Friday, January 31, 2014

Super Bowl Time!

Hello all, I do have ramblings and reviews to do I promise, it's just that one of my ramblings is going to be a combo of two books one of which I am still in the middle of, I have one book I just can't seem to finish, and the other three are all equally good so instead of actually finishing one I am just rotating through them.  This sadly means a gap in the ramblings, but happily means a whole ton in a row after this weekend (if you like that sort of thing).  Speaking of this weekend SUPER BOWL! Sadly my poor Ravens and there ravaged team did not even make it to the play offs this year but that is ok 'cause my SEAHAWKS are in, and those Broncos are ok too :-)
Seahawks Stadium
Seahawks Love
Seahawks Hometown
Watch the Broncos
Book Bronco
Broncos Hometown
I will obviously be rooting for my hometown team the Seahawks (I may be an East Coaster now, but my heart will forever be in the North West).  We will be having friends, food and fun and hopefully get to sneak in a little reading time between shifts and games.  Happy Reading Everybody!

Who are you rooting for?  Do you watch for the game or the commercials?  What book do you keep with you to read while you watch?

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Brothers And Sisters

My lil sis has been posting videos and pics of her two sons and I have to say I love how much they adore each other.  My other two nephews are also very tight...which made me then want to call my siblings and have awesome conversations with all of them.  I love that no matter how far apart we are we are still each others best friends (and best enemies on occasion).  I love my Hubbin and his brother are close and I love that this sibling bond is being taught to the next generations in our families. My Daddy used to tell every day when we left the house, watch out for each other, then you will always have each other and this is true to this day.  Here are some of my favorite books/series that feature a some sort of sibling relationship.
Little Women by Lousia May Alcott- This has always been one of my favorite books, mostly 'cause the sisters and their relationship is very similar to the one I have with my two sisters.  We still play, fight, talk, get jealous of, tease, console and are always there for each other, the addition of my brothers wife, and my SIL have just added to the feeling of sisterly bonding that this book embodies.  And I have to imagine that my brother felt a wee bit like Laurie growing up, having to deal with all the girls with no brothers to help him out :-) (I know Laurie wasn't their real brother, but he may as well have been).
Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling-There are several examples of siblings and their various relationships throughout the books.  There is the interwoven Black family with Bellatrix and Nacissa, there is Hagrid and his giant half brother, there is the twins Padma and Parvati, there are the Creevy brothers, but of course my favorites are the Weasley children. Again the chaos, lack of money and abundance of love remind me of my own wild and wonderful family, even their "adopting" of Harry is similar to what my parents did on a regular basis.  I love that the boys are all different, yet when push comes to shove they are there for each other, and they are all so wonderfully protective of Ginny...who could probably out hex them all.  I even liked that the author put in a falling out with Percy and the rest of the family ('cause this actually happens in a lot of families) and the pain it caused and the reconciliation at the end of the series.  Love this family!
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis- Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy were the first characters that I made my siblings play in games while we were growing up (with Edmund being turned into Edwina 'cause we had three girls and one boy).  I always identified with the four kids going off and having adventures, turning on each other, fighting, making up, bossing each other, it always felt so real...'cause that is how me and my siblings acted.  It always made this book feel all that much more possible and many a hide and seek game was arranged in the fervent hope that one of us would stumble upon a magic world to share with the others. I think that by creating a play world for ourselves we did eventually find our magic, and it persists to this day.
Fablehaven by Brandon Mull-This series features a brother and sister duo.  I love reading about brother sister duo's 'cause it has all the elements of guys and girls...without the stupid romance part.  You can have the snarky back and forth, you can have the love and protectiveness, you can have the special bond and the unique angst all without the inaneness that comes with certain romances.  This series sums up all the above with an adventure twist.  Kendra is the quintessential young teenaged older sister, bossy, a bit angsty, a bit self absorbed but fiercely protective if not annoyed with her little brother.  Seth...well Seth could have been based on my brother.  Seth is an 11 year old boy through and through, he does things without thinking of the consequences, likes to think that he is fearless, and would do anything to help his sister. The two of them are very realistic as far as siblings go, and the books show their relationship grow and change as the series progresses.
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austin-I like the sisters in this book because it shows that as much as you may love all your don't have to like them all equally.  Elizabeth is very clear in her preference for Jane and Lydia and Kitty may as well be best friends as well as siblings.  The other sibling relationships in this book are far from perfect as well, the Bingley sisters (especially Caroline) trying to bend their poor sweet brother to their matrimonial plans is both amusing and unfortunately way to common. Mrs. Bennets dependence on her sister Mrs. Philips for gossip and consolation and her utter need for her brother Mr. Gardiner when life gets tough shows the various dynamics one can play in a sibling role.  Of course the sweetest sibling relationship is between Mr. Darcy and his much younger sister Georgianna.  This one is different because the age difference makes it much more of a protector/protectee then one of companionship.

