June 28, 2012

Haunted Girl: Esther Cox & the Great Amherst Mystery by Laurie Glenn Norris: Review

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haunted girl cover, esther coxIn 1878, Esther Cox, an ordinary eighteen year old girl, was beset by “manifestations” including knocking, rapping, throwing objects, and starting fires. Esther believed she was the victim of mesmerism, while the local doctor had no explanation.

Soon the local papers were reporting on the events. Esther became a local celebrity with people coming from all over to witness these manifestations, including an American stage actor named Walter Hubbell. Hubbell declared that he would prove Esther a fraud but became one of her biggest supporters. Hubbell had the brilliant idea of exhibiting Esther around Nova Scotia. When this was a disaster, he set out to write a book about the “haunting” (as he believed it).

After Hubbell went off to find himself fame and fortune, Esther went back to her life as a domestic servant. The manifestations followed her to her new abode and caused trouble anew. When the dust settled, Esther found herself in jail. The judge did not believe ghosts had stolen her employers’ property or burned down two barns. Strangely enough, the manifestations stopped after Esther served her sentence. Esther disappeared into obscurity.

When I started reading Haunted Girl, I was ready to accept that Esther was a master manipulator who enjoyed conning people. By the end of the book, I was both sympathetic and a little bit sad. Esther was a lonely girl with a hard life. Abandoned by her father and foisted on relatives, Esther had very few opportunities to better herself. Even marriage was beyond her after she was unceremoniously dumped by the man she’d been seeing. Like the author, I can see the answer to the mystery as mischief gone out of control along with a desire for attention.

Laurie Glenn Norris lays out the facts of the story plainly for the reader. She includes quotes from newspaper articles and eye witness accounts. There is an obvious voice missing from the narrative: Esther herself. People (men) spoke for Esther: her brother-in-law, doctor, clergyman, Walter Hubbell, and others. What I find most telling is how during all of the 15 months the events took place not one person even took a photo of the girl. It’s like she didn’t exist outside the manifestations. What does it says about the state of women lives at that time that not even becoming a “celebrated medium” gave a female a voice of her own?

Several books have been written about Esther since she died. Her story is a source of fascination whether you believe she was tormented by spirits or committed a hoax. Laurie Glenn Norris provides historical and social context to the story and I appreciated her female point of view. I’d recommend Haunted Girl: Esther Cox & the Great Amherst Mystery to anyone curious about spiritualism in the 19th century.

If you are interested in Walter Hubbell’s point of view, his book The Haunted House is available on Project Gutenberg for free. Take it with a grain of salt since Hubbell had the most to gain from Esther’s story and his experiences are somewhat suspect.

Thanks to Nimbus Publishing for the review copy.

Ratings:

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June 26, 2012

Black Mask 6: The Bloody Bokhara and Other Crime Stories (audio): Review

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black mask 6Tough guys and dames. Thieves and murderers. Thugs and strippers. These are the characters that people these pulpy crime fiction stories from the now defunct magazine The Black Mask (1920-1951). These stories start out with an average Joe trying to help a Dame out, a beautiful one of course. A girl with a face full of trouble… Sorry, I’m getting carried away.

Body Snatcher by Theodore A Tinsley: A reporter finds a body in the home of his old friend, a former singer, who is anxious to let the police send her to jail. He knows something is not right here and after slipping his friend some drugs to knock her out (like any gentleman would), his reporter’s instincts lead him to the truth. (Read by Richard Ferrone)

Murder on the Gayway by Dwight V Babcock: A detective saves a girl from an apparent kidnapping but the girl’s story seems suspicious. Even more suspicious is her disappearance after a murder in front of “The Nude Ranch.” (Read by David LeDoux)

The Key by Clive F Adams: A policeman rescues a girl from a night in jail only to end up with a cracked skull. Now out for revenge, he follows her trail which leads to a rifled mortuary and a bunch of thugs looking for a very important letter. (Read by Jeff Gurner)

The Bloody Bokhara by William Campbell Gault: Lee, a young rug dealer of Armenian descent, is approached by a woman with some very expensive rugs. She has a business proposition for him. With his face (like Tyrone Power) and expertise, she thinks he could make her a lot of money selling her rugs to some ladies. Something is off about all this business and Lee’s morals (and his Dad) tell him to tread carefully, especially after he finds a blood stain on one of the rugs. (Read by Peter Ganim)

Tyrone Power
This handsome fella is Tyrone Power
I enjoyed some of these stories more than others. My favorites were Murder on the Gayway, which has a twist at the end and The Bloody Bokhara. In the last story Lee is a guy with ethics and a close family. The story stood out for me more, as he is a different kind of character than the rest of the protagonists.

