Wednesday, June 3, 2015

The Kindle Project

After looking at my TBR pile in my kindle app, I decided action was needed!  I had hundreds of perfectly awesome books wasting away.  Thing is, I get indecision paralysis, coupled with extreme mother-tiredness, which means that when the kids are in bed I don't make decisions well about what to read.  Facebook easy; book hard - is what my brain tells me late at night, and this is so even when my recent reading for the past couple of years has been mostly zombie novels.

So I'm getting active on my TBR pile.  About a week ago, I started The Kindle Project.  I start at the beginning of my kindle pile, and read everything in the order they fall!  I'm trusting myself - if I bothered to put a book on my kindle app, I must have seen something in it that I might like.  So just read it!

Here's the first screen.  It's the first of 18 screen shots, so with a bit of overlap, it's still hundred of books.  I've seen a couple of double ups as well, so I'll delete those as I go.  I'm giving myself permission to not finish a book if it's eye-pokingly awful, but I have to give it a chapter or two at least first.  No skipping without a good reason.

I've got some wide ranging tastes here, and because these are at the very start of the pile, some have been on my to be read list for years (I'm looking at you, Sedaris).

One other thing, I had already started re-reading The Stand when I took the shot, it is officially the first book in The Kindle Project!  I'm already up to Thinking Fast and Slow!  I've been loving the Project so far, it's so easy not to have to decide what the hell to read next, and to kind of beat the "waaaa, I don't FEEL like it!" of books that require brain power.  

I'll be doing some reviews again here too, so it's been good for rekindling (get it?) the book thing in my brain.  See you round the blog!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Oh look, a whole year went by!

And here I sit again to ponder reading and this blog.  I'm having thoughts, definite thoughts, about blogging here more, so let's see what transpires between this post and January 2016...

I wonder.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Can you spy a "Resolution"?

Hi, book blogging world!  I'm keen to read a little more thoughtfully this shiny new year, so am bringing Shaggy Dog out of retirement!

I've updated some lists, checked them twice, and am ready for more reading, and more blogging about reading, in 2014.

I've been in a zombie wasteland lately, so plan to write more about that, because decent zombie reviews can be hard to find.  I've got a few goals around broadening some of my reading this year, and picking up some more modern stuff so I'm not too hopelessly outdated.

I hope you're still out there, and will read along with me.  Looking forward to reading some of my old book blogging friends out there on the Interwebz.  Happy New Year!

Me and my Snow White in Central Park, October 2013.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

11/22/93, Stephen King

Before reviewing this book, I freely confess that I pre-ordered this goodie, and that I'm a die-hard King fan.  I think he's one of the greatest American writers working today, with his smooth sociological captures of slice after slice of American life, and American fears.  In fact, I'd probably go so far as to say he's my favourite author.  So I was keen to get stuck into this book.

But I just didn't love this.  Sure, Under the Dome was wordy, and underwhelming (it felt all too same-y to me, like nothing new had been said), but I rollicked through it.  King's opus about the Kennedy assassination (now with more time travel!! [TM]) mostly just dragged. 

Some bits, I loved.  But they were few and far between in a book that should have been a novella at most.  And this is from a woman who scoffs at the usual "King needs an editor" comments.  I love the wordy details of King's worlds.  I love the minute details, the small, almost private insights.  The complicated tie-ins.  11/22/93 needed a good edit.  Down to a quick 250 page "novella" at least.

So, what' it all about?  In a spoiler-free way, the plot goes thus: Jake Epping, a mild-mannered teacher from middle America, is introduced to a "time bubble" that allows a traveller to go back to an exact date and time in 1958.  And to step forward again, exactly 2 minutes after they left in the present time.  Trick is, every time you travel, it's a "reset" - back to the same time and place, as if you'd never been there before.

So, as you can tell from the novel's title [I can't resist pointing out that in Australia, the title would be 22/11/63], the novel centres around Jake's efforts to prevent the Kennedy assassination in Dallas, thus *saving America*, and so forth.

Okay, great idea!  But it was a long, long, long way to get there.

**Major SPOILERS follow**

There are three main arcs to the story: the first is an "I'm going to kill a murderer to prevent them doing the deed and killing their family," story.  This serves as our set up for being able to do the same to Lee Harvey Oswald when the time comes.  This part of the book was a gripping tale, and has some loose tie-ins to Derry and it's previous characters.  It felt like a traditional King "horror that lies within us" story, and as such, was probably the most successful part of the book, for me.

The second main arc is Jake's long journey to Dallas, via teaching in a small-town and falling in love with a woman with a crazy ex, while keeping very close tabs on Oswald in minute (and I mean minute) detail.  Parts of this arc just sing, the small town life, the love story - this is one of the things I love about King: he sees the nuances of human action and relationships, and manages to communicate them to us.

Parts of this section just drag, though, and in some of the tiny details about Oswald's life I had to stop myself from skimming [sacrilege!!  And I LOVE Stephen King!].  I think this dragging feeling might be due to the effort to make the details as accurate and well researched as possible.  And that the whole section should have been shortened to about 50 pages, instead of the hundreds that it ran to. It didn't make for gripping story-telling.  I did learn more about Oswald and his life and motivations, but parts felt more like a dry historical tome than a novel.