I could go on and on and on, there are so many books that explore the various meanings of siblingship.  There are full-blooded siblings, half siblings, adopted siblings, step-siblings, foster siblings.  Stories where the relationship is good, stories where it is bad, stories where it is indifferent.  I chose stories about fairly healthy relationships here because I am missing all my sibs today and want to focus on the happy.  Maybe later I will do a post about some not so healthy sibling relationships (I'm looking at you Jamie and Cersie).  I hope this has inspired you to call, text, message or skywrite your sibling(s) today and let them know that even though they are always wrong, you really love them and could not imagine life without them. Bubby, lil sis and baby sis, I love you guys so much!!!!!!!!

Do you have any siblings?  Do you like them?  Do you bond over Harry Potter books in the geekiest way possible like me and mine do? What is your favorite story of siblings?

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

I'm Done

I'm done with the bitter cold, I'm done with work, I'm done with being stuck inside.  I'm done with stupid politics and the media who reports on all the inane and buries the good stuff.  I'm done with selfish people, I'm done with stupid drivers who cut me off and then go 10 mph below the speed limit. I'm done with people not doing what they said they would do.  I'm just done!
So if anybody needs me I will be curled up in my chair, ignoring the real world and hiding out in the various places created for me by the wonderful folk we call authors.  Unless you are bringing me coffee, please do not disturb :-)  Happy Reading Everybody!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014


A bit of random book/reading humor to brighten up a cold and grey day.

Happy Reading Everybody!

Monday, January 27, 2014

It's A Major Award

This weekend in addition to running and freezing my hinny off at the station, I also received an award for what I am pretty sure is being the bossiest broad in the Department.  They were reading all these little blurbs about us, how the police officer of the year was heroic, and the firefighter of the year was multi-talented and a hard worker, the teachers were all creative and giving and I according to my peers am "the first to take control in any situation"...which just a nice way to say she's a bossy lady :-)  Speaking of awards (did you like that segue? I'm starting to get a bit better) books get awards too!  There are a lot of them out there for various reasons, some are helpful, some are weird, but mostly it is nice to be recognized as an author so here is a quick guide to some of the more well known awards out there.
The Newbery Medal- This one of the first awards people might recognize as it is given to "The most distinguished contribution to American literature for children".  This one is not a popularity contest, but selected based on a committee of children's librarians and various other people connected to the book world.  Here are some books that have won this award. (Caddie Woodlawn, The Witch of Blackbird Pond, A Wrinkle in Time, Bridge to Terabithia, The Tale of Despereaux)
The Hugo Awards-This is actually several awards one for each 14 current categories, the most well known being the novel, short story and graphic novel categories. This award is given to books in the science fiction and/or fantasy genre's.  The award is given after attending member of the Worldcon have voted from the selection of nominees in each category. A few previous winners. (Dune, Ender's Game, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, American Gods, The Windup Girl)
The Bram Stoker Award-This is just one of many awards named after premier authors in a specific genre. This award as you can probably get is presented by the Horror Writers Association for the best dark fantasy or horror in several categories.  One of the cool things about this award as it is a less of best of and more about achievement, allowing for newer or overlooked authors to take center stage.  A few winners (Misery, The Silence of the Lambs, Lost Boy Lost Girl, The Lovely Bones, Heart-Shaped Box)
Pulitzer Prize-Probably the most recognized of the American literary awards.  There are about a zillion categories for both individuals, newspapers, authors, poets, and so on and so forth. This award carries great prestige and is selected very carefully from a very large amount of entrants.  Here are some winners that you may recognize. (Age of Innocence, The Grapes of Wrath, To Kill A Mockingbird, The Color Purple, Beloved)
Nebula Award-Ok I know I already put a scifi/fantasy prize in here...but this is what I read the most of so these awards mean the most to me so here is the Nebula award which is given out by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.  The nomination process is pretty open, any book published in English is eligible with no restricting rules on what constitutes a specific genre.  Again this award has several categories with a winner in each.  Here are some winners for you to peruse.  (Flowers for Algernon, The Dispossessed, The Forever War, Dragonrider, Beggers in Spain)