By just looking at the cover for this audiobook, you know there is sexism. Yes, the women are either victims or vamps. Somehow they end up finding themselves either half naked, tied up or both! There isn’t a lot of character development here but there’s not a lot for the guys either. I think the worst one was in The Key, where the protag wanted to hurt a woman for a perceived wrong, even though he considers himself a knight in shining armour. Ironically, some of these authors created “girl detectives” in other popular crime fiction stories. None of these are in this collection but I’d love to read those.

The Black Lizard’s Big Book of Black Mask Stories Volume Six is edited by Otto Penzler. Listening to this collection was very entertaining and anyone who enjoys crime fiction will like these old stories.

About the Audio: I don’t know if I would have read these stories myself, though I enjoyed listening to them. All four gentlemen have voices that range from gravely and smoky to velvety and oh-la-la! Perfect choices for these types of stories. My favorite is Peter Ganim (whoa, he is good).  (Running time 6 hours and 33 minutes)

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June 25, 2012

Tina’s Mouth: An Existential Comic Diary by Keshni Kashyap: Review

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tina's mouthTina M is a fifteen year old Indian-American living in California. She attends a somewhat Hippie-ish private school where classes include Existentialism, Tina’s favorite class. This diary is a class project. In it she speaks to Sartre. She tells him of her problems, her crushes, and her family. All the while she’s trying to answer the question: Who am I?

Oh Lord, I am so glad not to be a fifteen year old girl anymore! Tina’s Mouth just brings up all those memories of teenaged angst and all the things that seemed like to end of the world to me at the time. Tina is dumped by her best-friend Alex, after she discovers fashion and gets a boyfriend. Tina sits all by herself at lunch after that, until her teacher suggests she try out for the school play. She does, reluctantly, and this opens her up to new friendships and possibly her first kiss.

At home, Tina is dragged to weekend parties at her parents’ friends’ house. She actually likes these parties, all the heel dragging is for show. Her Mom and Auntie are trying to set up her pot smoking artist sister with a suitable boy, while her brother is planning a wedding with a girl he met online. Events soon to cause various disasters.

I’m picky about my graphic novel choice. I don’t like anything too cartoonish or off-the-wall. I was attracted to this one right away. The cover is delightful. I did find the title, Tina’s Mouth: An Existential Comic Diary a little off putting. What was I going to be in for? Was this going to be too woo-woo for me? But what I found was a story of a very smart young woman just trying to figure herself out. This is the kind of story relatable to any girl who ever felt a little bit lost in high school, especially one who was smart and on the quiet side. (Who? Me?) The title, Tina’s Mouth, refers to an Indian story of baby Krishna, whose mom looks inside his mouth and sees the whole universe. Once I found this out, I relaxed about the title.

As for the graphic part of this novel, I enjoyed the illustrations by Mari Aarki. Dare I say that they’re girly? They remind me of the doodling I did at fifteen, all the hearts and stars and words that wander across the page. Much better than my own, of course, especially the drawings of people (I can only manage stick people). The illustrations have no colour and look like they could have been drawn with a pen. I liked the simplicity. Here’s the book trailer, so you can see what I mean:

I’m glad I took a chance on Tina’s Mouth: An Existential Comic Diary by Keshni Kashyap. It turned out to be just what I needed.

Ratings:

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June 24, 2012

Lazy Sunday Thoughts: DNF and a Movie

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Happy Sunday, My Charming Ones! How goes it? It goes well here. I got to eat at a (sort of) fancy pants restaurant; there wasn’t a kids’ menu! And saw Seeking a Friend for the End of the World. I have completely changed my mind about Steve Carell. I always found him annoying, probably that was characters he played, because he was soooooo SWEET in this movie. Adorable. Now I love him.

