Sunday, February 27, 2011

AnachroCon 2011

So, Reader Friends, this weekend I did something new.  I went to my very first Con ever with Bestie and R, pictured above in their costumes.  Because I have been sewing baby blankets like a crazy person and because I am lame, I didn't have a costume.  I know, I'm a party pooper.  But going as an observer was honestly just as much fun.  I was sad to miss out on a lot of the author stuff, but I got to see some awesome demonstrations/seminars and seeing all the amazing costumes was worth the trip.  I also made some connections with people you will see in May during Zombie Awareness Month! 

Quick Highlights:
  • We met the guy who made the hydraulic arm that was featured on an episode of Castle
  • An amazing interactive session with a man who has studied Van Gogh extensively.  He plays Van Gogh during an intake session at St. Remy.  He goes through his art and answers audience questions as if he were Van Gogh.  It was beautiful!  I should have noted the man's name, but I forgot because I was so swept up in the session.
  • We almost met some amazingly talented people involved in costuming, set production, and visual arts.  I also got to attend a session led by Miss Kagashi, who writes Multiculturalism for Steampunk and hear her talk about her work in costuming.
  • I bought some beautiful skeleton keys from one of the many vendors there that I'll be using for an art project in the near future.  The very near future - as soon as I'm done with this blog post!
  • Frenzy Universe: I don't really picture myself getting majorly into Cons and costumes, but I've already got a very antique, Victorian theme going on in my library, and I'd love to add some steampunk DIY.  This is a GREAT place to get DIY ideas and supplies.  I also really like their blog and the 365 art project they're doing.
  • Steampunk Sisters: They have an etsy shop that is awesome and they some beautiful and unique jewelry.  I love their rings.
  • Penny Dreadful Productions: I bought my skeleton keys from them and will be interviewing one of the owners for Zombie Awareness Month. 

Friday, February 25, 2011

Faith and Fiction Round Table: Certain Women

This is my first Faith and Fiction Round Table discussion and, honestly, I'm a little bit nervous.  I hope I can do the Round Table justice.  Here goes...

Certain Women by Madeleine L'Engle tells the story of David, a famous actor, whose life has mirrored that of the biblical King David.  He has had eight wives and numerous children, along with other affairs.  As the book opens, we find David with his daughter and eighth wife on board his small yacht as he dies of cancer.  Throughout the course of the book, we see David's life primarily through the eyes of his daughter, Emma.  We go back and forth between current time, as David dies, and Emma's retelling of the family's past.  Much of this past revolves around a play about King David, written by Emma's estranged husband and her father's obsession with that play.

I'll be posting a review with my thoughts on the writing and entertainment value later, but these posts are intended to focus on a topical aspect of the book.  They may contain spoilers, so be warned.  If you've read this one or have something to add, please join in in the comments section!

I'm going to address a topic that was small in relation to the major themes of the book as a whole, but that stood out to me.  Hopefully, addressing a more minor aspect will keep me from repeating (inadequately) what the other members are discussing.  My favorite moment in the book described the relationship between the biblical David and Jonathan.  Emma and her husband, who at that point in the book is writing his play, mention how sexualized our culture has become.  They are discussing whether or not David and Jonathan had a plutonic or romantic love and Emma wishes that people could allow friendship to be intimate without sexualizing it.  

One of the best lectures I ever attended in college was given by a male professor who had a very close platonic relationship with another male professor.  They memorized Shakespeare's sonnets together and walked around campus quoting them.  The lecture was given regarding Tennyson's relationship to his beloved friend in In Memoriam.  Current scholars debate Tennyson's relationship with his friend, as they do Shakespeare's relationship with the male subject of his sonnets.  The professor compared his friendship to both of these and mourned the culture's inability to accept expressionf of platonic male friendship.

We've come a long way in our acceptance of various sexualities and expressions of sexuality.  Many things that were considered immoral or even illegal are now culturally acceptable.  However, we still can't seem to wrap our heads around the idea of two men loving each other in a non-romantic way.  If a man tells another man that he loves him, especially if he expresses that love physically or in any sort of emotional way, we assume they are romantically involved.  The same often applies to women.  Sugar Bear and I are affectionate with each other publically (Sugar Bear is my sister if you're not aware) and we've gotten the stink eye (or cat calls) more than once.  I'm not talking about frenching my baby sister here - but we sometimes hold hands when we walk and kiss on the cheek to greet each other.  Emma also mentions this same experience at a later point in the book, as she holds hands on a walk with one of her father's wives.

