharing this video (again, cause I love it) of the Bronte Sisters Power Dolls. Comes with barrier breaking feminist vision! Book 'em, Brontes!



March 6, 2012

Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman: Review

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I fear one hundred years have not been kind to Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. At that time it might have been considered ground breaking but in the opinion of this 21st century woman I thought it was both gimmicky and a bit silly.

In Herland, three American explorers learn of a mythical country of women in the jungle (I'm not sure where in the world they are supposed to be) and set out to conquer it. Right from the beginning, we see where these fellows thoughts lie: Terry, the big ass, figures he'll become their god and be worshipped since he's such hot stuff, Jeff is hoping for a land of nuns and peace, where the ladies sew and sing Kumbaya, and Van (the narrator) is the more moderate in ideas of the two, and more open minded. They all consider that what they'll find is either an uncivilized land where the women are living in dirt because they needs the mens to have cities or the males are hiding somewhere ready to attack. What they actually find is a well cared for country without any men. The women are practical and capable and don't need men to run things. This blows their little bitty minds. 

They stay in Herland for about a year, more or less prisoners. They learn about this land and how it came to be. The women don't need men because they reproduce asexually. Throw out all you know about biology, children, you won't need it here. Population control seems to have evolved by the power of the mind. The guys try to explain their world to the women but "comparisons are odious," since the world looks dirty and broken compared to Herland. It's an Eden and you know how that ended.

I know Gilman was trying to show that women are capable of being productive and successful members of society beyond being wives but Herland is a bit over the top. First of all, since the woman do not compete with each other for men, they have no jealousy, and therefore create a perfect society. Oh, really. It's human nature to be jealous, it's not just because of men. I can't believe that there would be no jealousy, to that not one woman would want to dominate the others. Even their songs and plays lack any passion. Is there only passion because of men? Herland is a utopia and I suppose we're only to see the good in a utopia but wouldn't a place like this, devoid of any excitement be a bit bland?  

Gilman implies that women are just better than men, at everything. Even the forests are neat and tidy. I'm not totally behind her that getting rid of one sex makes the world a perfect place and maybe she wasn't saying that either. More than likely, at this time, she was trying to point out the ridiculous ideas of gender: women are delicate and meant for the home (the wealthy ones anyway) while men run the world. She points out that feminine traits are a product of society and not biology. Van has an epiphany:

This led me very promptly to the conviction that those "feminine charms" we are so fond of are not feminine at all, but mere reflected masculinity—developed to please us because they had to please us, and in no way essential to the real fulfillment of their great process

Another odd thing was the role of Motherhood in Herland. It's a religion, not a vocation. Every woman hopes to produce, not necessarily raise, a baby. Would every woman be down with this? And there are women who they don't want having kids because they don't want certain traits to continue so they use that mind power to keep from getting preggers. (Again, my high school biology education shouts, "What?!!")

The characters themselves are one-dimensional. The women are wide-eyed in wonder when told about the outside world. They are logical, or often described as angelic. They lack any distinct personality. The men, well, Van is the scientist, Jeff the convert, and Terry the knuckle dragger- he even puffs his chest up like an ape at one point. They fill their roles. They never entirely let go of their old ideas though.

Herland is an interesting relic of another time, much like these Women of the Future cards from 1902. It's a peek at the ideas of gender then. Obviously, we know that women are capable of all that the women of Herland are without doing away with men.

PS- I much prefer The Yellow Wallpaper.

Herland is available free on Project Gutenberg.

Ratings:

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March 5, 2012

Post From the Sick Bed

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I have a cold or flu or something. I haven't been sick in a really long time so I'm wallowing in it. Usually I'm running off some place, but my plan today is to stay put. Being in bed, listening to the dishwasher run, is rather dull, so I grabbed my camera. Here are some pics of my point of view at the moment.

Clockwise: Tea and Comfort, Dear Kitty, Reading Material, Look It's Snowing!

Anyway, I will have a couple of reviews up later this week.

March 1, 2012

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett (audiobook): Review

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I've never read anything by Ann Patchett before. Nope, nothing, which is weird because she seems to be a Big Deal. Anyway after I read Andi's review of State of Wonder and noticed that the library had it as an audiobook, I'd thought I'd give it a shot.

Marina is hoofing it to the jungles of the Amazon to find out how of her friend and colleague, Anders Eckman, spent his last days on earth. Poor Anders got a fever while tracking down a reclusive researcher Dr Annick Swenson, who refuses to talk to anyone, including her boss, about the fertility drug she's working on. There is a tree the natives eat the bark of that keeps them fertile until they die of old age. The thought of being 70 and having babies gave me the willies but drug company Vogel execs have dollar signs in their eyes. Not only does Marina have to get Anders' body home, she has to check on Dr Swenson as well.

I won't say much more about the plot other than to tell you Marina finds out a lot more once she's knee deep in mosquitoes. 

The story takes some interesting twists and turns as Marina pushes her way into Dr Swenson's world. Her view of things changes and I found my own view of things changing as well. I was surprised by this and didn't realize how I felt until some other characters show up near the end. It was sneaky of Patchett.

I loved the setting; I felt like I was there in the jungle with the heat and the itchy bugs. The story was darn near perfect until near the end when the plot went wonky and some people did some things I did not approve of. Also, there were a lot of questions left unanswered. Generally, I like this but I needed at least some ends tied up and I thought there should have been another chapter or two in there. One other issue I had was Dr Swenson who was nearly robotic in her interactions with people. Yes, you are an important science person now but didn't anyone hug you as a child? I wanted to ask. Yikes, she was heartless at times. I did, eventually, warm up to her a bit and could see why people treated her like a god. She sort of expected it. 

It took awhile to really get going but once it did I really enjoyed it despite some of my misgivings by the end.

About the Audio: I don't have any luck with Mp3s. They always sound muffly, just like this one did. WMAs are fine but so far Mp3s have been stinky. Interesting to note that I play all Mp3s through the Overdrive App and WMAs are just files on my Ipod. 

I also wasn't in love with the production (Harper Audio). There was a strange back of the throat thing going on with the narrator and some odd pauses that could have been edited out. Hope Davis, the narrator, read well, though she sounded tired, but those other things were distracting. I probably would have enjoyed it more as a printed book.

nrelate