In other news, I’ve given up on A Discovery of Witches. It is not for me. They did get out of the library, finally, but then the vampire got on his bossy hat and lost me. Okay, the heroine is an academic witch and she’s 30ish(?) perhaps (I’m sure it was mentioned, everything else was), and somehow she managed to live and not accidently kill herself without him. However, once he’s trying to be her boyfriend, he’s all “You will not ride a horse the way in which you wish to ride a horse even though you know horses and how to ride them.” And she’s all, *giggles* “You’re so cute when you’re overbearing.” Nope. It was too slow, too much info dumping, and I hated that guy. Another book everybody likes but me. I’ll be hanging out at the uncool table.

someecards.com - Pet peeve: when someone assumes that when you are reading a book, that you are

That was reading time I won’t get back but I’m moving onto the next one. I’m nearly finished Cranford. That’s a slow one. Also, I’m going to be reading Les Miserables with my book club. I ordered it this week. I hope my mailman doesn’t have a back problem and if he doesn’t he might get one delivering the 1200 page tome.

It’s Canada Day next weekend (July 1)! Here’s to beer! And donuts! I made a special Pinterest board for all my Canada Day finds. I’ll be adding to it throughout the week.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

June 21, 2012

The Prestige by Christopher Priest (audiobook): Review

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the prestige coverBack in 2006 there were two magician movies: The Prestige and The Illusionist. I know I saw one of them but had no idea which one. Seriously 2006, two magician movies with similar titles? What were you thinking? So, when I downloaded The Prestige, the audiobook, I was unsure if this book-turned- movie was the one I had seen and didn’t want to look it up in case it made me remember the plot and ruin the book.

That was a long way to get to the point: The Prestige wasn’t the movie I saw. It was The Illusionist. Very different stories, by the way.

The Prestige by Christopher Priest starts with Andrew, a reporter, finding a Lady (with a capital L), Kate Angier, who knows all about his birth family. Or more accurately, she finds him. Andrew was adopted when he was three and doesn’t want anything to do with that part of his life. However, she has some interesting information, including an explanation for his belief he is a twin despite the fact the all records say he isn’t.

It all goes back to a feud between their ancestors, two magicians. They aren’t Harry Potter type magicians, they’re the “Abracadabra! Is this your card?” variety. The fight starts when Andrew’s ancestor Alfred Borden catches Rupert Angier doing something he thinks is unscrupulous and makes a Scene. During the commotion, Borden unknowingly injures Angier’s wife and causes a family tragedy. Angier makes it his goal to ruin Borden’s career and does so by interrupting his act whenever he can. Borden does the same in retaliation. This goes on for years, the pattern of pranks and one-upmanship continues until Angier creates an illusion so amazing Borden must know its secret.

Most of the story is revealed in the two diaries the magicians kept. I like this device; through the diaries I came to sympathize with both men but also could see that they act like arses most of the time. Neither is perfect and strangely enough both want to end the feud, though neither one has the balls to do it. Borden hints at a secret to the New Transported Man, the trick that drove Angier crazy enough to create his own version, In A Flash, a trick that messes with the laws of nature. Up until this point, the story was fairly straight forward but it takes a turn to the science-fiction genre. It gets weird. Not that this is a bad thing. I was hooked by the story right up until the end.

So…the end. There is a scene at the end where Andrew makes a discovery so bizarre, I didn’t know whether to laugh or shudder. It’s funny and creepy all at the same time. Also, I was left with more questions than answers. What did Kate know? How could she not know? I dunno… I’m going to be thinking about this for awhile.

PS- I looked up the movie information and I’m not sure I want to see it. They seem to have “Hollywoodized” it. A Lot. So many people die.

About the Audio: It only took me two days to listen to the book even though it wasn’t a small book. In part, I think it was Simon Vance’s narration that kept me listening. This is my second Simon Vance audio. He did an excellent job. The voices of women and children were convincing and not weird. He made subtle changes to show the age of a character. He even gave Andrew a slightly different accent, from the rest of the men.

Ratings:

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June 19, 2012

Rural Tropes, Or Don't Go Into the Country

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Trope: a common or overused theme or device. Merriam-Webster

Tropes, man. They’re everywhere. I pick up a book and think, “They’re doing that thing again.” Tropes aren’t always bad. Sometimes tropes are dope, yo. It depends on how the writer uses it and also what kind of mood I’m in. If, say, I’ve read three books in a row and they all have the same trope, I get stabby. I probably wouldn’t have even noticed it except that it came up so often!