While this only gets a brief specific mention in the book, it does tie to several other themes seen throughout the story.  This was especially evident to me in Emma's rape.  I think L'Engle did a good job of pulling together Billy's sexual aggression towards Emma with her earlier comments to her husband on the sexualized nature of relationships.  What should have been a platonic brother-sister relationship became something more when Billy gave in to the demands of culture and the pressure of his family.  We also see this happen time and again in David's relationships with various women.  Sex is the assumed mode of communication and expression of love between two people at any given time. 

What do you think, Reader Friends?  Am I wrong?  Tell me why!  I love a good discussion on things like this!  Also, if you see me on the street loving on a cute brunette, get your mind out of the gutter - that's my Sugar Bear!

You can see posts on the book by other Round Table members at these links:

Book Journey

My Friend Amy


The 3 R's Blog

Ignorant Historian

Victorious Cafe

Tina's Book Reviews

Word Lily

Book Addiction

Roving Reads

My Random Thoughts

Books and Movies

Crazy for Books

Book Review: Mothers and Other Liars

I was lucky enough to get to review Mothers and Other Liars through my friend Jennie's blog tour, hosted on her blog Life is Short. Read Fast.  She was sweet enough to stick me on the tail end, even though I signed up for the tour late.  This is the story of Ruby, a single mother, who found a baby in a trashcan at a rest stop as a lonely young woman looking for herself.  She assumed the baby was abandoned and made the split second decision to keep her.  She has raised Lark as her daughter and they have made a home and life for themselves in New Mexico.  However, when Ruby learns that Lark's parents did not abandon her, and have been searching for her for the past eight years, she is faced with the consequences of her decision.

I wasn't a fan.  When I reviewed Room by Emma Donaghue, I talked about how hard I think it is for an author to capture and child's voice accurately and consistently (Donaghue does an excellent job by the way).  This is a case where the author's attempt to sound like an eight year old fell flat.  Instead of sounding consistently like a child, Lark sounds like an adult who is trying to sound like a child.  An adult who maybe hasn't been around kids all that much.  Lark is precocious - annoyingly precocious - and her voice really grated on my nerves.  I just wasn't able to believe her as a character in any way. 

There is also the issue of the ending, which wraps everything up in a neat little bow.  Happy endings all around.  Not that that is always a bad thing - I like happy endings sometimes - but I had a very hard time believing the ending of this one.

As much as I didn't really like Lark, I did enjoy the story.  This is one of those cases where I didn't really become invested in any of the characters, but I was really interested in what would happen with the plot.  The main character faces one of those huge Jodi Picoult-esque moral dilemmas that everyone hopes to never face in real life.  It's an engrossing read, not because of the characters, but because of the ethical challenges that are faced.  I think the author did a very good job of showing the fall out of those choices and how they affect characters beyond just Ruby and Lark.

The whole thing was very reminiscent to me of Jodi Picoult.  If you like that twist-ending, moral dilemma type of women's lit, I recommend this one.  I would say that in a lot of ways it really rings of "women's lit" though.  Just the stereotypical relationships, characters, etc.  If you've read Picoult or Quindlen or any of the other typical women's lit authors, you've read something similar to this.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Content Stealing Website Update

Remember the post below about how this awful website was stealing RSS feeds from me and basically every other blogger?  Well, I (and a bunch of other bloggers) emailed the site owner, who, as we expected from a spam blog, had no response and didn't take down the pages.  So on Monday, I sent a DMCA letter to the site host.  When I checked yesterday, the site was still stealing feeds, but had changed the format, so the feeds were all mixed up with each other - I guess the owner was hoping that if they didn't quote an entire post, it would fall under fair use.  However, I got an email today while I was at the doctor letting me know that the site has been suspended! 

Thank you to all of you who emailed the owner!  I'm really really proud of us!  Take that, content theives!  Don't mess with Book Hooked Blog (and friends!)! 

