Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Blogging Reflections or I Meant to Write a Review But Forgot So I Did This Instead

I realized this morning that I meant to write my A Clash of Kings review to post today. But I didn't do that. I blame the long weekend for throwing me off. That and the new Arrested Development season, which I've spent my time watching instead of doing...well anything productive these last few days.

I also meant to take part in Armchair BEA, but I forgot to sign up or write anything. See my excuses above. But I want to post something because I've been really slack with posting recently, for no real reason other than I'm easily distracted and writing posts takes focus.

But I wanted to post something today and I liked Kayleigh aka Nylon Admiral's post regarding her blogger development and decided to hop on that topic as well. I'd say copy her, which is what I'm doing, but since she's answering the prompt from the Armchair BEA topic that's not really the case. I was thinking that a reflection post like this may be better saved for a blog anniversary. Then I remembered that my blog birthday was May 8th and, as usual, I totally missed it. Whoops.

I began blogging a few years ago at the urging of Boyfriend+ (then just plain ol' Boyfriend), because I complained to him about not making use of my English degree too many times. When I started writing I didn't really do book reviews. I sort of did but I would post every couple days and talk about whatever point I was up to in the book. Think of it as like readalong posts but with just me. So yeah.

I still like those posts, but I stopped doing them because I would finish a book before I wrote anything, so I would end up just writing a single post about that book. I've since stuck to this single post per book (you know, like every other book blog) because I still read faster than I write. And I've found that the readalong style posts are more fun if you're part of a group.

I also used to do more of the memes when I was first starting out. I still think they're a great way to find to find a blogging community when you're first starting out. I sporadically do the Tuesday Top Ten meme/hop if I like the topic, though now my goals are less to find new bloggers. I still go through the TTT entries other people post, but I'm less likely to comment and follow people like I did when first starting out. As such, my follower growth has slowed over the last year plus. Which is fine because one of the first lessons I learned about blogging was to ignore your reach numbers. Unless you're trying to build a brand and make blogging your primary form of income, stressing about those numbers will just make your head hurt. Besides having lots of followers but no engagement isn't much fun. I prefer a smaller group that I regularly "talk" to.

I sometimes will accept a free book in exchange for a review, but I try to be selective about what I'll accept. I've been burned by books I would have happily DNF-ed if I didn't agree to a review. For the most part I'd rather just read whatever I feel like and write about that. I love that with blogging I learn about so many books that would have flown under my radar if it wasn't for fellow bloggers raving about them. Before blogging I re-read books a lot. I still do this, but less than I used to because now I have lists and piles of books I want to read.

So that's where this blog has been. Where it's going, well, who knows. I don't plan on stopping anytime soon. I mean, there are so many books still to read, still to talk about.

Friday, May 24, 2013

The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death

Another Friday and we are making our way through part two of Deathly Hallows. Shit is getting real (realer), thank you Alice for hosting this thang, and beware, thar be spoilers.

Here's the thing I've found about this section: I don't remember a thing from my first read through. Which means I have a lot less random thoughts that make up the other book posts, because with those I already knew the plot so I could focus on the important stuff like wizarding plumbing and how bad at math Rowling is. This time though I realize the only thing I remember about this book is who dies (only out of the important characters) and the epilogue. Now I'm spending my reading/listening wonder what the hell is going to happen next.

I feel like this post is going to be Defend the Marauders-ish*. But whatever, here goes. Lupin is an asshole for wanting to go along with H/R/Hr and leave a pregnant Tonks with her family. He has reasons which aren't entirely selfish, but he's still a jerk for considering. That said, this isn't unforgivable especially because he doesn't go with H/R/Hr. Just as one good deed doesn't make up for a lifetime of being a shithead, and one asshole decision doesn't destroy a lifetime of being a kind and trustworthy person.

It's so nice to see Kreacher happy. Happy-ish. Obviously this is in large part to the fact that H/R/Hr are nice to him, but I think another equally large reason is he was able to tell the story of what happened to Regulus. Figure he's been carrying that around with him for years, but because Regulus said he couldn't tell any of the family he was never able to unburden himself. Hermione has always been nice to him, but it wasn't until he was able to tell what happened to Regulus and he got a little piece of his missing master that he quick being such an asshole. It doesn't mean Sirius & co were right to be jerks to him before, but I don't know that being super nice would have made quite that much of a difference.