Lately, I’ve noticed tropes involving islands or the country. I might be more attuned to these because I live on an island and it’s not New York City around here.
  • Welcome to Crazy Island! People who live on islands are quirky weirdos. Somehow all the weirdos end up on islands, it’s like they have magnets in their butts. Also, the smaller the island, the more there are. So, I live on an island and not everyone is a weirdo. We have them, sure, but probably the ratio of normal to weirdo is about the same as non-islands. Maybe it’s just more noticeable?
  • Rural school children, San Augustine County, Texas (LOC)
    Cute or Sinister? 
  • People in the Country Are Psychopaths. This is a big one in movies too. A city person goes to the country, maybe he buys a house or, maybe he’s just passing through and, unfortunately for him, his car breaks down. He feels the angry glare of a store clerk who is secretly sizing him up for a skin suit. Next thing he knows, he’s being chased around a corn field by a guy with a chainsaw. A city person cannot go to the country without some country person wanting to have his liver with some lima beans and a nice chianti. It’s a known fact.
  • People in the Country Are Magical! A complete 180 from the last one. A woman (almost always a woman) has some tragedy in the city: her husband sleeps with someone else, she loses her job, something like that. She moves to the country to be alone. But she can’t be alone because the quirky neighbours keep showing up with pies and downhome advice. Soon her heart grows two sizes too big and she ends up hosting the annual county BBQ or something. Also, country people are even more magical in the Southern US. funny pictures history - No One Doesn't Like a Poke
  • Nature is Magical! You don’t need people to have some magical life-altering experience. The author has hard times so spends the summer in the woods eating the bark from trees (or buys a run down farm and sells free range eggs to the locals, much safer). These are usually memoirs. People who are eaten by bears don’t write memoirs, so these people don’t have magical experiences that land them on Oprah. I love nature and it’s great to get away and clear your head but don’t just head out into the wilderness in your flip flops. Search and Rescue costs a lot.
That’s all I can think of at the moment. They’ve come up a lot this past year. There have been a lot of “country people want to kill you” movies lately and Chris Bohjalian did it in The Night Strangers. It bothers me more in movies, probably because of the clich├ęs movies use as well. For more fun rural tropes, see the TV Trope Wiki: Close Knit Community.

Can you think of any? I’m sure there are tons about living in the city too. (Small town girl moves to city and becomes famous/finds love, anyone?)

June 18, 2012

Dead Beautiful by Melanie Dugan: Review

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dead beautifulPersephone is on her way to becoming a Level-1 goddess just like her mom Demeter, but is that what she really wants? A steady job? A reliable but boring boyfriend like Darryl, demi-god of home repairs? Persephone always felt out of place, living on Earth with her Mom, the nymphs, and humans while her Dad Zeus lived upstairs. An ordinary life doesn’t feel like enough for her, even though that’s what her Mom wants for her.

Her Mom has always had a lot on her mind, making sure things on Earth run smoothly and now with all the departments downsizing she’s busier than ever. Persephone doesn’t want to add to her problems but she just can’t seem to stay away from Hades. He’s not all that bad and, in fact, she might be falling in love with the guy.

Dead Beautiful by Melanie Dugan is an entertaining modern retelling of the Abduction of Persephone, only it’s not so much an abduction. Persephone is a teenager tired of hanging out with silly girls and not interested in boys her own age. Hades, the original bad boy, is sensitive and intriguing. He seems to be the answer to her restlessness and when he invites her into his realm she impulsively agrees. She doesn’t quite consider how her mother will take it. It isn’t pretty. Seriously, she should have left a note or something.

While Persephone exerts her own autonomy, she also misses her mother and the world above. She wants to have her cake and eat it too. I thought Dugan did a good job representing that struggle between mother and daughter. Persephone wants to be free of her mother’s expectations, yet she wants her approval. Demeter can’t let go of her own dreams for Persephone. She doesn’t approve of Hades as a husband for her daughter either.

