Sunday, August 24, 2008

Weekly Geeks #14 - Bookish Photos

This week's challenge is to provide "bookish photos" from around home. Suggestions include the TBR, favourite places to read and shelves of books. Those are the topics I'm going to go with.

So the obvious starter for ten: my TBR. It's a bookcase in our bedroom upstairs (while the main book collection is down in the rumpus room, so having a shelf upstairs in a necessity.)

Yes, the actual TBR is small. But that is both deceiving and deliberate. I read about 50/50 paper books and ebooks these days and there as as many books again (in fact, probably more) on my PDA that count as part of the TBR. Also, if the shelf gets too full, I get stressed by the number of books I want to read when I have limited energy and concentration for reading them, so I deliberately keep the number of books on it controlled. If something has been there too long or my enthusiasm for it has waned, I swap it out and take it back downstairs. I can always bring it up again later. Of the three books on the lower shelf marked as ready to go downstairs, two have been read and the other is one I know is a bit too complicated for my CFS-fogged brain at present, so I'm going to send it back downstairs until I feel more ready for it.

Here's my PDA (it's a Palm TX for anyone interested) that I use to read ebooks. I love it. I find reading on it easy and I love being able to control the font size and having something nice and light to hold. I don't know if it's my health issues or just the fact I'm getting older, but I struggle with books with tight packed, small fonts these days and much prefer to read them on the PDA. Also, books for it are much cheaper for me here in New Zealand as I don't have to pay the mark-ups due to shipping and exchange rates that paper books have in the shops here. And I don't have to wait. I just pay the US price, click "download" and I have my book ready to read. I just wish more books were available as ebooks as it's very frustrating when I find something I want to read and it isn't available. I prefer the PDA to a dedicated ereader device as I can use it for lots of other things too, such as an address book, a calendar, for podcasts and audiobooks and even to surf the web if I have access to a wireless network.

While I listen to my Audible audiobooks on the Palm, I find it less convenient for mp3 audiobooks, so here's my trusty mp3 player that I use for the others. It's not a hugely posh one, but it is perfect for me and I love the fact that it includes an FM radio so I have that option too when I'm awake in the middle of the night.

So where do I like to read? Well, the short answer is: everywhere. I'm one of those people who takes a book everywhere - I'll only ever buy a handbag if it is big enough to fit at least a paperback book. (Another advantage of the PDA is that it fits easily in my bag, no matter the length of the book I'm reading.) But I do have favourite (or at least frequent) places around home that I read.

Like many people, I like to read in bed. With my CFS, I spend a lot of time in bed and, so long as I'm actually awake (which is a lot less than I would like), naturally then, it is somewhere I tend to do a lot of reading. My bed is my friend.

While I'm happy to read in a chair or on the sofa, I actually spend a lot of my reading time on the floor, either sitting cross-legged or lying on my stomach with the book in front of me. With it being winter, that means the carpet beside the heater is currently prime real estate and I have to negotiate with the cat for the best spot.

Okay, I admit it. I read in the bathroom. Both the actual toilet (a seperate room in our house) and the bathroom itself. I have a four year old, and while he's old enough to play in the bath himself, he's not quite old enough for us to be happy to leave him to it on his own. So we have a bath ritual each night, where Marcus gets to play while I sit with him and read a chapter or two. After that, we get down to the serious business of washing. I do have to choose my books carefully for this as there tends to be quite a bit of water splashing. Again the PDA is good, as I just have to wipe the screen, but otherwise I pick something that I'm willing to let get some water spots on it. Generally that means no hardbacks, absolutely nothing that doesn't belong to me and nothing that I consider to be an especially precious book. Ratty old paperbacks are perfect.

As always, this post has got long and I still have the photos I took in our "library" down in the rumpus/spare room. So I'll just add some notes to the photos and make them the rest of this post. Like many bibliophiles, we have way, way too many books and never enough space for them all. The rumpus room is great as there's enough wall space to take most of our fiction collection, but there are still ten to a dozen boxes of books in the storage space under the house (along with moisture absorbers to protect them). While I love being able to look at all my books on the shelves, space is a premium and I hate to think how much more space I'd need if the 130 or so ebooks I have sitting on my laptop needed to be on shelves. So chalk up another point for ebooks. I'm happily a fence-sitter on the paper book/ebook issue - I love them both and think both have advantages and disadvantages. Generally, I buy my "keeper" books in paper and most anything else I'll get as an ebook if it is available.

