Ready For the Summer!

Hello, friends! I thought about writing a post yesterday, but remembered it was a holiday in the US. I figured no one would read it, since anyone there would be camping or on the beach or something. So, here it is Tuesday and everyone is where they should be.

According to Goodreads, I am at 37% for my reading challenge. Since we're coming into the sixth month of the year, I need to step up my game. I read just 4 books last month. A book a week, on average. If I keep up that pace, I will read another 24 books, not reaching the 75 I set for myself. If someone has some kind of magic spell to make me read faster, I would appreciate you sharing.

I just finished Mr Splitfoot by Samantha Hunt. It's so good! And it's on sale as an ebook so go get it.

I'm having a blast playing with my new camera lens! So many flower pics!

Purple flowers- Chris


It's starting to warm up, but because I'm in the Atlantic Ocean the weather changes daily. It's shorts one day, fuzzy socks the next. I can't wait until we get some consistency. I'm ready for some summer weather! I'm starting to think about where I'd like to spend our vacation too. A beach sounds good.

Any exciting vacation plans? Inspire me!

Don't Mess With This Lady: Girl Waits With Gun

Girl Waits With Gun Review


Girl Waits With Girl is written by Amy Stewart of the Nature Can Kill You series (Wicked Plants, Wicked Bugs). I thought Girl Waits With Gun was an odd departure from her usual non-fiction. What I didn't realize is that Girl Waits With Gun is a fictional story of a real person: Constance Kopp.

Constance and her two sisters, Norma and Fleurette, lived on a farm in New Jersey where they kept to themselves until an eventful trip into town threw them into the spotlight. On this day, their buggy was struck by the automobile of Henry Kaufman, the wealthy and powerful owner of the silk factory. Henry, a belligerent bully with a car full of thugs, refuses to pay for the damages to the ladies' only means of transportation.

Constance wouldn't have it! She demands payment and makes a couple of visits to Kaufman's office. Not only does she find herself rebuffed but threatened. And so begins a year of threats, stalking, harassment, even arson. They seek the help of the law, but only one man stands up to the bullying of Kaufman. Eventually, Constance has to take matters into her own hands.

Stewart mixes fact with fiction, filling in the details of lives of these historical characters. Some of what takes place in the book really happened and a few things didn't. The chapters begin with excerpts from newspaper stories written about these events. The personalities of these people are expanded, though based on fact. Constance was as tough in real life as she is in the novel. A tall woman with very strong opinions. The women choose to live alone without any male relatives to take care of them. They were independent and felt they had that right, even though they are constantly questioned about it.

I found it infuriating that the first thing anyone asks is if they have a man to protect them. Would having a man around have prevented this criminal from harassing them? I doubt it. This gang threatened everyone. They do after all have some protection from the police but even that's not enough. Constance stands up for herself and her family.

That Girl = Constance. That Snake= Men

I enjoyed Girl Waits With Gun. It was entertaining and proves that truth is stranger than fiction. I did find it a tad long for a detective story, but it didn't lag. I'm looking forward to Lady Cop Makes Trouble.

Girl Waits with Gun (Kopp Sisters, #1)

All My Feelings, Jumbled Up: City of Mirrors (audiobook)



People, I have thoughts. Mostly thoughts about the coda, but that's at the end and we'll get there. Let's start at the beginning.

After the big battle at the end of The Twelve, the humans move back to the city of Kerrville. Twenty years go by without any sign of the virals. Life goes on and people start moving outside the city to homesteads and the beginning of some sort of normal civilization. The people who were young during the time of the virals don't remember how bad things were. The older people are nervously accepting that things are going to be okay.

But things are not okay.

Michael and Greer know the virals are coming back. They are preparing for the worst by repairing an old ship for a great expedition to an unknown land. Meanwhile, Alicia, the human-viral hybrid, is being called by Zero to New York City where he waits, ready to tell her his Tale of Woe. Amy and Carter sleep in Houston waiting for the time when they will have to defend the human race once again.

The City of Mirrors is the final book in The Passage trilogy. By the end, we will know if the humans will prevail or be wiped out forever. (Not really a secret that we win, since there is a history written of this time by future humans in the previous books.) We find out how it all shakes out.

It's been six years since The Passage began. I was floored by how good The Passage was. I was less enamoured with The Twelve. My feelings for City of Mirrors are complicated. That killer suspense is still there. The battles between the humans and virals are wild and pulse pounding. There are heartbreaking moments.