Dead Beautiful is written as if it’s an interview of all the parties involved in Persephone’s disappearance: Persephone, Hades, Zeus, Demeter, and Persephone’s bff Cyane. They all give their own take on events, sometimes revealing things the others don’t know. Zeus is all, “Hey don’t blame me!” while Cyane isn’t quite the loyal friend she appears to be. The writing is quirky and funny. There are modern references here and there, which shows that the gods can see beyond the present time. The gods don’t play by our rules.

Dead Beautiful was a fun, quick read. You don’t need to know much about Greek gods and there’s always Google if you really need to know who is who.

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for the review copy. To find more reviews of this book check out the schedule.

June 17, 2012

Lazy Sunday Thoughts Just Ramble

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Vegetable Garden

Hello, Friends! How is your weekend going? Mine is pretty quiet. I’m making all my husband’s favorite dishes today since it’s Father’s Day. Unfortunately, I can’t barbeque steak, so he’s on his own when it comes to that.

Speaking of food… My vegetable garden is doing 100% better than last year. I’m quite proud, though if I can blame Mother Nature for the bad year, I guess I have to give her credit for the good. Either way I’m happy.

I read Ana’s thoughtful post last week about considering the audience of your blog and I admitted that I often think that my readers are other book bloggers. This may not be true, other people might be reading my posts. It was a good reminder that I shouldn’t be too book bloggy all the time. I’ve had great conversations with people about books that weren’t other bloggers because of my blog. Anyway, I hope I haven’t made people feel left out.

No new books were acquired this week, but I did review Northanger Abbey and The Governess Affair here and Baddeck and That Sort of Thing over at Project Gutenberg Project. I’m really hoping to change my public domain reading streak from blah to woot! soon. I need a good one. It’s what I want, what I really really want.

I’m thinking that I might need a summer reading theme. All mysteries? Romance? Comedy? Maybe all three? Hmm… What about you? What do you want to read this summer?

Right now, I’m reading A Discovery of Witches. So far it’s ok. Not much is happening yet. Mostly all the action involves going to the library. I hope things pick up, since it’s almost 600 pages long.

So that was super rambly. It didn’t have much of a point. Oh well, that’s sort how my mind works anyway!

And just because…here’s Jimmy Fallon, Carly Rae Jepsen, and The Roots performing Call Me Maybe with classroom instruments.

June 13, 2012

The Governess Affair by Courtney Milan: Review

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governess affairIt’s a battle of wills between Serena Barton and Hugo Marshall. Hugo is a man who solves problems and Serena is a problem. Hugo’s job is to keep a sleazy duke and his wife together so the duke has access to his wife’s money. Money Hugo needs to start his real life, the one he’s been planning since he was a kid.

Serena, a former governess, waits outside the duke’s offices. She plans to wait until she receives “compensation.” Compensation for what, Hugo wants to know and neither the duke nor Serena are talking. All he knows is the duke is anxious to be rid of her before his wife sees her.

Hugo wonders, how do you solve a problem like Serena? She’s sassy and tough and not like any woman he’s ever met. He’s falling for her but she stands in the way of his dreams.

I hadn’t read anything by Courtney Milan before but after browsing Kobo’s website and seeing that this was just 99 cents, I thought, “What the hell?” A little bit of romance never hurt anybody. And I really enjoyed it! The banter between Hugo and Serena is witty. The obstacles between them are Hugo’s ambition and Serena’s need for justice. Will they overcome? Of course they will, this is romance but it’s fun to see how.

Since this is a novella and only 100 pages, the thrill of the chase is fast and furious. Hugo and Serena get down to business in record time. I wasn’t sure about Serena’s issue. It’s a short book to handle such a Big Issue and it made me a little squirmy. I did get over it though.

This is a good intro to the series The Brothers Sinister which I’m assuming is about the kids. I’m looking forward to it.

Ratings:

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June 11, 2012

On Re-Reading Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen: Thoughts

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northanger abbey coverSo, my online book club picked Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen for our discussion last month. I’ve read it at least twice in the past, but it’s been awhile. I looked forward to reading it again.