There are a few other bookcases scattered around the house with things like coffee table books, craft books and cook books, as well as all Marcus' books in his room. But this is the bulk of our book collection.

I hope you enjoyed the quick book tour around our house.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Marcus and friend

Guess where Marcus went with Daddy today?

A bit of ruffle

I didn't get a lot more of Cinderella done, but I do have the first bit of ruffle on her dress stitched. Then I didn't have the next colour of floss I needed, so this seemed a good place to stop.

I'm going to try to go back to my stitching schedule tomorrow, which means my focus project, Sampler del Lago Maggiore. I'm ready to stitch on it again now, so that's good timing I guess.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Making Gingerbread

My mother sent Marcus (and me) a lovely kids' cookbook and a butterfly cookie cutter. It arrived on Tuesday and we've been trying to explain to Marcus since then that he couldn't make gingerbread until Thursday, which is his day home from daycare. So this morning, his plan for the day was to make gingerbread.

From here, I think it's a case of pictures speaking louder than words.

The ingredients and cookbook:

The cook (check out the dusting of flour):

Coming out of the oven:

The taste test:

The gingerbread:

Monday, August 18, 2008

Michael Phelps

Dave sent me this and it was just what I needed to give me a good giggle at day's end.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Answers to Author Photos

Sorry it's taken me so long to put up my answers for the pictures in this post, but as usual, I've been really tired and can only do so much.

A = Catherine Asaro
B = Patricia Briggs
C = Lois McMaster Bujold
D = Patricia Briggs (I was reading Cry Wolf at the time)
E = Joan D. Vinge (I met her at the NZ SF con one year; she was interesting to talk to as she has fibromyalgia, which is very like CFS)
F = Lois McMaster Bujold (Also met at the NZ SF con; she's a wonderful, amazing, smart lady)
G = Lois McMaster Bujold (photo taken at the same con)
H = Lora Leigh (I'd recently finished Kiss of Heat)

I have a castle!

I've been working on Mirabilia's Cinderella lately. I picked it up to be an Olympics project and while I've done more watching (and sleeping) than stitching, I have made some progress.

Except for the beads (and there are a lot of those) I now have the castle all finished. I struggled a bit with all that dark green on the dark fabric, but it is worth it. Sorry the picture isn't very good, but it gives an idea of what I've got done.

At present, my plan is to continue on with this at least for the next week until the end of the Olympics. After that I'll decide if I want to move to something else or continue on with Cinders.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Weekly Geeks #13

Finally, a new Weekly Geeks. The last few haven't really been things I've felt up to joining in with, but this week is fun, even if I haven't done everything. This week's theme is pictures of authors, all left unlabelled for blog readers to see if they know who these people are.

So without futher ado...

1. Your favourite author(s)

2. Author of book I'm currently reading

3. Author(s) I've met in person

4. You Tube video of author I've heard speak - couldn't easily find one

5. Myself with any author(s) - one of my least flattering photos

6. Author of book most recently finished - that's actually the same as the book I'm currently reading, so I went back to the book before that

7. Hottest author(s) - I'm afraid hotness of authors isn't something I notice

I'll post answers next weekend.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

My July Reads

Phew, now that I've caught up with my "reviews" (okay, really they're just comments on the books I've read) I can post my July reading list - with links, whoo-hoo!

  1. Lover Enshrined - J. R. Ward
    Black Dagger Brotherhood, Book 6; Paranormal Romance; 10/10
  2. The Stars Down Under - Sandra McDonald
    Outback Stars, Book 2; SF; 9/10
  3. Pleasure Unbound - Larissa Ione
    Domonica, Book 1; Paranormal Romance; 6/10
  4. At the Bride Hunt Ball - Olivia Parker
    Romance; 8/10
  5. Lord of Scoundrels - Loretta Chase
    Romance; 8/10
  6. Over Sea, Under Stone - Susan Cooper
    The Dark is Rising, Book 1; Children's Fantasy; 8/10
  7. Emergence - David R. Palmer
    SF; 10/10
  8. Living Dead in Dallas - Charlaine Harris
    Sookie Stackhouse, Book 2; Fantasy; DNF
  9. Od Magic - Patricia A. McKillip
    Fantasy; DNF
  10. Gabriel's Ghost - Linnea Sinclair
    Empire Series, Book 1; Romantic SF; 9/10
  11. The Unsung Hero - Suzanne Brockmann
    Troubleshooters, Book 1; Contemporary Romance; 8/10
July reading:
Books read this month = 9
DNFs this month = 2
10/10 reads this month = 2
New reads this month = 6
Rereads this month = 3