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Book Review: Anna and the French Kiss

Yes, I'm back on the YA train.  And reading the IT book of the moment, may I add.  If you do not read other book blogs or completely avoid all things YA, I'll do a quick summary.  Basically a girl is sent to an American school is Paris for her senior year of high school and meets the perfect boy who just so happens to have a girlfriend.  It is contemporary YA, so no fantasy, supernatural or dystopian elements.  Basically just a straightforward romance. 

I have to admit that even though all my friends have been singing its praises, I probably wouldn't have read it if Tameka hadn't sent it to me as part of a Christmas exchange.  I don't usually read contemporary YA romances because I have a hard time taking them seriously.  I have a brother who is a senior in high school and when I think of the main characters as Buddy's age, it's just so young.  Also, it's hard to visualize my baby brother doing the things that teens typically do in YA romances.  My Buddy does not smoke, drink, or sleep around and if he did, God help him.  Because Sugar Bear and I will not allow that.  I can handle teenage "issue" books or dystopian/fantasy romances because they are either not focused on the romance or they are not set in a high school.

I think that's the main reason I was really able to enjoy this one - it's set in a high school, but not the typical high school.  It's a Parisian boarding school, which is so far removed from the usual high school setting that I was able to get past the whole "they are babies!" issue I usually have with a book trying to convince me that 14 year olds have found true love and will now be together forever (not denying it happens, my older brother married his high school sweetheart, but still).  So anyway, once I got into the story I couldn't put it down.  Basically it's just the cutest happiest book ever.  I loved the narrator's voice and I loved all of the characters, even the not-so-nice ones. 

It's an easy read and I don't have much to say on the quality of the writing, other than that it was very authentic.  I believed the narrator was a teen and not an adult trying to sound like a teen.  She was cute and funny and a real person.  The entertainment value is amazing.  Like I said, I couldn't put it down.  I brought it to Bestie this morning so she can read it.  It's the perfect escapist book.  No sad ending, no dealing with serious topics, no messages for the young people, just fun and friendship and cute boys.  I had a hard weekend and this was the perfect, relaxing book to read.  100% recommend it to those who have a sense of humor and can enjoy lighter fare.

Update: Bestie started it last night and is also in love!  Yay for spreading the love for an awesome book!

Monday, February 21, 2011

My new plan for life: super long personal post

So I kind of hit a wall on Friday with basically life in general.  I realized that all my time is spent doing things that I don't really want to do or like to do.  The things that are important to me are pushed to the back because I'm wasting time on little things that I don't really care about.  Basically just floating through life without seriously pursuing anything important.  So Friday night, after my little meltdown at work, Luke took me out to a nice dinner and we talked about what kind of changes we need to make.  I also had a very very good conversation with Bestie about it and some of my online friends. 

What I came up with is a new list of 6 priorities.  These are the things that I care about that are more important the the little time wasters I've been spending my life on.  I'm a MAJOR people pleaser and I have a very very hard time saying no to anything.  But I'm really going to start working on saying no to things that don't fit in with the priority list.  Because that is how I end up spending all my time doing little things that other people, especially co-workers, could very easily do themselves.  So here is my new priority list, in order of importance. 

1.  My relationship with God - spending time praying, reading my Bible, etc.

2.  My marriage - lots of things fall under this priority, but the main one is spending more time with my husband.
3.  My "family" - yes, by this I mean the dogs - training, walking, playing, going to the park, all of that stuff that I love to do and don't make enough time for.

4.  My health - working on my stretches, taking time to rest when I need it, exercising, and eating healthy - and a lot of this goes with spending more time with my husband and our puppies.  I can combine Chief's walking, training, and playing with my own exercise.  For example: this morning Chief and I walked over a mile and worked on his walking without a special "big boy" collar, which he'll have to do in order to be a therapy dog.  Also, my friend Jody wrote an amazing blog series recently on the redemption of her physical body and how major walking way for her.  As Chief and I have been walking the past two weeks, I have really identified with her story more and more.  I'm starting to really enjoy our walks.