The third (and briefest) arc is the return to current times to see what happened as a result of Jake/George's meddling.  This was under-done.  There was an unconvincing and convenient conversation about time travel with an observer-type, that frankly if it had happened sensibly at the first trip Jake took would have prevented the whole novel from happening.  There was an easy-out "bad" society description (*look, society is bad and kids are mean to people, and also...pollution!*), and some of the decisions taken on the world stage if Kennedy had lived felt false, and were skipped over as a kind of "time travel causes bad stuff, just coz it does! effect.  Disappointing.  After all the details and effort of telling a time-alteration story, why not dwell more convincingly on what might happen next?  The convenience of the "don't meddle with time, it's bad, okay?" plot-line was shallow and disappointing.  I wanted a more nuanced finish: what would really have happened?

I would far rather King has wrestled with the issue of traveling back to save the woman he loved, at the expense of everything else, than get out of time-travel jail free with a "whoops, causes harmonic issues, thing turn out badly," woo-woo ending. 

Overall, this is one of the only King books I've been disappointed in.  Read it if you're a King fan, or a Kennedy buff, otherwise this might be one to skip.  By the end, I was too frustrated and full of plot critique to enjoy the moderately decent end.

Read on Kindle for iPad.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Book Party!

Earlier this week, I held a book party.  What's a book party you ask?  It's a happy occasion I made up, where you're getting rid of about half your books and need a prodding helping hand.  Why might I need a hand? 

Well, here is what my books used to look like:

This is Lolly "catching a possum", a year ago, but shows a fair few of my books, there's another four bookcases you can't see in this shot, and some more upstairs (and a few boxes we didn't unpack).  Yup.  Ahem.  Kind of a lot. 

Here is what the precious-es have looked like since April, when we packed them (loosely speaking) and schlepped them upstairs.


Our long ongoing renovation meant we were going to store heaps of books til we moved, but then decided that we had a gazillionty of them in digital form, and we should *gasp* get rid of the hard copies.  This took me months of thinking on it to agree to.  I LOVE books, and always loved having them out, I want a giant library one day.  But, really?  Books take up space, most of these books we will never read again, some were just plain crappy, and most of them I can read online, often for free.  So, I really had to think about why I was keeping them round at all.  Why is it we need to display things like books for public consumption?  Or our own consumption. And why is this tied to our self-concept so tightly (in my case, that is). 

Anyhoo, navel-gazing aside, you can see why I might need a hand sorting them.  The pile is huge, and the mental issues, likewise.

So, I asked some lovely friends and their kids to come over to play, to lend a hand, either physically or in moral support, and now the books look like this:

Books to keep, and collectibles

Kids books (to go back out on shelves) and DVDs.

So, thanks, muscly friends (both physically and morally), for helping me do a task I was really struggling with.  And making it a good day. 

Also posted at Memo To Self, my 'life' blog!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Now with more zombies!

Did you know...that when life is busy, and maybe hard, but mostly just life, possibly with a capital L, that reading gets short attention, and blogging about reading, even shorter.

And did you also know, that if you're me (so, okay, you possibly didn't know this) that when things are...hard...or let's say, life-like, that you get stuck in a reading rut, and stick somewhat stubbornly to genres and books that involve as little thought as possible?

Because that would totally explain why I've read nothing but zombie-post-apocalyptic books since...hmmm, April or so, rather than my 1001 list goals, or, indeed, anything other than books with the undead in them.  There must also be blood and brains. 

There is some wonderful psycho-analytic post in here about why zombies are the flavour of the year, and why I have such an undying love for the post-apocalypse, but that post shall wait for another day [or quiet possibly never].  I think it has something to do with the fact when you're dealing with shit all day, reading anything with real life in it is just. too. much.

Zombie guts are better. 
coz I am, totally, I've read ALL the books.
I'll review some of them, though.  Soon!

 [image credit]

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

World War Z, Max Brooks

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War, is a startlingly clever read, using a series of oral-history interviews with a range of World War Z survivors from around the world to illustrate a whole lot that is wrong with our current society: the attitudes and actions of the conservatives in the West; class and racial divisions; terrorism; environmental degradation; the inherent selfishness of our surburban lives; the weaknesses of capitalism; our attachment to objects and technology; and...but wait there's more [steak knives!].

You can read this book as a macabre adventure tale of the zombie rise and epic human resistance, told in riveting vignettes.  And as a powerful critique of how humanity is facing our current crises and divisions, and how that might work out for us...or not.

There is some classic post-apocalyptic insights into the human soul here, some detailed and fascinating characterisation, as well as sweeping political summary and critique.  The chilling "last stand" at Yonkers (complete with press pandering and the futility of mass armament in the face of terror[ism]) is pretty masterful stuff, as is its counterpoint, the heroic and mechanically awful battle at Hero as America reclaims itself. Another of my favourites was the close telling of one air-woman's story, trapped behind the lines and increasingly desperate; and the tale of a blind warrior in Japan and his faith in the core of his country. 

There are women warriors, child warriors, blind warriors, armies in the "third" world, struggles in China, the novel takes us around the globe, big and small, working through the "history" of WWZ, from the first gory rise of the Zombie virus (cleverly mirroring the supposed development and reaction/lack thereof to HIV) and its spread, to the collapse of civilisation, to the rallying and defence, to the "victory" stages where the threat is largely defeated and humanity is cautiously peeking out from under the covers. 

I really liked this book, in it's simplicities and it's complexities.  I'll be reading it again soon to pick up more of that juicy social and political critique layer.  Be warned before reading: there is some full on zombie slaughter, it's not for the faint of stomach.


Another read on Kindle for iPad.