The Secret Lives of People in Love by Simon Van Booy: Review

Ah, Simon Van Booy. He can really rip your heart out with his words. Sort of like this…


The Secret Lives of People in Love is a collection of short stories about the inner thoughts of people who have loved. And some of them are down right sad. I had a case of the sads after reading some of these- but in a good way! The characters are in love or have lost love or are witnessing someone else struggle with love.

I love Simon Van Booy’s writing. It is so simplistic but so full of meaning. Sometimes he’ll plunk a sentence down in the middle of a paragraph and I’d think, what the heck was that for, only to realize later, yeah, I see what you did there. Beautiful and poetic. That sums it up.

Two of my favorites came near the end of the book: Save As Many As You Ruin and The Still But Falling World. I loved the uplifting ending to the first one, while the other is about kindness. Two of the best, I think.

I don’t have much to add other than I hope he hurries up and writes more.

Getting Real About Google Reader

So, I’ve had some time to digest the news that Google Reader is going away, and I’ve had time to think about my blog reading habits. I’m going to be honest with myself: I don’t use it the way that I used to. - I've been overthinking about otherthinking again.

For example, right now I have 476 unread posts in my Google Reader. That’s a lot. I’m not reading anywhere near the blogs I used to read. I’ll sometimes let posts from a few blogs stay unread for weeks. Yes, I am busy, but I do use Twitter a lot for reading blogs, to be honest. If I’m looking through my Twitter stream and see a link to an interesting post, I’m going to click on it. I’ve found a lot of new blogs this way, but I haven’t subscribed to any new blogs in GR in a long time.

The question is: do I need a new Feed reader? Or will I just let unread posts accumulate like I did with Google Reader? I do not want to lose touch will the people I’ve come to know over the years and while most of them are on Twitter, some are not. I have lots of time to think about this and come up with a solution. I can wait to see what others will do, but what is going to work best for me and my habits.

Google Reader Solution Thoughts
*New Feed Reader *Same old habits
*Blog List *An old solution
*Blog Rings *Are they still available?
*Twitter *Sure to miss a lot

I’m sure I’ve missed something obvious. Do you have any new ideas?

There were blogs and Feed readers before there was Google Reader, but I think this is going to change things for bloggers. For better or worse. If RSS goes too*, it will really change things. Will small blogs like mine with a single author just fade into oblivion? Without readership numbers, will the review blogs be the hot commodity for publishers that they are now? Will email subscribers become even more important? Goodreads? Amazon?

I also think that perhaps collaborative blogs with several authors with similar tastes and a history together might be a way to go. At least friends are sharing ideas together that way and combining their readership.

Anyway, it’s a lot to think about and so much can happen between then and now. As a blogger or a blog reader, what are your thoughts?

(I’ve heard a lot about Feedly and Bloglovin but has anyone heard of Spundge.)

*Feedburner is supposed to be eliminated too- or so goes the rumour- but will that be the end of RSS?

Going to Bloggiesta Like It's 1999!

Remember 1999? Sure you do! (Don't tell me you don't.) Everyone was preparing for Y2K. What a let down. It's best to prepare for the worst, I guess. I'm not preparing for the worst today, though part of my Bloggiesta plan is to back up my blog (you never know). 

Here's my list:
  • Answer questions for a feature on another blog.
  • Update my reviews page.
  • Clean out my email.
  • Write a review.
  • Back up my blog.
  • Check out some new feed reader options.
  • Write a couple of non-review posts.
  • Etc.
It's a short list, but these are things I should do anyway. I'll be updating this page over the weekend. Happy Bloggiesta!

Lazy Sunday Thoughts On Blog Tours, etc, etc

Top o’ the morning to ya! You know because it’s St Patrick’s Day. Have a green beer but not too many or you’ll be green tomorrow.

And here is a PSA about St Paddy’s Day. It’s a grumpy one.

Anyway. The big news is Google Reader is being disappeared. I don’t know what Google’s deal is. It’s like the CBC. Give the people what they like and then randomly take it away from them and replace it with something they’ll never like (Google+). I don’t know what I’ll replace it with to read all my feeds. I’m watching to see how the early adaptors take to whatever they’re switching over to. It’s a pain.

I wonder if my 500 Google Reader subscribers to my blog feed will simply never resubscribe when they switch, if they switch. I also heard a rumour that Feedburner is going to be dropped too. Since my RSS feed is a Feedburner feed, that’s an even bigger pain. What is next, Google? Why are you doing this to me?!!!

Speaking of dramatics, there was a HuffPo piece written by an author disappointed with the blog tour of his book. Much to his dismay, many of the reviews were less than positive and, grab your pearls Martha, had ‘subpar’ writing. I understand that blog tours conducted by a third party cost authors money, but you can never control bloggers. Never. We write what we like and how we like it, that may include gifs or photos of cats. Blog tours aren’t for everyone, especially control freaks. They do offer exposure to authors who would never get themselves reviewed in other markets. They do offer quantity, not necessarily quality. Bloggers aren’t doing this for a living and do not hire editors for their personal blogs. Don’t expect Hemingway.