5.  My hobbies - reading and crafting/refinishing furniture.  Both are things I love to do that have been suffering lately because I've been letting time wasters get in the way.  I'm pretty much cutting out tv to make these a priority.  I'll still watch with Luke, and occasionally on my own, but I won't just sit down in front of the tv as soon as I get home from work to "see what's on".  Picking two or three shows that we both like and watching those together is plenty.

6.  My house - getting things organized and keeping them that way.  I am a terrible housekeeper.  My house is usually filthy and disorganized.  I do really good at getting it super clean when company is coming over and then within two days it's disgusting again.  I want a clean, organized home that stays in that condition.

So, I'm kind of revising my "resolutions" and changing it to "priorities".  Hopefully, this means I'll be blogging more and saying "no" to the things I don't want to do.  You'll also notice that my job is not a priority.  That is intentional.  I am not placing work and its stresses over my family and happiness anymore.  Luke and I have always maintained that I support our family domestically and Luke supports our family financially.  Not because we think that's the "right" way or that there is a "wrong" way for anyone else, but it's what we want.  So letting my job stress affect my ability to organize the house, enjoy my hobbies, and take care of my husband and family is antithetical to my priorities.  From now on, work stays at work, and I say no to anything other than my 8 hours a day.

What do you guys think, if you read that whole long post?  Any suggestions?  Please feel free to hold me accountable to these priorities.  I want and need people to remind me that my job is not to please other people.  I think I really get the idea of being a servant and wanting to show Christ's humility by serving confused with putting people's opinions above God's.  Yes, it may be "serving" a coworker to stay late at work, but it's not serving my marriage or my spirit.  I need to find a balance. 

Whew.  That was long.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Content Stealing

After reading an awesome series by S. Krishna at S.Krishna's Books on copyright infringement, I decided to set up Google Alerts for my blog.  Today I got an alert, followed the link, and found a spam site that is stealing my RSS Feed.  I'm not so amazed by my own greatness that I'm worried this blog is going to somehow profit from my awesomeness, but I am kind of annoyed that they are trying to use my writing to get site hits for their spam. 

Here is where I get really annoyed.  As I'm looking at the site, I realize that I am seeing the titles of several blogs that I follow also listed.  Then I see that some of my IRL friends' blogs are also listed.  This site is stealing content from basically every blogger I know.  So I tried doing a search for some specific blogs that I know are run by people I follow or who follow me.  All on the site.  I started trying to email everyone to let them know, but the more I look, the more blogs I find.  There's no way I can email everyone.  So I wanted to post this and let you know that it's very likely, if you are a book blogger, that your RSS feeds are being stolen and used on this website. 

I had my awesome husband track down the site and get the owner's email address and the host name and email (or you could just follow the step by step directions on S. Krishna's site).  I am more than happy to provide any of you with the website (which I am not linking on here because I don't want their site getting any more traffic from me) and the email address for the owner and the site host.  Just send me an email (on the sidebar) or leave a comment with your email.  Also please feel free to pass this along - this site is stealing RSS feeds from a LOT of bloggers.

Book Read 'Round The World: Lost On Planet China

Hello, Reader Friends!  I participated in a blog even hosted by Carin at A Little Bookish called Book Read 'Round The World.  Carin is an amazing blogger and set up an unusual book tour - she chose two travel books and arranged for other book bloggers across the world to read the books and mail them to a blogger in another country along with some items that represent where we live.  My post about the experience is up on her blog today, so you can see the awesome things I got from Judith at Leeswammes. After I finished the book, I sent it on to Sabrina from Thinking About Loud.  I won't reveal what I got her on here, but I'll be sure to link to Carin's blog when it's posted.
The tour I participated in was Lost On Planet China by J. Maarten Troost.  Troost is a travel writer who is considering moving his wife and young children to China.  Before making the decision, he decides to spend some time travelling in China to get a feel for the country.  The book records his experiences - both the good and bad.

As I mentioned in the post on Carin's blog, I feel like I have a connection to China through my parents.  I grew up an MK (missionary kid for all of you who aren't southern baptist) and we didn't live in China, but my dad spent several months in China throughout my childhood, smuggling Bibles and meeting with Chinese Christians.  Yeah, my dad's basically the James Bond of Bible smuggling - he's a rock star.  Anyway, I really wanted to post some of his pictures on here, especially those of Xi'an, which is where Troost spends a chapter or so in the book.  No luck though, my parents are on a cruise (what?  missionaries get breaks too) and I don't want to drive out to their house and dig through all their stuff to find the pictures. 

