Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Out of Sight, Out of Mind; or, An eBook Conundrum

I love print books, but I think ebooks are cool too. I've read a few and appreciate being able to read into the night with no lights on that keep my hubby awake. I like books being saved on clouds, so that when my son deletes every app on my iPad, recovery of the books is easy. I really like being able to quickly and easily look up words I don't know. I take notes without having to look for a pen and paper (I can't write in books, I use sticky notes typically). Ebooks have all sorts of conveniences.

Here's my problem. I forget about them. My print books are on shelves, overflowing shelves, in my living room, so I see them every day. Different titles catch my eye, I think about the books I want to read and the ones I have read. I think about how many there are, if I could bare parting with any of them. I think about how I felt, what I thought, when I read them and when I purchased them. I see them.  My ebooks exist in the digital world.  I only see them if I open the app.  I don't think about them, because I don't see them.  When I have read an ebook, I have made the decision before hand that the next book I'll read will be Villette or UR, reading an ebook I don't think has ever been a random decision, where I just pick up a book on a feeling. I've always suspected this about myself, but only fully realized it recently.
I was out with my Hubby and his dad. We were in a shop when I saw a super cool mug, the banned books mug.  I was reading off all the books I've read with my father-in-law when I got to Animal Farm.  He said, "You've read Animal Farm." in an obviously kind of way.  I said, "No, I've read 1984, not Animal Farm." He was quite surprised.  I told him, "It's because I have it as an ebook, I forget it's there." It's true. 

I have so many ebooks that I'm excited to read... like Animal Farm. I have Cat's Cradle and Mansfield Park. I have The Scorpio Races, Shatter Me and loads of other examples I can't think of because I don't have the apps open in front of me right now.  What do I do?  Schedule my reading more?  Make notes for myself?  Open every ereading app I have before choosing my next book?  Definitely not the last one.  Maybe make more notes.  That seems like the least obtrusive option.  Because really, I want to read Animal Farm and all those other books.  I also feel like if my book-loving father-in-law, thinks I should read Animal Farm, I should.  He also almost exclusive reads ebooks now. Reading in any form is good, and reading all the books I own would be great.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Undead and Unstable

Undead and Unstable is the 11th book in MaryJanice Davidson's Undead series. Undead and Unstable ends Davidson's series within a series. Queen Betsy Taylor "fixes" some of the issues she had with the timeline. The ongoing battle with Laura's mother is over. The major storyline for the last few books gets tied up. That doesn't mean that it's all over. There have been three more since this one was published. I'm guessing that they will deal with Laura's reaction to what Betsy has done. Also, what is up with Jessica's pregnancy? What will happen to Marc? During the books, there will probably be more fights between Betsy and Sinclair, but they always make up. Also, there are merfolk in the next book.

Though I enjoyed Undead and Unstable, I found the middle chunk of the book to be a lot of talking and not a lot of action. It's times like this I wonder if the author has some kind of minimum word count to reach. I like that Betsy is ditzy, but eventually works it out. I like her babbling. I even like her obsession with shoes. But I think the novel could have easily been shorter. Even with the extra words, I still enjoyed the story. I like Queen Betsy and her "minions". Davidson's books are fun and a great distraction from life. I'm excited to read those three books I don't own yet.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Alice Through The Looking Glass, Stratford Festival

Alice Through the Looking Glass is being performed as part of the Stratford Festival this year. I was lucky enough to get tickets for a performance where the proceeds went to the United Way. I was excited to see Alice, looking forward to whimsy, colour and fun. Alice was good, but not great. The second half, after intermission was fabulous. It was engaging, funny and exciting.

I love the theatre and was so excited to see a play in Stratford this year (I’m hoping to see another one in the fall).  I wish I could have been as excited about Alice as I was about Tommy last year.  Alice Through The Looking Glass is fabulous source material (which I should read), I thought there would just be more.  The costumes were fantastic, the bicycles were perfect.  The set, the effects, were all brilliant.  If you can sit through the talking of the first half, the second half is definitely worth it.  It’s worth it just to see Humptey Dumptey have his fall.  That was hilarious, laugh out loud funny. 