The Ministry chapters were SO STRESSFUL.
Not only do you have H/R/Hr having to polyjuice** to try to steal the locket from Umbridge (who would never have it in the first place if MUNDUNGUS WASN'T SUCH A THIEVING ASSHOLE. Sorry, this section has me shouty. Because of the stress) but then they accidentally polyjuiced someone whose wife is being tried for being Muggleborn. The whole courtroom scene was terrible. It was terrible to know this was happening at all and terrible to know that H/R/Hr made it slightly worse for Mrs. Cattermole, since her husband wasn't there for her. Because they made him throw up so much it's a wonder he didn't die. Yes, they saved them in the end and that is what's important, but still. You realize not only how dangerous things are for them, but even without meaning to how they're putting other people in danger.

I like Phineas Nigellus (I think of him as Phinny. I assume he'd hate that. You know, if he were not fictional and all), ever since he told off Harry for being a pain in the ass when he was being a pain in the ass back in book five. I kinda like that they have him around, even if it's at least 50% arguing with him. Sure, maybe he's only showing up to talk to them and try to figure out where they are so he can tell Snape and Voldie can get them, but given his relationship with Dumbles I don't think so. And after all  he is giving them information about the goings on at Hogwarts. I don't understand why H/R/Hr (OK, let's be honest, just Hr cos you can't trust the others to come up with anything) don't have him ask questions and pass information to portrait Dumbles.

I had to re-listen to the Nagini attack at Godric's twice before I fully realized what was going on. How did I forget that whole scene? I thought Bathilda would have things to reveal about Dumble's and maybe even Harry's parent's pasts. That...that did not go as expected.

Could people please stop listening to Rita Skeeter after she's proven time and again that she writes just ridiculous and outright lies? I'm not even talking about people that haven't been directly attacked by Rita, but Harry, perhaps you have some insight into how much truth her writing contains.

A few thoughts about when Ron comes back, because that's the part I just finished listening to, and thus is fresh on my mind:
1. If Ron's reintroduction hadn't involved immediately saving Harry's life, you think we'd all be so happy to see him again? Cos I was super happy to see him again, but I feel like if he'd just shown up again my reaction would be been more Hermione-esque. Just seemed a bit manipulative, but of course JK is not above manipulating be via Ron. Remember Ron's poisoning last book.
2. When Ron's supposed to be destroying the horcrux and is instead standing there just listening to fake Harry and fake Hermione say mean things to him, how much did you want to strangle Ron? I couldn't help picture Harry sitting down in the snow going 'Oh for fuck's sake, if you're going to just stand there give me the damn sword." Maybe it's just the audiobook but this seemed to take forever.
3. How was Ron able to find Harry & Hermione? The Deluminator because magic. Shut up.

See you back here again in 2 weeks (BEA!) for more Deathly Hallows. I'm going to start stocking up on "I will never stop crying" GIFs in preparation.

*For others, please see any post regarding Sirius.
** Yes, I've verbed it.

Title quote from page 328

Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Scholastic, 2007.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

No one who writes about personal finance ever meant to do it

I am taking my sweet time when it comes to writing these book reviews. Not that I really have an excuse for this. Well, my excuse for not writing this review earlier this week was I was going to, and then instead decided to watch Mad Men and eat pie. Priorities, people.

I read Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella during my trip to Ireland/London because 1) vacations call for light and fluffy reads, 2) this takes place in London and I WAS GOING TO BE THERE, and 3) people that I trust for book recommendations said "I know this is a fluffy book about shopping and stuff, but it's better than it seems, and please ignore that movie they made." And thus did I read this light, fluffy, "chick lit" book about shopping. People were right, it was better than I would have assumed.

It's about finance writer Becky Bloomwood who is pretty much the last person you'd think you should be taking financial advice from. She is thousands of pounds in debt and just keeps on spending. She tries to only buy the necessities but that includes things like "that scarf she really really wants" or "shoes that are really an investment" and other such rationalization that keeps her in debt. She ignores warning letters from her credit cards and dodges phone calls from her bank, but at least she's a positive person.

Of course as seems to be a pre-req for "chick lit" it's a romantic comedy and thus there is a love story involving super rich big shot Luke Brandon of Brandon Communications. It's not that I don't like love stories, but this plot line I was very "meh" about. It plays out exactly as you know it's going to play out.

Becky is a very likable character, which is good because she's also shallow and kinda ditsy. I rooted for her, even when I wanted to strangle her because OMG get your financial shit together, lady. You do not need that scarf that is HOW MUCH? I never got less frustrated with her (just really irresponsible) financial decisions, but as you start to get to know her more you feel bad for her instead of angry. And you see how easy it is to feed this cycle of debt.