So I'll just stick to my opinions of the book.  Troost is a great travel writer and I recommend him to those anyone who is either new to travel writing or enjoys humorous travelogues.  I'm going to include my criticims, but I have to say that neither bothered me enough to keep me from recommending the book to almost anyone.  Troost is hilarious and I learned a LOT about China and its history in a very entertaining (and not at all dry) format.  I'm looking forward to reading The Sex Lives of Cannibals, which is another travel book I own.  Ok now for my two criticisms:

1) I got tired of hearing how stupid and ignorant and idiotic and ridiculous you have to be to be a political conservative.  In a political book, this would have been fine.  But it's a book about China, and at times I wanted the author to stop telling me what a moron I am (yep, Republican, right here!) for disagreeing with him politically and just tell me about China.  Again, it didn't bother me enough to stop reading or to not recommend, and if you're not one of the idiots he's talking about, you might not even notice.

2)  I also felt like there were times in the book that the author really toed the line on treating the Chinese with respect.  Pointing out discrepancies between a Western and Eastern culture is fine, but there were a few moments in the book where I really felt like the author was judging an entire culture based on a Euro/American-centric point of view. 

Sunday, February 13, 2011

In My Mailbox (13) + my take on all the drama

No vlog this week and here's why:

That's my elbow.  I fell at the park today and hurt my elbows and knees and after coming home and bathing the dogs, I decided I had been through enough and deserved a nap.  So now I'm bruised and sleepy and my hair is dirty and I don't want to wash it or put on clothes, so you're getting pictures instead of a video.

This week I got three books
(**note: the links will take you to Goodreads, where you can find a summary of the books as well as links to various stores for purchase.)

And now to address the dramz.  Or more accurately to not address the dramz.  I plan to say this once and then leave it because there is nothing I hate more than childish drama and it is going around in so many forms on book blogs right now.  Lots of people are writing posts defending book blogging, and this is by no means a criticism of those blogs, but.  You will not be finding a defense of book blogging on my site and here is why: I don't need to defend book blogging in general or my blog in particular. 

If an author is unhappy with ARCs and book blogs in general, he or she is free to never send me an ARC and that will neither encourage or discourage my reading of the author's work.  Authors do not owe me anything.  On the other hand, anyone who wants to send me an ARC will receive my great appreciation and an honest review of the book.  It's that simple.  Regardless of ARCs, I will continue to read and review.  I love getting them, but I buy more than enough books and I have a membership to the library, and I'd be just fine without them as well.  I will continue to blog about them and continue to A) like them or B) dislike them and say why whether or not I get free books. 

If another book blogger does not like the way I blog, the memes I participate in, or the style I use, he or she is also free to not follow or read this blog.  I love my followers and appreciate each one, but I'm not blogging for followers (as you can see from my numbers), I'm blogging for myself.  So thank you for reading and appreciating to those of you who do, and no hard feelings to those who don't. 

It seems like a lot of the drama is being stirred up by the idea that a blog or a book is the entire identity of the blog or book.  My blog is not who I am.  Reading books and loving them enough to share them with others is part of who I am, and this blog is a representation of that.  But this blog is not me.  It's a hobby.  If I couldn't blog or shut this blog down, I would still be the exact same person.  So if an author or another blogger isn't a fan of my blog, I don't take that personally.  This is not my career, this is not my life, this is a hobby and I'm thinking that applies to most bloggers.

My only suggestion to other bloggers is to write what you like and don't make the mistake of feeling like your blog is a definition of who you are.  Don't feel the need to read all the posts about how you should blog and what font you should use and whether or not you should do memes...just enjoy what you're doing.  That's my plan!  I will leave you all with happy thoughts of rainbows and unicorns from my favorite childhood artist:

Friday, February 11, 2011

Blog Hop!

It's been a while since I participated in the Blog Hop at Crazy For Books, so I thought this would be a good week to hop back by and say hello!  This week our topic is:

"Tell us about one of your posts from this week and give us a link so we can read it (review or otherwise)!"