Cumulative Totals:
Books read so far in 2008 = 63
DNFs so far in 2008 = 10
10/10 reads so far in 2008 = 8
New reads so far in 2008 = 51
Rereads so far in 2008 = 12

The Unsung Hero - Suzanne Brockmann

Over on Dear Author, there was recently a post discussing Suzanne Brockmann's books and I thought her Troubleshooters series sounded interesting. Generally, books about Navy SEALs (and there are a lot of them out there) don't interest me at all and I give them a wide berth. But the points mentioned in the article, along with quotes, decided me to give the series a try. (Hooray for libraries!)

I did like this book. The best word I can come up with to describe my overall reaction is solid. This seems like a pathetic word, a real case of damning with faint praise, and I don't mean it like that at all. There was a real solidity to Brockmann's world building that made it seem extremely real. These were people you could believe you could meet out on the street; their actions and reactions, successes and mistakes felt real. And considering a number of them were highly trained and secretive soldiers in a field I know nothing about, that's saying something.

Brockmann easily juggled three main plot lines, one of which was sixty years old, and didn't let either of the secondary storylines suffer from either a lack of "on screen" time or take over the main romance plot. Add to that mix a terrorist on US soil (in a book written pre-9/11) that manages to provide a satisfying climax without taking over the book and you are left with clear evidence of a writer who knows what she's doing.

Tom and Kelly's romance was satisfying (if occasionally frustrating) and David and Mallory's secondary romance was a delight. Personally I was less taken with the World War II plot, although it was as well done as the rest of the book, the trips back in memory beautifully blended into the main story. All the characters were solid and interesting and I suspect I'll be reading more Brockmann in the future, although not immediately.

The Unsung Hero
Suzanne Brockmann
Troubleshooters, Book 1

Gabriel's Ghost - Linnea Sinclair

Linnea Sinclair's new book, Shades of Dark, has just been published (yes, of course I've bought it) and is a direct sequel to Gabriel's Ghost. Since, as much as I can love a book while I'm reading it, my poor memory retains little of the details, I decided to reread Gabriel's Ghost before moving on to the new book (which I haven't had a chance to do yet as my TBR has exploded with lots of new books coming out - four on 29 July alone - and a bunch of library holds coming in for me).

I found the book very slow going at first (a definite case of problems with the reader, not the book) but I still enjoyed rediscovering Chaz and Sully as they discovered each other and the problems facing the Empire they live in. Chaz is a wonderful heroine - full of totally reasonable doubts for the situation she finds herself in, strong, stubborn and sometimes implusive but never stupid - and Sully is a hero to die for. He's the strong and silent type, carrying a huge (and reasonable) fear of rejection and plenty of internal pain and hidden secrets, but determined to succeed in all his endeavours, including making Chaz a permanent part of his life.

They make a great couple, and Sinclair has created a great world in this space Empire facing rot at its core. It is large, real and solid and easily large enough for more stories to be told in it.

Knowing that one of the minor characters is the central character in Sinclair's next book (Philip Guthrie, and the book is to be called Hope's Folly), I found myself noticing the secondary characters more this time around. It was nice to realise that they are generally all well fleshed out and add significantly to the story rather than just being there as window dressing. I liked Philip a whole lot on this read and I rather hope Thad might get a book one day too as he was a lot less stuffy than I remembered him being.

I'm glad I took the time to reread Gabriel's Ghost and I'm looking forward to reading Shades of Dark, just as soon as I can fit it into my insane reading schedule.

Gabriel's Ghost
Linnea Sinclair
Empire Series, Book 1

Od Magic - Patricia A. McKillip

I generally love Patricia McKillip's books and the plot of this one sounded interesting, so I picked it up from the library. Unfortunately, the ongoing reading funk got it and I found myself grinding to a half about a third of the way into it. I put it down to start something else and didn't have the urge to go back to it (I guess this should teach me to stick with a book rather than being tempted by something else, as I often don't go back to them). I think there were just too many characters and plot-threads the story was following for me to keep up. If McKillip had just stuck with the main plotline that was in the blurb I'd had enjoyed it more. But we just kept on getting more and more characters.