It's not all great news though. Zero, Dr Timothy Fanning, tells his life story to Alicia and I don't know how she sat there and listened to it. He was a very privileged guy. He had money and power, and a life Alicia probably couldn't half understand. How could anyone from this world understand Harvard and these pampered people? She's spent her whole life running from danger! I am supposed to feel bad for this guy and understand why he wants to destroy humanity? Not really.

The world that Cronin created is just as real as it ever was. I always feel a bit dazed by it. I find I have a hard time sleeping while immersed in it. Which is why the coda felt so out of place and strange. I would have been happy with a couple of pages to wrap things up, like the one in The Handmaid's Tale, not this drawn out story with a character I did not care anything about.

I'm going to get Spoilery.

If you've read City of Mirrors, highlight the text between the two lines. If not, zoom on past.


So the coda. It's 1000 years in the future and we have another professor. An older professor who gets a woman 20 years younger than himself, for some reason. If you were worried an old guy couldn't attract a young woman a thousand years from now, you'll be relieved to know that hasn't changed. Good going, future!

Why is the future, which has to be built from the ground up with very little knowledge of the world 100 years before the people arrived on the island and must evolve into a civilization over 1000 years, so similar to the late 20th Century? Like weirdly similar to the 20th Century. The man wears a suit and a tie. A suit and a tie! Why not a toga, or neck ruffles, or a jumpsuit, or a cravat?! Blaaaaaaargh!

Wasn't there a better way to get to see Amy again, than all that male angst?



If I had one of those memory erasers from Men In Black, I'd zap the coda from my mind. I was fine without it.

I was satisfied with some of the answers to the questions I had, but some things I didn't get (or buy). There were a number of little things that bothered me. Overall, the series is good. It starts out strong, but loses some of its bite by the third installment.

So yes, mixed feelings.

About the Audio: Scott Brick is the narrator as he was for the other books in the series. This was my first audiobook for this series. He has a deep, masculine voice which he reduces to a growl for any dialogue spoken by Zero. Creepy. 

The City of Mirrors (The Passage #3)

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

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.


Recommendations.


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 Chrisbookarama.com, 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

Randomness


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

Pretty Is by Maggie Mitchell, Not That Pretty

Pretty Is review

Two twelve year old girls, a beauty pageant winner and spelling bee champ, were kidnapped and held for nearly two months before they were rescued. After their rescue, the girls were in the news for a few days and then all but forgotten. The girls go back to their families and never hear from each other again.

Decades later, Lois the spelling bee champ, now a professor, writes a thriller under a pseudonym with a plot closely following the actual events of those weeks. In LA, Carly May the beauty queen is a working actress, but not a household name...yet. When she gets a script based on the thriller, she recognizes herself and Lois in the pages. Little details no one else could know but her and Lois tell her that only one person could have written it. Carly May is determined to get the part as the detective who falls in love with the kidnapper and confront Lois about turning their ordeal into a plotline.

Not many people know about Lois's past, or her second job as a writer. It's not a secret, but it's not something she talks about either. While she struggles with writing a sequel, a creepy student starts asking her questions about the kidnapping. Lois starts to realize her life might not be as together as she thinks it is.


Pretty Is alternates between Lois and Carly May (sometimes referred to as Chloe- her stage name). The summer they disappeared is told through a chapter in Lois's book, which is weirdly long for a chapter in a thriller. The story flashes back to the girls' childhoods before and after the kidnapping. It's angsty, with both girls feeling bored and neglected. The kidnapping by a young, handsome stranger is an adventure to them. They don't even think about their families or seem all that scared.

Everyday of their captivity
Much of the book is about the women coming to terms with what happened. Why they didn't escape. why they liked their kidnapper, why he choose them. There is a "suspense" subplot as well that just didn't work for me.

I had some issues with Pretty Is. It was a little slow for a short book. I didn't always buy that the girls were twelve. I kept thinking they were older. Older Lois drove me nuts. Tell your student he is being inappropriate and tell someone above you that he's being a weirdo, Lois. Then the ending was just, like, what? That's it?


It had potential but it didn't go there. It's was just okay.

About the Audio: Tavia Gilbert and Nicol Zanzarella narrate as Lois and Carly-May (I don't know who is who). They were fine. There is a brief moment where the Carly-May narrator is listening to Canadians speak. I have renewed sympathy for anyone who has had to listen to an American actor mangle their native accent. That was cringeworthy. Just skip the accent, people, you can't do it.

**I couldn't resist the Kimmy Schmidt gifs. I thought about that show the whole book.

Pretty Is