I've gone through a series of slow reads, so I only had two reviews this week.  But I'll never miss a chance to AW my new bookcases!  Luke gave them to me for my birthday and I spent about a week and a half arranging and rearranging until I had them perfect.  You can see them here!

Please leave a comment and a link to your own blog if you stop by - I'd love to hop over and see what your answer is!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Presidential Challenge: George Washington

Yes, Reader Friends, I finally finished it.  His Excellency and I spent much longer together than I typically spend with books (2 weeks!) but I'm so glad to have read the book.  I was a few days late finishing it (planned to finish in January) and obviously even later posting, but better late than never.  I'll be sending Jacki my link tonight, and you can click here to see the Challenge Page.

No complaints here.  It's obvious that the author did his research and his documentation is thorough.  Although I think the book is accessible to the average reader, it's still an academic work.  While I found it much more interesting (and informative) thank a textbook, it wasn't a fast, easy read for me by any means.  It took thought and analysis and I appreciated that greatly.  If you're willing to put in some effort to learn a lot of fascinating things about American history, this is a great one to try.

Obviously, we're looking at a book about the history and character of our first President, so it doesn't read like a thriller or YA novel.  I wasn't on the edge of my seat at work during the day wondering what would happen to GW next, but this was still a fascinating read.  I especially enjoyed the French and Indian War through the American Revolution, but I have to admit that it did drag for me some around the Constitutional Convention.  I started off with a little bit of a crush on GW - he was totally Jack Bauer in the French and Indian War and American Revolution.  Someone needs to be scalped?  Ok, if that's what it takes.  He even had an advisor named George Mason...coincidence?  I think not.

Once we were done with the exciting part of forming our nation, we got into the Constitutional Congress, which I have to say was a little less interesting for me.  The last half of the book was harder for me to read and dry at places, but I'm not sure that it's not just my lack of interest in politics.  However, the slow parts didn't take away from the overall experience for me.  I don't know nearly as much as I need to about American history as I should, so this project is a great opportunity to learn.  Since I plan to homeschool once we have children, it's really important that I know these things about the foundation of our country.  And for me as well, I want to be an educated part of society and this is a great way to continue my education even though I'm done with school.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Book Review: The Winter of Our Disconnect

The Winter of Our Disconnect is the story of a single mother who decides that she and her three teenagers will spend a six-month season (fall through spring in Australia) completely unplugged.  She cancels their tv service, cell phone service, internet service, and removes everything with a screen from the house (including ipods, phones, gaming devices, televisions, and computers).  They can use computers as needed at school and at the public library, but nothing with a screen is allowed in the house.  It's a great premise for a book (which the author acknowledges she chose as a book premise as opposed to a "we just decided to do this" kind of thing).  Intermingled with the account of their completely wireless winter are background and research on the generation growing up dependant on digital media.

This book was alternately frustrating and enlightening for me.  At first, I found myself really aggravated by the idea that the "digital age" is somehow inherently bad.  The internet, especially, can be used in so many amazing ways.  Like anything else, it's something that requires self-control.  My initial impression was that the author somehow thought that the existence of the internet, mp3s, etc was somehow responsible for her children being unable to stop texting, watching, facebooking, etc.  Like any other form of entertainment, it's not "cable tv" or "the internet" that is responsible for over-use.  That's a self-control issue on the part of the person using it.

I also really felt like she used the whole "digital realm" as a scape-goat for what, in my opinion, was a lack of parenting.  If your teenage children are spending too much time in front of a screen, an easy way to fix that is to take it away.  If you don't want your kids to spend all their time holed up in the bedroom with the TV, don't give your kids a TV in the bedroom.  Place time limits on computer use.  Don't buy them a cell phone.  It just seems like common sense to me. 

However, I realized about halfway through that my opinion was coming from a pretty privileged viewpoint.  My parents were strict about how much time we spent on the computer, watching tv, etc.  But my parents were not divorced and my mom didn't work outside of the home.  So, around the halfway point, it really hit me how impossibly hard those rules are to enforce if you can't be home to monitor it.  Also, I have to remind myself that I am not a parent and that any judgments I pass down now will come back to haunt me the second I have kids.  I do, however, maintain that teens don't need tvs, computers, or cell phones in their bedrooms.  The vast majority of the world is getting along just fine without those things, along with electricity, shelter, and clean drinking water.  I promise, teens will be ok if they have to watch tv in the family room.  So that was enlightenment #1.