These are just a few of the numerous awards out there recognizing authors and their support crews on their hard work and imagination.  These awards can be very helpful in launching a career, or introducing a reader to a new book.  That being said, books like any other form of art are a very personal thing, and just because a book won an award does not mean you have to like it. So go pick up a book and support an author today. Happy Reading Everybody!

Do awards influence your reading selection?  What book has won an award that turned out not to your liking?  What awarded book was better then expected?  What awards should I hand out at my own awards ceremony, coming to a post soon?

Friday, January 24, 2014

This Makes Us All Cranks

Still cold, so so so cold, was at the station running calls in the cold and ice, so so so so so cold. I usually don't mind the cold, but this is excessive and it is making me might even say I'm a Crank...which by the way happens to be what the crazy people are called in the Maze Runner series by James Dashner of which I just happened to finish the last book The Death Cure...which also made me a cranky Crank (do you like my babbling segues today?). Anyways  lets get to it, as always SPOILERS AHEAD!

When we last left our tortured her Thomas he had just been "rescued" by WICKED a group that is supposedly working on a cure for a deadly disease by torturing teenagers.  Thomas is finally released from his padded cell and reunited with his fellow torturees.  The apparent head Doc whom the group calls Ratface informs them that they are almost to the last step of the cure and that they will now give them there memories back (remember part of the whole maze deal was that there memories got swiped).  Thomas along with his fellow Gladers Minho and Newt decide that they don't trust WICKED to put back their original memories and decide to stay clueless about there past.  This leads to a confrontation with Ratman who has decided that they don't get a choice in the matter. He tells them that one of the reasons that they were all chosen for this torture experiment is that most of them are immune to the Flare and that they are trying to map their brains to see why they are immune.  We also find out that Newt is one of the non immune, he gives Thomas a letter and tells him not to open it until the time is right.  Thomas is restrained and taken to get his memories back when he spots Brenda (a friend he made while slogging through the scorch) who with the help of Jorge (another Scorch friend) helps the boys escape.  They end up in Denver where a Flare outbreak is decimating the city.  They also learn that Immunes have been disappearing all over the place and that WICKED is going to start the Trials over again as they did not seem to get the information they were looking for. As they are running around the city they find out about a group called the Right Arm, a quasi-military group who is very anti WICKED and join them.  Meanwhile Newt has started to go crazy because of the Flare and sends Minho and Thomas away.  Later Thomas remembers the note and reads it, the contents essentially ask Thomas to kill Newt when he starts going crazy. Next time he encounters Newt, Thomas does as he wishes and kills him. The group eventually hooks up with the rest of their friends and plans an attack on WICKED.  Thomas goes in alone as Ratman has told him that he is the final candidate and that his brain holds the last piece of the puzzle for the cure for Flare.  The point is for Thomas to get in and plant a device that renders all weapons useless and then be rescued by the Right Arm.  Unfortunately Ratman has other plans, turns out that the final piece of the puzzle is literally Thomas's brain, that they in fact have to cut it out and dissect it, meaning Thomas would die. Thomas is put under and he wakes up in an empty room with nothing but an envelope with his name on it containing instructions on how to get the captive Immunes and escape with them to a preprepared place.  Explosions, fighting and death occur, but in the end Thomas, Minho, Brenda, Jorge, Teresa, and all the rest of the Immunes are transported to a peaceful meadow like area where they can start a new life and eventually repopulate the world with other little Immunes.  In a final epilogue memo we find out that the government purposely released the Flare virus as a means of population control after the devastating sun flare.  The memo also goes on to state that while the attempt to find a cure was noble, a second try was not worth it and that the author of the memo was sending the Immunes somewhere safe.  And so ends our long and torturous journey of pointlessness.