I have to warn, this show is not really for little kids.  I did not bring my five-year-old and I’m glad.  There were kids her age there and younger.  They were so very bored.  It was better for them for the second half too, but there were things happening throughout the whole play that I don’t think they would necessarily understand.  Children should be at least 8, I think, maybe older.

Alice Through The Looking Glass was fun.  More than anything, it has made me want to read the book.  I’m looking forward to the next play I see too.  I hope I get to see another play at the Stratford Festival this year.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Wolf At The Door

Wolf At The Door is MaryJanice Davidson's first Wyndham Werewolves novel since Derik's Bane.  All other Wyndham Werewolves stories have been short stories or novellas. I've read some of the stories, when they were in Davidson's own collections, but not in collections that have multiple authors, so I haven't read all the "background" info. Honestly, you don't need the Werewolf info, though it might be entertaining. The more important information is from the Undead series. Wolf at the Door is a crossover book that features Betsy Taylor, queen of the vampires.

I really enjoyed seeing Betsy from an outsider's perspective. When Rachel and Edward meet Betsy and the gang for the first time, they are nothing like the couple expected. The smoothies and shoes are enough to confuse anyone. Add in the pregnant human and the cop, it all becomes a little unbelievable.   Everyone expects Betsy to be some kind of dark, evil she-demon and she's just not.

Okay, enough about the vampires, let's talk about werewolves.  Specifically, female werewolves who don't find their "mate" in their twenties.  This is the second Wyndham Werewolves story I've read that has a super hot werewolf woman down on herself. Listen lady wolves, maybe not everyone finds the right person right away. It's okay. There are hundreds of thousands of werewolves out there, and billions of human men.  One of them will be right for you.  Also, who needs a man?  Rachel was getting along great.  Edward was just a bonus to her Minnesota trip.  Rachel was a great character.  She was confident and intelligent.  Edward was an adorable geek.  He was even more down on himself than Rachel.  He seemed like the kind of geek I'd love to talk to.  I smiled at all the super geeky references that Edward made throughout the story; they gave the novel a little something extra that appealed to me.

Wolf at the Door could maybe be read on it's own, but I don't recommend it.  I think a reader needs to have a little background on Queen Betsy, though not necessarily on any of the Pack.  Derik, from Derik's Bane is only mentioned once in passing, so reading the last Wyndam Werewolves novel is perhaps unnecessary. Davidson gave me everything I wanted from Wolf at the Door.  It was light, fun and entertaining.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.

For a long time, I thought I had read Judy Blume. If you're a bookish kid, and I was, of course you've read something by her. As I got older, I thought about it, read about her books, looked at her catalogue, and realized that I hadn't ever read one of her books. How did that happen? How did I read, and read, and READ, and not one of those authors was her? As an adult, I wondered if I should fix that gap in my reading life, especially since I felt that in just a few years, this was the kind of book my daughter might be reading.

Then, the day after I had finished reading Slaughterhouse-Five, having NO idea what I should be reading next (big book hangover), there it was on a big book table, marked down... A children's classic missing from my life, on sale! It called to me and I took Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. home and started reading it the same day.

I could have easily read the story in one day. It’s not long; reading it in one day would have been a snap. The plot flows, follows Margaret along on her pre-teen adventure.  Moving, boys, breasts, and periods, what is the next disaster going to be?  I really sympathized with Margaret, thought she was crazy, mean, nice, and hormonal.  I related with Laura Danker.  I have known more than one Nancy. We have all learned the lesson that looks aren’t everything, but it’s hard to learn that at twelve.