My second annoyance was the fact that I love the internet and my cell phone.  I'm a big girl and learned self-control a long time ago (except when it comes to chocolate).  I don't watch tons of tv and I don't live my life on the internet, but I have used it for some very important things - like getting my graduate degree.  Also, obviously blogging and reading other people's blogs.  And I used the internet to find some of my very best friends through an online book club.  My husband and I used the internet to meet other people in our city who have Great Danes and now we schedule play dates for our dogs.  I also love being able to use my phone to immediately look up a word or reference in a book that I don't know.  There are so many awesome things you can do online that really do encourage you to live your life, and not just virtually.  I originally felt like the positives were neglected by the author.

Major enlightenment #2 however, came with that frustration.  There are times when I find myself doing things online that I know I shouldn't be doing (especially texting while driving).  There is a feeling of pressure, like if I don't check Twitter RIGHT NOW I might be missing a conversation that I NEED to be a part of.  Or if I'm not checking my message boards every day and posting a certain amount, my friends might forget I exist.  Or if I don't reply to this text message this second, even though the light is green and traffic is heavy, I might miss something important.  Also, while I'm really good about not having my phone on me 24/7, my husband is not.  I would love to go out to dinner without the appearance of the iphone, even if it's being used to look up ingredients on the menu or movie showtimes for after dinner.  Knowing your husband is checking his Facebook updates takes away from the romance.

As far as the book itself is concerned, I think it was well done.  I liked the writing and had no issues with the author's research.  It really makes a book for me when an author presents their research well and cites their sources - and this author did an excellent job of that.  She does provide a mostly balanced look at technology and how it is changing culture, although it does lean towards the critical.  The criticisms, however, fit well with the nature of the book and the premise behind the plot. 

I can't say the book didn't drag in a few spots, but it wasn't boring, if that makes sense.  It was like a lot of research-driven non-fiction in places - somewhat dry and full of facts, but interesting facts.  It took me longer to read than it typically takes to read a memoir, but I think the presence of all the research and facts balanced that out.  One minor annoyance - the author uses internet lingo and emoticons liberally.  I'm not a fan of older people trying to sound young.  Then I realized, I am over 25 and I still use those things as well.  I am well on my way to becoming that person.  Enlightenment #3.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

The New Bookcases

I had to order a new charger for my camera, but it came this weekend, which means I finally have decent quality pictures of the new bookcases!  I'm not doing IMM this week, so enjoy these pictures instead (and a few of the puppies at the end)

This is now officially the library.  In the future, the short case on the right will be as tall as the others, we're waiting for the other pieces to come in.
I was asked to say some things about how my shelving works, so I'll put in a few paragraphs at the bottom.  I'll talk about the basics and then feel free to ask me any questions in the comments (That was you can skip if you're not interested).   

My graduation present from Luke -  I have a Willow Tree obsession.

My library imperative - PS I covered the books myself and will post a tutorial on that at some point.  I also did the letters and the birds myself (spray painted them, not actually made them)

More bookcases

Shelves on the walls opposite the bookcases on either side of the window.  Can you see the theme I'm going for here?  I picked up the small German prayer book at the library sale and the gorgeous antique covers at the TN Antiquarian Book Fair.

More covers and shelves.

And now the pups...

Contrary to what Luke likes to say, I do occasionally pick up poop.  Here is photographic evidence.  And yes, I wear rain boots to the dog park.  If you've ever been to the dog park, I'm sure you understand.  Don't judge.

On the back deck with Dexter.

And my baby Chief.

Chief is my tiny baby and Dex is the big brother - although we think Chief may just outgrow Dex within the next few months.

On my shelving system:

First of all, this takes I think it took me about a week of working on it for an hour or so a day to get it the way I want it. I still walk through and rearrange from time to time. Obviously I started with black, went to red, and then through the rainbow and ended with a row of white. The short cases on the right have my signed books, first editions, and some series books. The short cases on the left have my Amerca's Best Short Stories series and my America's Best Non-Required Reading series and a few box sets. Another case in the room holds books I need to review and the rest of my series books.