It was the quotes that pulled me in, so I think it's best to share a few of the ones I highlighted (hooray Kindle)

The FT is by far the best accessory a girl can have. Its major advantages are:
1. It's a nice color
2. It only costs eight-five pence
3. If you walk into a room with it tucked under your arm, people take you seriously. With an FT under your arm, you can talk about the most frivolous things in the world, and instead of thinking you're an airhead, people think you're a heavyweight intellectual who has broader interests, too.
Even better, although no one can see them, I know that underneath I'm wearing my gorgeous new matching knickers and bra with embroidered yellow rosebuds. They're the best bit of my entire outfit. In fact, I almost wish I could be run over so that the world would see them.
I'm as excited as a little kid on Christmas Day (or as me on Christmas Day, to be perfectly honest). 
See, she's adorable.

This is not a book that will make you think deep thoughts. You can probably guess the entire plot and every turn once you've read the first couple pages. Or even the summary on the back. It's unlikely I will pick up the rest of the Shopaholic series. But if you want something that is light and fluffy "chick lit," something to read while on a beach, this is an excellent choice.

Title quote from page 10, location 159

Kinsella, Sophie. Confessions of a Shopaholic. Dell, 2003. Kindle edition.

Friday, May 17, 2013

I don't think you're a waste of space

This is it. The last Harry Potter book. I probably remember this book the least other than there are a lot of sads to be had. Thanks Alice aka Reading Rambo for hosting this readalong beware of spoilers.

First thing. Ways Harry Potter is infiltrating my real life or how this readalong is affecting me: I was at Penn Station waiting for an NJ Transit train staring at this rotating iron works sculpture dealy they have in the waiting area. It's sort of a strange piece. There's a flying boat with beauty queens and a giant Mr. Peanut holding a tiny elephant. But that's not the part I focused on.* There's also a flying devil running on the same track as the boat, carrying a little man. I was trying to figure out why this would be part of the sculpture till I remembered the Jersey Devil is a thing, although I've never seen it portrayed like this one. Normally (because OF COURSE I have books on the subject) the Jersey Devil is described as hooved, head of a goat, with giant bat wings. Now, it's also described as walking on 2 legs, but I ignored this and thought to my self "Well, clearly the Jersey Devil is some offshoot species of thestral." Then I realized that I'm talking about fictional creatures and went back to staring at the board willing my track to show up already.

I took no notes while reading/listening this time around. Let's see if this makes the post any more or less coherent. Judging by my tangent above, I'm thinking less.

How bittersweet is it to see Harry unpacking his truck and getting ready for his journey? I mean, hooray because he gets to leave the Dursleys and never come back. But then leaving anywhere is sort of sad. And then of course we have Albus's obituary, in case you forgot that his death was sad. AND THEN Dudley tells  Harry that he doesn't think he's a waste of space. There could be hope for the boy yet. Of course if you were worried about things getting too sweet, then Vernon is there to continue being an asshat because some people don't change.

Then we have the Seven Potters and it's SO INTENSE. First Hedwig is killed and you want to be sad but there isn't enough time because EVERYTHING IS STILL HAPPENING. You don't have time to catch your breath before Voldemort shows up and of course he can fly without a broomstick, because picturing him having to ride a broomstick is hilarious.

Then, to keep the tension up, Harry and Hagrid make it to the Burrow fine, but we have to wait and see if everyone else makes it back. And of course they all don't because JK hates us and wants us to suffer. Was that not clear when she killed of Sirius and Dumbles? Frorge loses an ear and Mad Eye is gone and shit. We keep losing people that know what they're doing.

Ron's comments about the book Twelve Fail-Safe Ways to Charm Witches: "You'd be surprised, it's not all about wandwork, either." I expect everyone to have mentioned this line in their own posts. Not all about wandwork indeed.

Hey look, everyone figured out how to send messages using their Patronuses. (Patroni?) You know how else you can send message to people quickly and without owls? Phones. Just sayin', wizards.

The ministry has fallen and Scrimgeour is dead and everything gets SUPER INTENSE again. The wedding is broken up by a Death Eater attack and H/R/Hr flee to London. Of course Hermione is prepared for this and has their bags all packed already. Because she took Mad Eye's lesson of constant vigilance to heart.

Kreacher's story is touching and makes you feel bad for the poor house elf. I mean, he's still an asshole and still hates Mudbloods, but what a sad story. And of course we get the explanation of who RAB is (Regulus, which I'm pretty sure everyone guessed) and how he managed to switch the locket. You know that Kreacher loved Regulus, but you also see how much Regulus really cared for Kreacher. He could have made Kreacher drink the potion in the basin a second time so he could put the locket in there, but he didn't.

Again, I don't remember much about this book other than lots and lots of tears. I am afraid of what is coming. Rowling, please be nice.