There’s something about finding out a book is banned that makes me want to read it more too.  I’ve read so many articles and lists about banned books and Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. is so often on them.  That was one of the reasons that if I were to only read one Blume, this would have to be the one.  I can tell why it was banned.  Periods and God.  No one wants to read about a girl trying to discover those two things.  Gross, right?  Also, blasphemous.  I actually thought that Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. is a great book to help a young person learn about those things.

The ending was the only thing I wasn’t completely happy with. It felt too open, there was too much left unsaid. It's not like I need books to wrap up every loose end, I just like books to feel finished. Maybe part of my problem was that there were about 20 more pages after the end of the story, previewing another of Judy Blume's books. I didn't know that, so I turned the page expecting more story. It was a very disappointing moment, and not the first time that has happen, when I saw what was on the next page. Please publishers, note somewhere that there's a preview of another book included so I'm not sad at the end. Thanks.

I am glad I finally read this book. It’s a modern classic, fun, sweet and something I’ll be recommending to my children and my friends’ children and anyone who hasn’t read it.  I know Blume has written books for adults, I’m interested now in reading one of those. If anyone is missing Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. from their reading lives, you should fix it.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Slaughterhouse-Five was brilliant.  It was perfect.  Slaughterhouse-Five, or The Children's Crusade: A Duty-Dance with Death was engaging, intriguing and could easily be read in one sitting.  I wish I could have read it in one sitting; it was so difficult when I had to put it down.  When the mood struck me to finally read Kurt Vonnegut Jr., I had a choice between Slaughterhouse-Five and Cat's Cradle, both of which I own.  I decided to let the internet help me.  Slaughterhouse-Five is touted as Vonnegut's best novel.  If it's his best and I start with his best, then will all his other novels leave me unsatisfied?  However, if it's his best and I don't like it, then I wouldn't likely bother with any of his other books.  So, I cracked open my lovely edition of Slaughterhouse-Five.

One of the reasons I felt eager to read Vonnegut was because of the Classics Club.  I recently posted about Alias Grace for the Club.  While on the site, I noticed that their July event/era was Postmodernism.  Postmodernism is a curious thing.  There is no date ending postmodernism, because we may still be in it, though some say it ended in the 1980s.  As the name suggests, it comes after modernism (some modernist writers: Ernest Hemmingway, Virginia Woolf, William Faulkner, James Joyce).  Postmodernism includes writers like Kurt Vonnegut Jr., Salman Rushdie, Zadie Smith and Haruki Murikami.  Is everything they write postmodern?  I don't know.  I've always felt like postmodernism is something difficult to pin down.  There's definitely an overlap between modernism and postmodernism, postmodernism and postpostmodernism
I wasn't planning on giving a lesson on postmodernism, but I do think Slaughterhouse-Five exemplified that epoch.  I wish we had read this book way back in high school when I was learning about different eras in literature.  I can't remember the example of postmodernism we read (shows how much it made an impact on me); I know that my teacher explained it as something that uses the writers' real life experiences and fictionalizes them.  There's often time-jumping and flashes of scenes.  I understand what she was trying to tell us now, more than I ever have before.  Billy Pilgram is the main character, but he's not the narrator.  The narrator is someone who knew Pilgram and was around him when a lot of these events occurred. The narrator and his friend, O'Hare are researching the Bombing of Dresden, they were both there, for the narrator's book.  I tried to explain all this to my Hubby, as I was telling him how this book might be a new favourite and I don't know if I did a good job.  Vonnegut did an amazing job of making the time-jumping aspect of the story part of the plot.  It is just something that happens to Pilgram.  Everything about the novel seemed to evolve and flow naturally.
There is also often an aspect of metafiction to postmodernism, as there is in Slaughterhouse-Five.  Metafiction is another literary (and can be used in other media) device that can be difficult to understand.  I've know people to run away from the word metafiction, but in Vonnegut's novel, it is used brilliantly.  The narrator openly discusses the book he's writing, includes conversation with his friend O'Hare.  O'Hare's wife tells the narrator that a book on World War II should be called The Children's Crusade, the alternate title for Slaughterhouse-Five.  "Slaughterhouse-Five" doesn't show up until much later in the book.  Another aspect of metafiction is the author putting themselves in their story.  At first, it appears that the narrator is Vonnegut, but Vonnegut also speaks through the character of Kilgore Trout, a science-fiction writer, who is also partly based on one of Vonnegut's friends.  Is Vonnegut then in his own story twice?  Maybe they represent two different sides of Vonnegut's personality or this thoughts on the book.
Phew! I did not mean for this to be an essay... Slaughterhouse-Five was just such a fascinating novel.  I loved it.  I could re-read it right now.  I'm sure there's loads I missed.  Pilgram and the narrator are both intriguing.  I'm glad that the Classics Club put it into my head that I should read Slaughterhouse-Five now.  I read Generation X recently, maybe I should tackle some more postmodern novels?  I definitely want to read more Vonnegut.  It's a good thing I already have Cat's Cradle.  I might need some recovery time for my brain though.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Books of 2014 - So Far...