Catherine Morland has a pretty uninteresting life. Her parents are perfectly normal, they have a bucket load of normal kids, and they are neither poor nor about to inherit tons of money. Just average. Catherine’s hobby is reading ‘horrid’ gothic novels, the more horrid the better. (Catherine and I would get along well. We’d have lots to talk about anyway.) Finally, at the age of seventeen, Catherine has the opportunity to have an adventure. Family friends, the Allens, are taking her to Bath!

The prospect for fun is high but Catherine is disappointed because Bath is boring if you don’t know anyone and they don’t. But then Mrs Thorpe, an acquaintance of Mrs Allen, shows up and things get interesting. She has her kids with her including the chatty Isabella. Isabella declares Catherine her instant bff. Soon after, Isabella’s brother John arrives with Catherine’s bro James.

Now their little gang cruises around Bath. Isabella makes googly-eyes at James while John tries to impress Catherine with his fine horse. It’s not happening, not since Catherine got a look at Henry Tilney. O Henry! He’s so dreamy! She gets along well with his sister Eleanor too. So well that Eleanor invites her to their family estate, Northanger Abbey. With a name like that there’s sure to be lots of horrid adventures.

Northanger Abbey isn’t my favorite Jane Austen. It lacks the heart of Persuasion or Pride and Prejudice. It is more like two novels: the gimmicky satire, and the story of social manners. Although the satire is funny, I wasn’t as interested in that as much as once was. It’s funny at first but then it gets tedious. Austen used Catherine’s trip to Northanger Abbey to poke fun at the popular gothic novels, like Fifty Shames of Earl Grey does to Fifty Shades of Grey.

The other part of the story, Catherine and the gang in Bath, is more like Bath, 90210. Isabella manipulates the earnest Catherine, plotting to keep her from the delectable Henry and in the path of John. Meanwhile, Isabella keeps James on the hook as well as carries on a flirtation with Fredrick Tilney.

Catherine is naive and takes everyone at their word. I cringe because she reminds me of myself at that age. She can’t see that Isabella is not a real friend. She’s slightly bookish and some of the best interactions between her and Henry are their discussions about novels. They are well suited. I wish Austen had concentrated more on their courtship rather than the non-happenings at Northanger Abbey. In fact, I found the romance between the two of them rushed.

Still, an okay Austen is better than most novels. I loved Catherine and Henry and the social interactions between all the characters kept me entertained. Plus, it’s only about 200 pages. It’s a quick one and will gear you up for one of her better novels.

PS- My copy, The Oxford World Classic edition, was so chalk full of footnotes. I loved it!

PPS- I reviewed one of Catherine’s favorite horrid novels The Castle of Wolfenbach last year. It’s a riot!

June 10, 2012

Lazy Sunday Thoughts: Afterword

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It's been a crazy week. If you don't know, Armchair BEA (a virtual book blogging convention) took place this week and I helped out behind the scenes. There was a lot to be done and as a result I fell behind in almost everything: reading, reviews, and housecleaning. I have a lot of catching up to do! I also didn't get around to visiting as many people's blogs as I hoped this week either. I'll have to go through some of the links later this week. I might be popping up in the comments here and there. And reply to the comments in my posts. I don't even want to look at my Google Reader. *shudder*

If you "attended" Armchair BEA, I hope you had fun and learned lots! I didn't get around a lot but I did find a couple of New To Me blogs: including Pawing Through the Pages (she has the cutest puppy in her header!) and Girl XOXO (love the lay out of her blog and those photos). There were others but I'm blanking on them. Did you see the Book Blogging stats post? Michelle put that together. What a load of work that must have been! She needs a round of applause for that one. Also, if you were participating this week, be sure to fill out the survey.

If you missed it, here are my posts for the week:

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I might not have been at Book Expo America but I did get some books this past couple of weeks!

Pile of Books
  • This Navy Doctor Came Ashore by Charles H Reed. This was an unsolicited book from Acorn Press.
  • Haunted Girl: Esther Cox & the Great Amherst Mystery by Laurie Glenn Norris. I requested this from Nimbus. Esther was a girl who had "happenings" follow her wherever she went.
  • Sound of the Heart and Under the Same Sky by Genevieve Graham. Genevieve contacted me about her books. She's a fellow Nova Scotian and a romance writer!
  • Pig Island by Mo Hayder. Picked this one up used. It looks scary!
  • Tina's Mouth by Keshni Kashyap. A library find and a graphic novel.
I will have a couple of reviews up next week. Hopefully things will get back to normal around here soon!