*Well, not completely but I mean, how can you ignore giant Mr. Peanut & a tiny elephant on a boat full of Miss America's? Exactly, you can't. Which is why it's mentioned here even though it has nothing to do with the point I'm making.

Title quote from page 40

Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Scholastic, 2007.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Books you need to read in your 20s

My co-worker sent me this Buzzfeed list, 65 Books You Need To Read In Your 20s, and you know how much I love a list so here it is. I don't put too much stock with any list that says "X books you have to read,"  but I at least appreciate that the original list gives you reasons for each book. Besides, I always like seeing where I stand. So, here we go

The bolded books are the ones I've read

Great Novels
1. The Emperor's Children by Claire Messud
2. What She Saw... by Lucinda Rosenfeld
3. The Deptford Trilogy by Robertson Davies
4. The Secret History by Donna Tartt
5. Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin
6. A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
7. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
8. Lucy by Jamaica Kincaid
9. The Moviegoer by Walker Percy
10. White Teeth by Zadie Smith
11. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon
12. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
13. Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney
14. The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
15. Call Me by Your Name by Andre Aciman
16. The Rachel Papers by Martin Amis
17. Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
18. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
19. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
20. A Home at the End of the World by Michael Cunningham
21. The Sandman series by Neil Gaiman
22. The Group by Mary McCarthy
23. Quicksand and Passing by Nella Larsen (the list says it's 2 novellas so I guess that equals 1 book. Plus the whole Sandman series made it up above
24. Pastoralia by George Sanders
25. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
26. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers
27. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
28. Main Street by Sinclair Lewis
29. His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman
30. Generation X by Douglas Coupland
31. The Fortress of Solitude by Jonathan Lethem
32. Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson
33. I Love Dick by Chris Kraus
34. On the Road by Jack Kerouac
35. Even Cowgirls Get the Blues by Tom Robbins
36. Hard-Boiled Wonderland and The End of the World by Haruki Murakami

So out of their Great Novels category I've read 7 of the 36. Not only that, I haven't even heard of the majority of these. I will need to add some more books to my TBR list. Cos you, know, that wasn't long enough yet. Now the next category

Great Memoirs
37. Bossypants by Tina Fey
38. Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain
39. How to Lose Friends and Alienate People by Toby Young
40. The Dirt by Motley Crue and Neil Strauss
41. Lunar Park by Bret Easton Ellis
42. Just Kids by Patti Smith
43. Another Bullshit Night in Suck City by Nick Flynn
44. Oh the Glory of It All by Sean Wilsey
45. I Don't Care About Your Band by Julie Klausner
46. Wild by Cheryl Strayed
47. Lit by Mary Karr
48. I'm with the Band by Pamela Des Barres
49. Dear Diary by Lesley Arfin

And 2 out of 13 in the Great Memoirs section. Though I've read Kitchen Confidential so many times I should get to count it at least twice.

(I didn't leave out the Great. The list did.)
50. The Complete Poems of Anne Sexton by Anne Sexton (well, I've read Transformations a few times, but not all her stuff)
51. Actual Air by David Berman
52. The Collected Poems of Kenneth Koch by Kenneth Koch
53. Alien vs. Predator by Michael Robbins
54. The Collected Poems of Audre Lord by Audre Lord

And none out of the poetry stuff. Though poetry isn't really my thing so I'm not so surprised.

Essays That Will Make You Think And/Or Laugh
55. Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris
56. How To Be A Woman by Caitlin Moran
57. My Misspent Youth by Meghan Daum
58. Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion
59. Up in the Hotel by Joseph Mitchell

1 out of 5 but Caitlin Moran's book is so great so bonus points

General Life How-Tos
60. How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman
61. How's Your Drink? by Eric Felten
62. The Elements of Style by Strunk & White
63. Letters to a Young Contrarian by Christopher Hitchens
64. Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards
65. He's Just Not That Into You by Greg Behrendt & Liz Tuccillo (I started reading this one and thought it was terrible and DNF-ed it. Which was sad cos I like the little bit of Behrendt's stand up I've seen.)

None in the general life how-tos, though really I should probably get some more guidance there.

Out of the 65 on the list, I've read 10. I thought i would have read more. I did not expect to not even recognize so many. As I said above, I'm not to worried about not having read all (or even half) of the books on the list. I certainly won't be reading all of these before I'm out of my twenties, consider I have less than a year to do that.

How'd you do with the list? Do you recognize more than me? And I realize I didn't tell you which ones I don't know. But just figure if I didn't read it and it's not an obvious one everyone knows, I probably didn't recognize it. Way to make me feel like a loser, Buzzfeed.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Walking a marathon is much, much, much harder than running one. Because everyone thinks it's easy.