I've seen a lot of "best of 2014, so far" lists lately. The end of June marks half the year; I suppose that has people thinking about what has passed in 2014 this far. 

If I think about the first six months of 2014, I think about some great new food I've made, like my quinoa salad recipe, which I hope I'm not making too often now. I also think about how my kids have grown. My son's vocabulary has ballooned. My daughter finished her first year of school. My Hubby is preparing for Warrior Dash. I became unemployed, but have enjoyed the extra time with my children...and the extra reading and writing time. 

I've read some fantastic books this year, so far. I don't think I could make a "best of" list right now because I loved them so much. I've read some new favourites, additions to great series, stories full of fun, fright, love and sadness. 2013 was full of great reads and it looks like my choices are still going strong; 2014 will be a fantastic reading year too. 

Reviews this year, so far:

Some thoughts:
Umm... Wow.  I did not realize I had posted so much in the last six months (and that's not everything).  What was I thinking linking to everything.  Ugh!

Friday, July 11, 2014

The Silkworm

The Silkworm was everything I hoped it would be. Robert Galbraith's* second novel was every bit as good as The Cuckoo's Calling. I love Strike. I love Robin. I'm really interested to see where their relationship is going, as I think it is the driving force behind the book and series. I'm also interested in seeing how Robin and Matthew's relationship changes as she changes.

Minor  Spoilers

In the aftermath of the Lula Landry case, Strike built on his 15 minutes of fame. (It is what I hoped would happen.) Then one day, tired, he takes on a case from pushy Leonora Quine. I really hoped that Galbraith wouldn't do a second time what he did with The Cuckoo's Calling and make the killer the person who hired Strike. I was pleased with that and everything that happened in the novel. It was exciting and fluid. I had to know what happened next.

I really liked all the new characters we got to meet. We got to meet one of Strike's half-siblings on his father's side. I loved Al. I definitely want to get to know him better. I felt so bad for Nina, though she was a bit pushy and presumptuous. Strike has some interesting and diverse friends. I really liked Robin's mother too. I'm excited to see how their social circles expand and collide. I'm already checking, hoping, to soon have another Coromon Strike novel.

* I know it's really J.K. Rowling.  I just like to pretend.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

The Lone Drow

The Lone Drow is the second book in R.A. Salvatore's Hunter's Blade trilogy.  It is also book 15 in the overall Legend of Drizzt series.  That means I've read 15 Drizzt books!  When did that happen?  It doesn't feel like 15.  I still remember how excited I was when I read The Crystal Shard.  Was that really 15 books ago?  The more it doesn't feel like 15 books, the more I think I'm enjoying it.