I would tell authors to research blog touring companies. Most have links to previous tours and a list of their reviewers. Take the time to read those reviews. It will help you decide if the writing is ‘subpar’. Perhaps just reaching out to a few bloggers yourself would be better for you. It is work to do this. You must read bloggers’ review policies. Use our names in the request, my name is not Blogger or Chrisbookarama. Do not offer money in exchange for a positive review. You may never get a reply. You may not get a review. You may not get a positive review. Do not bitch about us online: you’ll get a reputation, as they say in my part of the world, as a ‘sook’*  You want a positive review? Ask your Mom.

My advice to bloggers? Don’t say yes to everything. Research the book and the author. Does s/he have a reputation with reviewers? Is this a book you would read anyway? Can you make the deadline? Contact the tour operator, not the author, if you haven’t received the book or can’t review the book on the date your review is to go up. You might get a comment from the author on your review. You might never hear from them. They might bitch about you online (this isn’t exclusive to tours). Bloggers should never feel like there are strings attached to a review. A free book does not equal a positive review.

That said, I’ve had positive experiences with blog tours. I can only think of one that was a pain in the rear. I don’t do them anymore because I can’t handle deadlines.

This ended up being way longer than I expected! Have a good one and be kind to your liver.

*A sook (rhymes with took) is a whiner, a complainer, a cry baby.

Girlfriend in a Coma by Douglas Coupland: Review


Okay, so Karen MacNeil didn’t die but she did end up in a coma.

In 1979, after she and her boyfriend, Richard, did it for the first time in the snow on a mountain, she goes to a party, has some Valium and lapses into a coma for 17 years. The cause wasn’t the sex or the drugs but from a glimpse of the future. It was too much, so she went to sleep. When she wakes, she finds that she has a 17 year old daughter and that all her friends are languishing in a perpetual teenhood with no ambitions and no values. Their lives are empty but they fill them with drugs, loveless marriages, and work. Karen knows something big is coming. It’s the end of the world as they know it but everyone is far from fine.

When I started reading Girlfriend in a Coma, I was completely annoyed with Karen and her friends. They are suburban kids with too much time on their hands and too little supervision. They were as irritating as hell and they didn’t improve any as adults. That’s sort of the point of the story though so I got over it. Parts 1 and 2 were interesting. Imagine waking up from a 17 year coma, what would that be like? Unfortunately, most of the story is told from the point of view of the other characters. Reasonable, since it’s during the 17 year gap that Karen was asleep, but I would have liked more from her side.

Part 3 is where things got weird. The message in that section of the book is like a very special episode of Blossom, heavy-handed and guilt inducing. The vehicle of this message is odd. If you’ve read it, you’ll know what I mean.

I enjoyed Coupland’s writing but the dialogue bothered me. It didn’t seem natural and it threw me out of the story. Perhaps it’s because these people have such artificial lives? Maybe. I’ll have to read more Coupland to find out if this is the case or just a quirk of his writing.

This is review is spilt between me liking it and not liking it. I still don’t know how I feel about it. It made me think, but the message is overkill. It’s not a hard to read book though, so it has that going for it.

Sidenote: Girlfriend in a Coma is going to be a sitcom on NBC. I can’t wrap my brain around how that is going to work but whatever.

The Duchess War by Courtney Milan: Review

duchess warMinnie Pursling is poor, plain, and obscure, and that’s the way she wants to keep it. She’s spent the last 12 years with her head down, trying to not catch anyone’s attention. Attention is bad. She’s got a secret she’s keeping from everyone, even her friends. Now she has to find herself some guy to give her a home, as plain as she is, or she’ll be living on the streets when her aunt dies. It’s a cruel world for a poor woman.

Robert Blaisdell, The Duke of Clermont, has a secret too. A Big One. No one would suspect this respectable gentleman of being a rabble-rouser. When Minnie stumbles upon his secret, she uses it as leverage to keep her own respectability. Robert has an unexpected reaction to her strategy, he kinda likes it and he likes her. Minnie is unsure about this kind of attention. Being in the spotlight is the last thing she wants, but Robert has her all turned around.

Courtney Milan really knows how to do romance right. The plotline is fresh without the standard beautiful heroine. Minnie is plain. Our handsome hero falls for her inner fire and her sharp intellect. Her secret is much more interesting than a Secret Baby or Sordid Past. Robert has Major Issues too but he didn’t take out his frustrations on womankind with his sexuality like so many damaged heroes do. In fact, one of the things revealed about Robert near the end is rather sweet. The Sexytimes didn’t make me laugh, which is a problem I’m having with a lot of romance lately. Milan can write a hot scene without making it sound ridiculous.

There were touching moments that melted my cold heart. Ones that felt genuine and not schmaltzy. The secondary characters have interesting backgrounds. I’m sure they’ll have their own storylines in the future, as The Duchess War is the first (sort of) in The Brothers Sinister series.

So yes, this was a win for cynical old “I’ve read it all before” me.

Note: There is a prequel novella, The Governess Affair, in this series which I reviewed last June.