Ever since reading How To Be A Woman, I've wanted to read more Moran. But for whatever reason I was being stubborn about reading Moranthology. Which is stupid. I don't have a good reason other than everyone (well Alice aka Reading Rambo and Laura aka Devouring Texts) told me to and apparently my reaction to being told I should read a book that I will love is "SHUT UP, don't tell me what to do!" Before I went on my trip I realized I was going to need some books so I may as well download this one. I mean, I was going to be in London and Moran is over there and would be referencing English things. PLUS this is a collection of essays meaning they are short and you can feel very accomplished as you speed through them.

I sort of loved this book. More than How To Be A Woman? Maybe. I haven't entirely decided. And to be honest, it's hard to compare the two since HTBAW had a theme running through it and Moranthology does not. Believe me, I mean this as a compliment. Her essays are all over the place in a wonderful way. There are serious essays ("I Know What It's Like To Be Poor. They Took Away the TV and We Cried"), ridiculous essays ("I Am a Dwarf Called "Scottbaio"), essays about celebrities ("Come Party with Gaga"), feminist essays ("Burqas: Are the Men Doing It?"), relationship essays ("Call Me Puffin"), essays review TV shows I have not watched but really want to based on Moran's descriptions ("Downton Abbey Review 2: 'SEX WILL BE HAD! SEX WILL BE HAD!'"). Just look at those essay titles, and try to tell me you don't want to read every one of them.

The only problem with this set of essays (and the fact that I read this on a Kindle) is it was over so quick, and without warning. It's not like with a story where you can tell you're coming to the end. The essays could have gone on and on and I would have been happy to keep going with them.

I have a hard time whenever I'm writing a review of a book I liked. So, as is my normal solution in times like this, here are a bunch of quotes to help convince you that you should just read this:
In many ways, this book might as well be called "Deduce THIS, Sexlock Holmes!" with a picture of me licking his meerschaum, cross-eyed and screaming. 
The last time I felt so embarrassed about the visible contents of my handbag was last spring, when I was carrying around a gigantic book on the history of the Ku Klux Klan. For two long months, that book made me want to shout, "I'm reading this because I know they were bad -- not to get tips!" to any halfway full train.
 Parents drinking is the reason you came into the world, and if we didn't keep doing it, then by God, it would be the reason you went back out of it.
Even this semi-review took me awhile to write because while looking for quotes to include I wanted to just start reading it again. And it's so easy to do. "Oh I'll just read one or two essays" and then suddenly half the book is done. If she'd like to come out with a follow up to this that is just MORE of her essays printed elsewhere, that'd be cool. I'd be all for that.

Title quote from page 49, location 859

Moran, Caitlin. Moranthology. Harper Perennial, 2012.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Magic causes as much trouble as it cures

It's another Friday which means another Harry Potter day! This time though, we're taking a break from the normal Harry Potter series and reading The Tales of Beedle the Bard*. Which meant I had to go find a copy and the children's section of the bookstore is harder to navigate than I would have originally thought. Eventually I stumbled on the (giant, really obvious) shelf of all things Harry Potter, found a copy, and was on my way just before the bookstore closed. Because I do things last minute like that. I'm a little bummed it's hardback but I GUESS it's fine.

I guess there are spoilers in here, except it's for wizarding fairy tales, so yeah, you're fine. Thank you Alice for hosting this Potteralong.

I always have such a problem writing about collections of stories and I have been staring at the page for awhile trying to figure out what to write about. Do I write about each story? Just a couple? My overall thoughts? I really have no idea. and this isn't like the series where I have a billion thoughts and I sort of just takes notes as I go. But this book 100 pages with thick margins and big font and pictures, and I didn't have many notes to take. So let's see how this goes**

So, wizarding fairy tales you say.

I know Rowling mentions in the intro that the difference in these stories, unlike Muggle ones, is that magic is sometimes used for good. Which doesn't really seem right. I mean, consider Sleeping Beauty. Magic is what causes to her fall asleep for 100 years after pricking her finger on a spindle, but magic is also what keeps her alive, instead of dying when she pricks her finger. I suppose I point this out only to say that without changing things, I could see them showing up in any collection of fairy tales, Muggle or not.

"The Tale of the Three Brothers" is the best of the stories, which makes sense. I'm sure it's the one she put the most time into, given its importance in the last book. Maybe it's just because it's the last story but it's the one that felt the most natural. That felt most like a real fairy tale. And, I mean, it's the one Dumbles likes the most so OBVIOUSLY it's the best one.