I actually found this book to be a tad less problematic then the previous two. Some of the decisions and reactions were actually plausible and the action tended to have some kind of point to it.  That being said, it was still way to...I don't know how to put it, I just wanted it to be done.  I found myself wanting to skip all the angsty pages and move on to the next sparse tidbit of storyline which does not make for an enjoyable read.  Ok things I did not hate.  I liked that they made one of the core friends sick and that he did not survive, but was reduced to the "enemy" that they all feared so much.  I liked that Thomas and at least some of his friends decided to quit being the puppets of WICKED (no matter how much Teresa insisted that they were good) and finally fought back.  I also appreciated how so many people finally came to the realization that the resources, time, and angst that were being poured into the Trials to find a cure would have been better spent containing and treating the symptoms of the Flare, instead the whole world went to hell while they were waiting for this nebulous possible cure.  Thomas having to question what a cure was worth in terms of both personal, and the groups well-being.  Was it ok to torture a couple hundred people if it could potentially save millions?  At what point is torturing and killing people for a cure going to inflict a damage that out weighs the benefits of a cure?  All good ethical questions.  Things I did not love.  The whole, non explained (not really) reason that torturing Immune teenagers would result in a cure was not sound in any way shape or form.  I work in the medical field and I have never ever remotely heard of a virus infecting somebody because of the way they think...or at least not in the way the book tried to present it.  While positive or negative thinking can have an effect on your won't "cure" anything.  I hated that their was absolutely no mention of them even trying to find a cure or vaccine from more traditional virus killing methods that actually work in real life.  Nope it was all about the killzone (which is the stupid name they gave the brain 'cause the virus makes you go crazy).  So obviously since it is a brain infection...only a thought pattern can cure it, hm I'll have to tell that to my next viral encephalitis patient.  I also thought that the fact that the Flare was released on purpose was pretty non-plausible, I mean what government purposely releases a horrible, non-lethal (it's not the virus, but the going crazy and not being able to take care of yourself part that kills you), uncontrollable, uncurable, unvaccinable virus into the world, seriously who does that...oh right only crazy people.  This was annoying  cause it made an already implausible story pretty much as unpossible as possible (and that is totally a word, Lewis Carrol says so).  I hated that the government did not think to isolate at least some of the immunes, heck or even healthy people once they saw the scale of destruction that was happening.  They obviously had a place prepped, they new the Trials may why not save as much as humanity as possible?  You could even still run the pointless trials while preserving the human race?!? This book made more sense then any of them, but it was still a very frustrating read.  Questions were still not answered (what the hell were the Trials for?  How were they gonna use the patterns?  What was Teresa, Thomas and Aries role in the beginning?) which may be answered in the prequel...which I will read 'cause why not.  Also a lot of stuff that got set up in earlier books was completely pointless by the end of this book, again a case of the second book of a trilogy being beyond completely pointless, in fact all three books could have probably been combined into one semi-decent book.  In case you haven't figured it out, this is not my favorite series.  I keep hearing people comparing it to the Hunger Games trilogy which while not perfect, at least had a point.  Just because a book is about a bunch of tortured teenagers does not put it on the same level as a set of well written books that also happen to be (among other things) tortured teenagers. I will read the prequal The Kill Order because one I already have it and two just in case it gives me any more information.  I give this book 3 out of 10 Death Cures.
What did you think of this trilogy?  Was it comparable to the Hunger Games?  Will you watch the movie when it comes out and tell me what you think so I don't have to?

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Baby It's Cold Outside

Ok folks I'm back in one piece...mostly.  It has been cold, and my poor Hubbin has been sick, and I have been doing my best to not freeze, while simultaneously trying to stay awake while not throwing my stupid computer out in the snow.  The plus side is I did get a little snuggle/book time, mostly at the station.  Here are some blankets that do double duty in keeping you warm and also entertained when you finish your book and are to cold to get out of your reading chair to get another one.
Dick and Jane
Here is a great way to get your little one warm and well read
Quote Blanket
This one is big and fuzzy and has so many words!
Bookshelf Quilt
I don't know if I want to use it or hang it on my wall!
Book Before Bed
I like that you are supposed to have the words facing you like a giant book
Book Quilt Fabric
And here is a little fabric if anybody would like to make me my own book blanket!
I hope everybody who is experiencing these lovely winter temps with me (which seems to be a good chunk of the world) can find a warm blanket and a good book to see them through.  Happy Reading Everybody!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