Knowing McKillip, I'm sure it all came together at the end, but sadly I didn't make it that far.

I've ordered her new book, The Bell at Sealey Head, in hardcover so I hope this isn't an indication of my current ability to read McKillip books.

Od Magic
Patricia A. McKillip
Did Not Finish

Living Dead in Dallas - Charlaine Harris

Reading this was a continuation of my second attempt to read Charlaine Harris's Sookie Stackhouse series. Last time I only made it through the first book, and with the TV series coming on next month, I wanted to give it another try.

I got about halfway through the book and found I just didn't want to read any more. I think a lot of it is that I find Sookie's voice simply doesn't work for me and Harris has us so deeply in it (a good thing for a writer to do) that the books don't work for me either.

So I'm officially giving up on the Sookie books. But I think I'll still give the TV series a go and see what I think of that.

Living Dead in Dallas
Charlaine Harris
Sookie Stackhouse, Book 2
Did Not Finish

Emergence - David R. Palmer

This post-apocalyptic tale was published in 1985. Sadly, it is now out of print and both hard and expensive to find. However, Palmer has a "sequel" currently being published over three issues of Analog magazine. Having loved the book when I read it at the behest of a friend a number of years ago (thank you Alison!), as soon as I heard this I rushed off to Fictionwise and bought the first Analog issue. Before starting reading (something I still haven't done as I'm tossing up between reading part 1 soon or waiting to have all three parts before beginning) I decided to reread Emergence.

I'm so glad I did as I loved it all over again. All the same, it's a slightly odd book and any reader should go into it ready for something a little different. Emergence is written as a journal kept by 11 year old Candy Foster-Smith. As it begins, the reader slowly discovers that she has begun writing while in a bomb shelter, waiting for the immediate effects of a bio-plague to pass so she can go outside again. She is highly intelligent and later discovers she is one of a new species of human being - tougher and smarter than old homo sapiens, who have apparently all been wiped out anyway.

She is trying to be as efficient in her writing as possible, supposedly using Pitman shorthand and a terse, almost choppy style that leaves out any extraneous and unnecessary words. It takes a few pages to get used to, but it generally easy to read all the same.

Candy eventually emerges from the shelter, finds everyone in her small town has died and goes looking for other post-human survivors. She continues to write everything down for History (with a capital H), in a chatty, informal style that quickly makes the reader feel like she is a familiar friend.

Palmer has clearly put a lot of thought into the "what ifs" required for his story. He's considered the implications of his apocalypse and the situations and conditions Candy faces generally feel realistic and plausible (although the power did seem to stay on a lot longer than I would have expected without anyone to run the power stations). Candy's solutions to her dilemmas are well worked out to be consistent with a highly developed mind but the body and physical resources of an 11 year-old. She's a precocious 11 though (especially with regard to the eventual need to repopulate the planet) and I often found myself thinking of her as being 13 and finding myself surprised when her real age was mentioned.

As I said, I loved reading this book all over again and I highly recommend it to anyone. I'm sorry it is so hard to find, as that means lots of people are missing out on an excellent read. Do check your library catalogue in case they have a copy. And/or try to next story in Analog.

David R. Palmer


The Sci-Fi Rejection Letter That Time Forgot


It's been a good couple of days for books.

Yesterday I got a notice from Amazon that my copy of Acheron has shipped. It still has to make it all the way to New Zealand, so I don't know when I'll get it, but a big hooray all the same. Of course, I'm totally worried that it won't live up to expectations, because it has a lot of expectations hanging on it, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed and avoiding reviews like the plague. I want to make up my own mind, thank you.

Today we went to my favourite book store, Barbara's Books, run my my favourite book pusher seller (surprise, surprise, her name is Barbara). I picked up three books (out of the five she had for me): Cry Wolf by Patricia Briggs, The Hidden Worlds by Kristin Landon and The Penguin Who Knew Too Much by Donna Andrews.

I can't wait to read Cry Wolf. I'm going to reread Briggs' short story in the On the Prowl anthology first, which sets the scene for the book to remind myself of that and then on to the main novel. (I should be strong and finish my current book first, but I'm not sure that I'm that strong.)