I was also a fan of "The Fountain of Fair Fortune". I was going to say maybe there's something about sets of three, but then I forgot the Fountain includes that Knight. Even though he's just sort of there and doesn't really do much other than be nice and follow the witches around. Witches that also don't really do all that much. Except for Amata, who actually figured out what needed done when the water asked for treasures from the past. Otherwise the other witches just happened to cry and sweat in the appropriate place. And the knight actually tried something at each step. So I guess he's slightly more than just there. He tries, even if ultimately he can't get past any of the obstacles. I especially like Dumbles' notes at the end, especially the note about Lucius and how awful he's always been.

Dumbles' notes at the end of "The Wizard and the Hopping Pot" are the best part of this story, and I appreciate the explanation of wizard/Muggle relations. Or lack thereof. Plus it has the Umbridge-esque version by that Mrs. Bloxam lady.

I did not expect the ending to "The Warlock's Hairy Heart". I thought it would end with happiness and the warlock realizing the importance of love. I did not expect murder via heart stealing. The idea of the heart growing hair and turning into a beast I get, but I couldn't help but think of it as a moldy heart. That sort of took the edge off.

Now that I've written about all of the other stories, I may as well write about "Babbitty Rabbitty and Her Cackling Stump" even though overall I was sort of "meh" about it. I do like the that Babbitty tricked the King into not being such a douche AND she got them to erect a gold statue of her.
Hollywood version of Babbitty

*Every time I write the title I have to correct myself. I keep wanting to call it Tales of the Beedle Bard. I'm picturing a giant insect spinning yarns.

**Not long after writing that, my computer got a virus that I had to deal with. So. Yeah. That's how things went. Sorry if this post is short, but a lot of my writing time was spent cursing at my computer.

Title quote from page VII

Rowling, J.K. The Tales of Beedle the Bard. Scholastic, 2007.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

What to read when you need something light & fun

I haven't done one of The Broke and the Bookish's Top Ten Tuesdays in awhile  but this week's topic, light and fun reads, seems like something I could handle. Especially when you consider about half of my reads fall into the light and fun category. I was going to say something about these being great books for great weather, but I'll read these books whenever I feel like I need...well, something light and fun. When the weather is nice, when the weather is crappy, when I need a break from what I'm currently reading, when I'm in a reading slump, when I'm reading a lot. You know, whenever. So here we go

1. Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson - I love this book. I've read it a couple times now and it still cracks me up. It's a great to pick up sporadically. There's no real story so it doesn't matter if you put the book down for a couple months and then pick it up right where you left off. I'm sort of making my way through it and when I get to the end I just start over.

2. The Complete Works of William Shakespeare Abridged by the Reduced Shakespeare Company - I can't tell you how many times I've read this play. All the times, if I had to venture a guess. I pretty much know it by heart but that's OK because it's great and I heart it. Nerdy Shakespeare jokes for the win.

3. The Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde - The whole series counts as a single light and fun read, but seriously, it's so good. It's fun and it's quirky and it has Bookworld. How can you have a Bookworld and have it NOT be fun?

4. Notes from a Big Country by Bill Bryson - As I mentioned in the Lawson entry, I like books that I can pick up and put down without worrying about losing my place. This is a collection of columns Bryson wrote for The Mail on Sundays about what it was like to move back to the States after living in England for so long and it's so Bryson-y. He curmugeons about things, and is in awe of the wonders of the world, almost in equal parts.

5. Moranthology by Caitlin Moran - This is a new addition to my collection of light and fun reads (and I'll have that review written any day now. You know, after I finish procrastinating by writing posts like this.) Like the Bryson book, it's a collection of her columns from Times about things like how Ghostbusters is the best movie ever.

6. Bossypants by Tina Fey - And while we're on the topic of hilarious ladies, Fey's memoir is the best. It's hilarious and she has lots of stories about being a woman comedy writer and a mother, sometimes even at the same time.

7. High Fidelity by Nick Hornby - Who knew that a book about the male psyche would be one of my favorite books? Well actually, considering how many "middle class white guy problems" books I've read, perhaps it's not that surprising. But still, isn't that in itself surprising? Anyway, listening to Rob & company take music way to seriously is lots of fun, even when he's making bad decision after bad decision. Bonus, since I'm also a fan of the movie, I always picture Jack Black as Barry.

8. Freakonomics by Stephen Dubner and Steven Levitt - I've recently been listening to the Freakonomics podcast so this book is on my mind. Want to examine how incentives affect just everything? Want to compare how the KKK is like real-estate agents or if names really matter.