The Lone Drow was everything I want in a fantasy book.  There was loads of action, so much more than the previous book, The Thousand Orcs.  This was a book of war.  The dwarves of Mithral Hall and their allies, fighting valiantly against hordes of orcs, with frost giants and trolls thrown in to make the situation even more dire.  There were moments of love, of hate, of tragedy and emotion.  There were heroic resurrections and heroic falls.  The Hunter's Blade books have really hooked me back into Drizzt.  I have to know what happens to him.

Vague Spoilers....

I wish Drizzt had been reunited with the other Companions.  They're so close and yet so far.  They know he's alive, but he really believes that they're dead.  I understand why he thinks Bruenor is dead, but the others?  Why doesn't he believe that at least one of them is alive?  Maybe it's just a "prepare  for the worst" kind of thing. 
I am really interested in seeing where Drizzt's relationship goes with Innovindil.  She's his first real elf friend.  There are things he can learn from her that he can't from humans, dwarves or halflings.  She isn't just a flat character either, goodly all the time.  She has a dark side that might be growing.
The ruby thing with Bruenor was clever.
There is so much story left to tell.  This is definitely a "middle" book in a trilogy.  Lots of things happen, there is a lot of action, and there is no conclusion.  Where will the characters end up?  Will any of them die?  Will they come back to life? I'm excited to see where the Legend of Drizzt will take me.

Monday, July 07, 2014

Alias Grace

Alias Grace was brilliant.  Margaret Atwood created a world I fell completely into each time I opened the book.  Grace Marks was an intriguing, unique character.  Did she do it? Atwood doesn't judge, but gives the reader clues and information needed to make up their mind.  She created a sympathetic character in Grace.  I wanted so much for her to be innocent, but the more I got to know her, the more I knew the answer would be more complex than a simple yes or no.

Simon Jordan was an interesting character.  How much of what happened between him and Mrs. Humphreys did Atwood make up? How would she even verify any rumours?  I don't really want to know. While I enjoyed him as a vehicle for Grace to tell her story, I also enjoyed his own sub-plot.

I loved reading a story set in a place where I've lived (not the penitentiary).  I like that it's the city, but in the past, like looking through a lens backwards in time.  It's interesting hearing about the muddy streets of Toronto and the long journey from there to Richmond Hill.  It added an extra dimension that I found fascinating.
There was so much driving this novel.  The plot was flawless.  It was detailed, complex and reality based.  The characters were deep, varied and engaging.  The pacing was steady and quick.  I was surprised at how quickly I read it.  I fell completely into the story, from the descriptions of the penitentiary, to Mr. Kinnear's farm, to all of Grace Mark's inner dialogue.
I read Alias Grace as part of the Classics Club Spin.  The spin really encourages me to keep working on my Classics List.  You don't need encouragement though, to read Alias Grace.  It is Atwood at her finest.  It might be my new favourite Atwood.  We'll just see how I feel after I re-read The Handmaid's Tale.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Quinoa Salad

Who else has fallen for quinoa salad?  My daughter, my 5-year-old daughter!  I don't know how that happened, but she loves quinoa salad.  Specifically, she loves the one I make (the recipe will be included below).  A couple times I bought pre-made salad.  My Hubby and I liked it fine, but she did not.  She said it tasted funny.  It was a bit oilier and has a slightly different taste than the one I make, but I thought the difference was negligible.  Whatever.  My kid eats quinoa salad.  Even if I have to always make it myself, I call it a win.

Here's what's in it...


1 cup Quinoa
Bell Peppers
Grape/Cherry Tomatoes
Greek Dressing

Note: I recommend making quinoa according to package directions. I didn't once an the quinoa came out funny.
I feel like you could put almost any vegetable you like in this salad and it would still taste good.  I've made it without feta, still good.  I've used various amounts of the veggies and different colours. Orange tomatoes, yellow peppers, whatever.  I don't always put in the broccoli. I'm almost at the point where I would say that quinoa can replace pasta in any pasta salad.  I'm almost there, but not quite.  It's healthy, tasty and simple to make.