June 8, 2012

Armchair BEA: Here’s a Tip

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Please bear with me through this, I have a point.


Over the years, I’ve heard some writers say that they feel pressured by agents or publishers to have an online presence. They need to use Twitter, have a Facebook account, blog. I agree that an author should have some place online where readers can go to find out about signings or their next book, but if an author is begrudgingly writing posts about a great cup of coffee or shoe shopping, she shouldn’t do it. They are writers not car salespeople. They shouldn’t feel they need to ABS (Always Be Selling). Unfortunately, that pressure has been spilling over into blogging, with the exception that this isn’t our livelihood.

I was stalking the Book Blogger Convention on Twitter on Monday when Booksmugglers tweeted this quote from the panel on Publishing and Blogger Relationships. (Edit: Ana gives some more insight on this and other panels in a write up).

booksmug
Booksmugglers live tweeting of BEA Panel on Publisher/Blogger Relationships

Soooo….that got a lot of people talking, including myself and Andi. We had quite a conversation about it. I’m going to play the devil’s advocate for a moment and assume that the speaker meant that quote differently. Perhaps s/he meant that a blogger that’s been around for awhile has more contacts and thus can ask for interviews and Q&As, etc without getting shot down. I don’t know I wasn’t there to hear it.

But…

If the speaker believes that “mature” bloggers do all that, s/he doesn’t know me. I’ve been doing this for 5 years, that’s pretty mature, and you’ll rarely see those things here. Here’s the thing: there is no one size fits all blogger. We all have our own tastes and value some things more than others. Every blog should not look the same. We need variety. Some people do all that stuff and are great at it and love it, but it’s not for me. It’s not for everyone! You have to do your own thing or you’ll burn out. Like most bloggers, I do this for me and for the hell of it. If I felt I had to do things a certain way, I would go bonkers.

I’m always surprised by newer bloggers who say, “You can review older books?” And I say, sure, why not? It’s your blog. You can post gifs of dancing cats if you want. Knock yourself out. Do whatever you want! Go! Do! That’s my advice. And if you love to do cover reveals and Q&As do that too.

Funny Pictures of Cats with Captions

To that speaker: you don’t need all that to promote your book. Just get the right book to the right blogger and that blogger won’t stop talking about it. We don’t see it as “promoting” as much as “loving.” You can’t shut us up once we get started! I’m still talking about books I read 6 months ago.

Since we’re talking about the future of blogging today, I can (and have) seen a lot of book bloggers saying no to that kind of publisher/blogger relationship to cultivate the smaller “you’re not just a billboard” ones or refuse review copies altogether.

Anyway, that’s how I feel. Whew! It might not be fair to write a post on 140 character tweet about an event I wasn’t attending, but there you go.

Go! Read! Blog!

June 7, 2012

Dolla, dolla bills!: Armchair BEA

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Maceration of Money

You know, I have my ups and downs with this topic. There were times when I would say to myself, “This is it! Today is the day! You are going to make some money on this blog! Let’s do this thing!” Then I get gung-ho about it for a couple of weeks until it all sort of fizzles out.

Poo.

I think I’ve reached some middle ground now. Money would be nice but I’m not going to stress out about it. If you notice to the right and left of you (also the top), you’ll see a couple of ad bars. I’ve had various success with them. Blogher is probably the best one I’ve dealt with. I’ve actually got real cash money from them. So, that is success to me! I’ve just signed up again for Lijit. I was doing Lijit for awhile way back when but I never made enough to get sent anything. Recently, I was contacted again by them and with a bit of prodding was convinced to give it another try. We’ll see.

I’ve tried affiliates too. At first it was Amazon, but I found their monthly “you didn’t make any money, what’s wrong with you?” emails depressing so I switched to Book Depository. I haven’t made any money with them either but at least I never hear about it. I did a couple of other things that I can’t remember that weren’t successful. Them’s the breaks. I’ve tried to sell ad space but except for a few inquires the only person who made any offer was selling p0rn.