9. Who Are You People? by Shari Caudron - Why yes, I would like to read a book about a journalist who decides she needs to get to the bottom of people's obsessions, including ice fishing, Barbie enthusiasts, and Josh Groban fans. The book is funny without being condescending to the people she's writing about and she's only sort of creeped out by the furries. So there you go.

10. Calvin & Hobbes by Bill Watterson - Any collection. 10th Anniversary that includes notes from Watterson? Definitely. The Complete Calvin & Hobbes? As long as you have a comfortable couch to sit on, absolutely. There's never a bad time for Calvin & Hobbes.

What are some great light & fun reads that I've missed?

Update: I need to include one more because HOLY HELL how did I forget Attachments by Rainbow Rowell? I'm disappointed in me, and I also blame ebooks, since having it on my Kindle means I can't just glance at my shelves for inspiration. But seriously, this book is so good and cute and funny and every time it's mentioned I want to read it again. It's such a feel good book.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Quest for a new feed reader

As you probably are already aware Google Reader is going away as of July 1st. This sucks. Google Reader makes it so easy to manage all the blogs I follow, keep things organized, and I can access it wherever. But they're buttheads so I'm going to have to come up with a new solution. The two that have come up the most are Bloglovin' and Feedly. So I signed up for both of them to try them out because why not. They both let me import my current blogs into their systems. It's only been a couple days, but let's see how, so far, things look

The Good:
  • Easy to import my blogs into the system
  • It's browser based, which means I don't need to download anything to use it
The Bad:
  • The items don't get marked as read until I actually click on a button to mark it as read.
  • Animated GIFs are not animated unless I go to the actual post
  • Can't resort items so the oldest posts appear first
  • If I read a blog in a different reader, which I often do since I use Newsify App, it doesn't register those posts as having been read
  • The browser tab doesn't tell me when unread posts are pulled in. This is a minor thing, but I usually have a tab with GR open along with a zillion others and I like to be able to just glance at it to see if anything new has come in.
The Good:
  • Easy to import my blogs into the system
  • Animated GIFs are animated within it
  • Scrolling past items marks them as read
  • Easy to re-sort posts
The Bad:
  • The browser tab doesn't tell me when unread posts are pulled in.
  • If there is a post made up of images, they're formatted right to left. Which is neat and all but since I don't read that way, it's very annoying
  • You have to download a browser extension. I regularly use 3 different computers, which means I need to download on all of them (and 4 dif browsers in total). This is annoying and means that if I'm away from any of these computers I can't use Feedly
So there you have it, at least so far. If I'm wrong on any of these points, let me know. The fact that I can't get Feedly just wherever really annoys me, even if it doesn't pose a problem that often. I also thought I would have no problem setting up the extra security on my Google accounts until that bit me in the ass.

I'm not too worried about the mobile app for either of this systems, if only because I currently use Newsify and like that better than the Reader mobile app.

I also read a couple things about Google buying Wavii and that possibly being a GR replacement, except it looks like the focus isn't going to be something I care too much about. I'm generally distrustful of natural language processing stuff ever since a vendor told me their system was better at determining sentiment than real humans, at which point I laughed, mumbled something about a robot uprising, and then added sarcastic notes to my presentation. Cos I'm a mature adult. ANYWAY, Wavii's focus seems to be automated curation which is nifty and all but not really what I'm looking for.

So for now I'm continuing to rely on Google Reader while I sporadically play with Bloglovin' and Feedly, end up disappointed in both and just whine WHY MUST GOOGLE DESTROY THE THINGS I LOVE? (See "mature adult" comment above.) Do I like Google Reader so much because it's what I'm used to? Yes, most definitely. Does that mean I'll accept its demise with quiet dignity and just learn to use a different reader? Not a chance.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Dumbledore's man through and through

Happy Harry Potter Friday! We've just finished Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince and shit is getting serious. As with every week, Alice, you kick ass for hosting this readalong and there are spoilers below so beware.

Ron's poisoning was a little "OMG HE'S GOING TO DIE...nope never mind, he's fine. Look, not even any damage." Not that I want Ron hurt, but just felt like a fake-out. I don't appreciate the manipulation.

How bad did you feel when Dumbledore is all disappointed in Harry for not getting Slughorn's memory? Disappointed Dumbles is SO MUCH WORSE than angry Snape.

I wonder how Harry is going to finally get the memory from Slughorn. I bet he'll come up with something really clever and...oh he'll just get him drunk and use his parents' death to guilt him into it. Right. Well. There you go.

Oh look, Harry and Ginny are officially going out. And again...
It still feels forced. Harry's crush on Cho didn't feel forced. It was adorable. This just feels like "Oh we're almost at the end of the series and Harry doesn't have a love interest, so let's fix that." But Ginny continues to kick ass, so I'm cool with seeing more of her.