I started by separating my books by color and pulling out the ones that had too much variety in spine color. Those are shelved in the office. Then I started shelving and arranged and re-arranged as I went. Again, this will take you a very long time. Especially if you have a lot of books. I cataloged as I shelved and this one unit holds almost 500 books - so be prepared to spend some time on it!

This isn't as effective a method for locating books as arranging by alphabet, genre, etc. but it looks amazing.  I still have art above the bookcase, but I'm taking it down as soon as I get around to it.  I think it takes the place of a lot of decorating in the room - and I get tons of compliments on it.  I'm still deciding about knick-knack type things on the shelves and how to arrange them and whether or not to leave some empty space just because the color is so eye-catching, I don't want it to feel cluttered.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Not Book Related: Accent Poll Vlog

Aunt, Route, Wash, Oil, Theater, Iron, Salmon, Caramel, Fire, Water, Sure, Data, Ruin, Crayon, Toilet, New Orleans, Pecan, Both, Again, Probably, Spitting image, Alabama, Lawyer, Coupon, Mayonnaise, Syrup, Pajamas, Caught

What is it called when you throw toilet paper on a house?
What is the bug that when you touch it, it curls into a ball?
What is the bubbly carbonated drink called?
What do you call gym shoes?
What do you say to address a group of people?
What do you call the kind of spider that has an oval-shaped
body and extremely long legs?
What do you call your grandparents?
What do you call the wheeled contraption in which you carry
groceries at the supermarket?
What do you call it when rain falls while the sun is shining?
What is the thing you change the TV channel with?

Book Review: The Idiot Girl And The Flaming Tantrum of Death

After finishing The Distant Hours, I was in the mood for something completely different.  I was feeling like no fiction could ever compare to the beauty of what I had just read, so I picked up another volume of humorous essays by Laurie Notaro.  Notaro is one of my favorite humor writers (comparable to Jen Lancaster if you are familiar with her writing) and this book completely lived up to my expectations.  Notaro is a writer who can take a story about ridiculous life experience that all of us go through and make them hilarious.  She defines herself as The Idiot Girl in an earlier book, and this book includes the story of The Flaming Tantrum of Death, in which she (unsuccessfully) attempts to be bad-ass while driving a Prius.  We are also treated to her experiences with laser hair removal, airplane coughers, and the Discovery Health Channel.

It's really hard to separate the writing quality from the entertainment value in humor.  If humor writing is done well, it's entertaining, which I don't think is always the case with other genres.   Anyway, my point is that this book is flat out hilarious, which makes it, in my mind, both well written and entertaining.  It's humor, so don't expect any deep, life altering revelations, but if you need a laugh this is the one to pick.  If you haven't read anything by Notaro before, I suggest you start with The Idiot Girl's Action Adventure Club or Autobiography of a Fat Bride, both of which give a better introduction to the author.  My favorite by the author has been We Thought You Would Be Prettier, which is about her experiences on a book tour, but I still think reading the other two first is the best idea.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

January Summary

The first month of the year is officially over, which means it's time for me to see how I've done so far with my goals/resolutions and to post my reading stats for the year!

Physically: I haven't lost any weight, but I've been eating healthier and making more of an effort to play with the dogs outside when the weather has allowed.

Academically: I've brought my stack of American Libraries that need to be read in to work and I'm reading them during any breaks I have.  I read at least two good articles during January - one on using therapy dogs in a library setting, which I plan to do with Chief.

Spiritually: Daily quiet time is always a struggle.  Going ok, but not great.  We visited a new church on Sunday and it was a strange experience after spending the last three years at a church where EVERYONE knows me and has known me since I was four.  Not being known is kind of nice though.

Socially: Crystal came up for my birthday party this month and next month we are planning a shower for some of the pregnant nestie besties

I read 8 books towards my goal of 100 and have reviewed all of them but two.  I've read 2401 pages and spent $0 on books I've actually read.  I've saved $92.88 by reading books I own, borrowed, or were given to me for review.