Crochet One-Skein Wonders by Judith Durant & Edie Eckman: Review

Crochet One-Skein Wonders is part of the One-Skein Wonders series but the first dedicated to just crochet. These are quick projects, requiring small amounts of yarn (hence one skein). This is definitely the book for yarn hoarders like me who buy a skein or two when it’s on sale because “you never know when I could use this.” One of the things I appreciated about the book was how projects were divided according to yarn weight. So, since I have a lot of medium weight yarn, I just have to go to the Medium Weight chapter and pick a project.

I did two projects for this review: Small Brown Bag with Beads and Peacock Hat (pictured above on the cover). Both were medium weight projects and fairly easy.

For the bag, I used a green yarn (probably Vanna White) and left out the beads. This was a pretty straight forward pattern.

crochet bag

The hat was a bit more complicated, but manageable. This pattern, and others with intricate stitches, had a chart as well as written instructions. That was helpful for this project. I used Martha Stewart Merino wool in Artemisia. It took nearly all the skein. This was my favorite of the two projects. 

peacock hat

I liked the layout of the patterns, each have clear instructions and colour photos. There is a nice variety of projects: hats, scarfs, gloves, purses, coasters, toys. There are tons more I want to do! (A scarf, a bottle holder, and a lobster!) The only thing I thought was missing was level of skill needed for each project, though they don’t seem that difficult. There is a glossary of stitches at the back of the book, but I think a little knowledge is required. An experienced hooker (not that kind of hooker, people!) could whip up a hat while watching TV on a Thursday night. Easy peasy!

This is definitely one of the better crochet books I’ve come across recently. I’m very glad I was able to review it.

Thanks to Storey Publishing (via NetGalley) for the review copy.

The Long Ships by Frans G. Bengtsson

Orm is a Viking. He’s been one ever since he was kidnapped as a young man. Instead of becoming their slave, he suggests he join their crew and share in the booty. The chief thinks this isn’t a bad idea and Orm becomes one of the best Vikings in all of Vikingdom. The Long Ships is the story of Orm’s three voyages and his time in between when he becomes a Christian, marries, and has some kids.

I loved the plot of The Long Ships. It’s all adventure all the time. Orm falls in with the Vikings and everything takes off from there. They find a guy which leads to some fighting and pillaging, which leads to some other guy who takes them to a battle and booty, rinse and repeat. There are many coincidences and “Hey, we know that guy!”’s and it’s a small Viking world but it doesn’t matter. It’s good times.

Orm travels far during his adventures, into Spain and England, and later down the Volga. He meets a variety of people: a Jewish silversmith, a Muslim conqueror, the Kings of England and Scandinavia, Christian priests, wildmen and beautiful women. His quick mind and ability to see a problem from every angle impress everyone he meets and gains their respect. He very quickly becomes a chieftain. The Vikings’ practicality is a source of much of the humour of the book. When Solomon, the silversmith, agrees to show the Vikings a city they can plunder with the stipulation that he gets to pluck out the nasty chieftain’s eyes, they “agreed that this was a reasonable request.” Another time the Vikings have chased some Christians into a tower. They refuse to come down. Orm tries to reason with them, telling them that they aren’t going to hurt them they just want their stuff. The Vikings turn to one another and shrug, really what’s the big deal, they just need to give us all their belongings is all.

These aren’t angsty men who spend much time thinking about the meaning of life. When a friend is killed, they tell one another, “yes, we’ll get revenge, but later, we have business now.” Most of the battles are carried out in a business-like manner. It’s just another day at the office. Even religion is looked on with an eye to the business side of things. Converting to Christianity is seen as a kind of insurance policy for the End of the World and the priest complains that most of his converts want a free goat before they agree to a baptism.

There’s a bit of a lull in the middle of the book as Orm takes care of domestic issues, but by Part 3: Bulgar Gold things pick up again. Despite all the murdering and violence, The Long Ships is a fun, though time consuming, read. It’s full of humour, irony, and adventure. I highly recommend it.

Michael Meyer is the translator of this NYRB edition.

Lazy Sunday Thoughts: Getting My Groove Back

It's hard to have a book blog when you're not reading. What do you do with an empty book blog (♪ early in the morning ♫)? But ahoy! I have finished a book and I’m on my way through another one. Woot! I might even have reviews next week.

I threw caution to the wind and gave Bossypants by Tina Fey another listen. I enjoyed it the first time and found myself laughing until I cried once again. For a moment I wondered if I should with so many unread books around but it was a nice pick me up. It falls into my plan of reading whatever I want, when I want.

A book I have for review is Crochet One-Skein Wonders, so though I might be crocheting more, at least it’s for the blog. This photo is the beginning of my Project #2, Peacock Hat.


Another bookish project I’m participating in is Estellagram. The first three days of March’s challenge produced this:

Estellagram 1

Day 1: Bookshelves, Day 2: TBR, and Day 3: Unread.

It’s challenging to find different ways of taking photos of books. I’ll have to use my imagination for something interesting.

That’s all the news from me. Now back to reading!