Most of this book is its own story. However, from the time Harry gets the final summons from Dumbledore to the end of the book is pretty much Deathly Hallows: The Prologue. The other books obviously lead into each other, but they were all stand alone books. This one doesn't wrap up. It doesn't even end with Harry back at the Dursleys. It ends with H/R/Hr still at Hogwarts, planning to start their fetch quest that is the next book. I like the raising of the stakes and whatnot, but I sorta wish this had more of the wrap up the other books had.

We do learn the answer to a question I was very curious about back when we read Chamber of Secrets. What was Lucius hoping to accomplish by sneaking Tom Riddle's diary into Ginny's bag and did he know what it actually was? Dumbles tells us that no, he didn't know it was part of Voldie's soul, which is why he was so careless with it. However, he did know it would open the Chamber and was totally cool with murdering a bunch of children in order to get a wizard fired. Really, the fact that Malfoy had so much trouble murdering Dumbles is pretty admirable considering he was raised by someone who is pretty blase about killing. Of course maybe this is just because Malfoy had to come face to face with his victim while Lucius would have been pretty far removed, but still.

So Dumbledore is dead. Was I sad about this? Of course because I am human and have a soul. Was I as sad as I was with Sirius's death? Nope. Dumbles death for me:
Less this

More this
I'm still not sure why this is. Maybe because there's so much downtime to really let Sirius's death sink in, and that's when the sads really got to me. Dumbledore's death is surrounded by so much craziness and fighting that there isn't time to catch your breath and really wallow in the grief. I was less in shock this time around cos, you know, I knew it was coming. That said, Dumbles had all the answers and you knew things were ultimately going to be OK while he was around. Now he's not and now things are unknown and shit. I'm sure Dumbles is still Dumbling where ever he is.
Even into the beyond

Before this readalong, I didn't realize I was all for defending Fleur. To be honest, the only thing I really remembered about her in this book is she's bratty and says stuck up things, but then all is forgiven because she'll still marry Bill even though he's not as handsome anymore. But this time around I feel so bad for her. Does she still say bratty and stuck up things when she's at the Weasley's? Yup. Though given she's just learning English, I do give her some leeway because English is hard and she may not mean things to come out quite the way they do. Hermione and Ginny are talking about her behind her back and calling her names, which isn't that much better than calling her things to her face, and also doesn't mean she doesn't know about it. The Burrow isn't the biggest house and it wouldn't be too surprising if she had overheard them. We see that Mrs. Weasley didn't even make her a holiday sweater after making them for EVERYONE ELSE. So the ladies of HP, who I normally luuurve are acting really catty and this did not make me happy. Fleur's understandably hurt when Mrs. Weasley suggests Fleur won't want to marry Bill after his attack. She makes it clear that she knows, and has known, Mrs. Weasley doesn't want her to marry Bill. But she does it without insulting Mrs. Weasley, without pointing out how mean they've all been to her. Fleur's proud (she does push Mrs. Weasley out of the way, after all), but she's not cruel. She's far from my favorite character, but there's more to her than I thought the first time around. Go J.K. for putting so much into this minor character.

I can't believe we're almost done with this readalong. Next up The Tales of Beedle the Bard which I haven't actually read before so EXCITEMENT. Oh and to get us ready for the final book, here's a Cracked list (of course): 6 Questions The Last Harry Potter Book Had Better F#@king Answer

Title quote from page 765

Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince. Bloomsbury, 2005

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

April reading wrap-up

April was a pretty kick ass month for me, both reading AND otherwise. Not only did I get a bunch of reading done but I was in Ireland and London and that was so much fun and I'm ready to go back now please. Plus the weather around here has gone from miserable to still a lot of miserable but with some sunshine that makes you think it's warmer out than it actually is. So, you know, improvement!

Onto the stats

Number of books read
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling
Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig
Puppet Shows by Michael Frissore
Moranthology by Caitlin Moran
Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella

Total pages read

Percentage of fiction

Percentage of female authors
60% - this might be the first time in ever this has happened

Percentage of white authors
100% - last month I managed something, but not this time. Dammit

Percentage of US authors

Percentage of eBooks
80% - this would be more unusual except I had a review copy AND made sure to download books before my trip

Books written by decade
2000s - 60%
2010s - 40%

General reading goals are the same as always: read more non-white people, more people from non-US or UK countries, read more stuff written before I was born. How am I currently doing towards that end? Right now I'm reading Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince (written in the 2000s by a British white lady) and A Clash of Kings (written in the 2000s by an American white guy) so yeah, things are going swell.