I hope I’m not discouraging you. Sorry. But if I was doing this for the $$$ I would have stopped long ago.
There have been other benefits of course. I’m spreading out a bit from my blog. I’m writing reviews for Project Gutenberg Project, I’ve guest posted on other blogs (including Historical Tapestry this week), and a couple of my posts were featured on the Blogher website. I figure this will all lead to something. You must be prepared when opportunity comes knocking!

So, what about you? Find anything that works?

June 5, 2012

Armchair BEA: Simply the Best

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One of the things about the Book Blogger Con that would be on my list of Must Does is meet up with fellow bloggers, which means talking about books. What does a book lover most like to do (besides read)? Talk about their favorite recent reads. Today’s writing prompt asks us to talk about our favorite books from the year so far.


the town that drowned cover

I’m cheating a little here. I read The Town That Drowned by Riel Nason in December, not this year (it’s within 12 months, right?) The Town That Drowned recently won the regional Commonwealth Book Prize. I loved this coming of age story of a girl and her family that have to deal with big changes when their whole town has to be moved.good evening mrs craven cover

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2012 started out a good reading year with Good Evening Mrs Craven: The Wartime Stories of Mollie Panter-Downes. These were a collection of short stories that captured the spirit of the British people during World War II.

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bedbugsSomething that will give you the heebie-jeebies and also question the character’s sanity, Bedbugs by Ben H Winters. Yep, bedbugs. It’s exactly what you think it’s about…or is it? Does the young couple in the story have bedbugs or the bedbugs imaginary?

That’s just a few great books from 2012. I’m looking forward to reading more fabulous reads before the year ends. Have you read any of these?

 

 

And if I was going to BEA, the one book I’d be looking for (and would bite someone to get! Just kidding…maybe) is The Twelve by Justin Cronin. I had an ARC of The Passage way back when and have been waiting impatiently ever since for the sequel.

June 4, 2012

The Self-Interview, Or Getting To Know Me, Getting To Know All About Me.

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Hello! Welcome to my first Armchair BEA post of 2012. If you are new to Chrisbookarama, hi there! You can learn a little about me by reading the answers to these 5 questions posed by the Armchair BEA crew. And if you’re a regular visitor maybe you’ll learn something totally new about me.

Please tell us a little bit about yourself: Who are you? How long have you been blogging? Why did you get into blogging?
Am I the only one who hears that song by The Who when reading that first question? “Whhhoooooo Are You? Who, who? Who, who?” Okay, okay. I’m Chris (Christina, actually) from Chrisbookarama. I’m a Mom and reader in Nova Scotia, Canada. I’ve been blogging for 5 and a half years now. Right here on this blog. Back in those early days, I started blogging because of my book buddy Stephanie. She doesn’t blog much anymore but she got me hooked on it. Talking about books with people who actually want to listen? Hell, yes!
What is your favorite feature on your blog?
I haven’t done one in a long time but I enjoy doing My Bookish Box Set. Basically, I match up books that have a theme or something in common, like books with lots of drama, or with gods getting into trouble. I haven’t done it often enough and I really need to do it again. I have a lot of fun with it.
If you could eat dinner with any author or character, who would it be and why?
This is a tough question to answer because all the authors and characters that I’d like to have over for dinner also scare me to death. They’re all so witty and would cut you with their words. Let’s assume that they’d all be on their best behaviour- towards me that is. I’d have Edith Wharton and Daphne du Maurier over. Imagine the stories that would write with each other as characters. Delicious, darlings!
What literary location would you most like to visit? Why?
I would love to go to England and do an Austen-Bronte tour. First, I’d go to Yorkshire and visit the Bronte stomping grounds, see the moors, etc. Some of my book blogging friends have gone and I’m so jealous! I know it’s super touristy but I don’t care. Then I’d go to Bath where all the exciting things in Austen’s books happen and onto Lyme Regis where Captain Wentworth re-fell in love with Anne.
Have your reading tastes changed since you started blogging? How?
I’ve definitely expanded my reading horizons since I started blogging. I’ve discovered new authors and genres. For awhile I read mostly new books to keep up with the Joneses but then I went old school and started reading more books from years ago. I go through phases. I’m going through an Old-Timey phase right now. I’m not reading a lot of classics but I am reading lesser known books from ages ago.
And that’s it! I know I just met you and this is crazy but here’s my blog. Visit me (again), maybe?