A Mess

Hi All,
As you have probably noticed posting has been non-exsistant the last couple days, sorry about that.  At the moment everything is a bit of a mess.
Roads are a mess, computer is a mess, house is a mess, books are a mess, my brain is a wee bit of a mess.  But I promise tomorrow will be a brand new only semi-messy day complete with a brand new rambling of recently finished books.  Thanks for hanging in there and Happy Reading Everybody!

Friday, January 17, 2014

Enemies Of The Heir...Beware

Woooohooo time for another Harry Potter Post!  I intended to have this up a couple weeks ago, but you  Anyways lets jump right into this.  This post will be me gushing...I mean rambling about Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling.  As before I will not go into any detailed plot synopsis as that is available in a plethora of sources (my favorite being the Harry Potter Lexicon) and instead will mostly be talking about my own personal feelings on various topics.  As always SPOILERS AHEAD!
So this book is cool 'cause we get to come back to a world we already know.  We have been introduced to the wizarding world, we have all secretly watched our mailboxes for our Hogwarts letters (mine is just a wee bit late, I know it!), we all know that Slytherin is bad and Gryffindor is good (I do have a bit of a problem with this, but it gets resolved in later books) and we have all fallen in love with Hagrid.  This of course makes the fact that our poor hero stuck friendless with his horrid Muggle relatives all summer just that much more awful.  I like how much the opening of the book drives home that as bad as Harry thought he had it before, a taste of a better life makes his Muggle life that much worse.  We are all confident in our knowledge as a reader that we know whats going down 'cause hey we read the first book and now we are wizard experts...except BAM here comes Dobby to add another dimension (one that turns out to be not so pleasant in later books) to our known world. Now Dobby is special to me 'cause he is my Hubbins favorite character, so much so that he said if we ever had a kid he would call it Dobby (just one of the many reasons we are skipping the whole kid thing), anyways every time Dobby appears on page or screen it makes me think of Hubbin and smile.  This book shows us that there is a myriad of facets to the wizarding world and not all of them as magical and savory as we would like.  So this is skipping around a bit so lets move on to a more list type format and see if that works better shall we?
Random things that caught my attention in the book, movie, and the Lego game
Family-The book especially shows the different facets of family.  The lengths Ron and his brothers go through to get Harry not only speak of a deep friendship, but of a comradrie among the Weasley boys that makes them help each other without really questioning it.  Molly Weasley being angry at the boys has less to do with true anger then it does her fear that something happened to them.  The ease of which they "adopt" Harry into the family, the instant love Harry has for the Burrow (even though some people think it is shabby), and the all around live and let live attitude of the whole Weasley clan is pretty awesome and reminds me of my own family (yep I am one of those lucky people who pretty much grew up in a Weasley type house...I even think there was magic!).  Contrast this to the coldness displayed in the interactions with the Malfoy family.  Draco likes to run around pretending that his life is perfect in his rich pure-blood mansion, but the interactions we see with his father of of a fairly cold nature.  He is expected to live up to impossibly high standards and is given no leeway when he falls short.  I sometimes think Draco is probably pretty jealous of Ron Weasley because as much as he gives him a hard time, Ron is the one with the loving family, Ron is the one with the friends, and in the end Ron is one of the hero's.  Again this all comes in to play in later books.
Set-Up-This is the book, when after finishing the series and looking back starts to really set up the long term stuff.  There is of course stuff in the first book (Harry's origin's especially) that overeach the whole series, but this book is where we look back and see specifics start to emerge.  Like the diary being a
Horcrux...something that isn't even mentioned until the sixth book.  We also see the family dynamics that build through out the rest of the books.  Here is where we start to really set up the pure-bloods against the rest of the world conflicts, starting with little jabs and pokes, such as when Draco calls Hermione a mud-blood, (can I just say in the movie, the scene when Hagrid comforts Hermione when she is in tears is one of the best scenes in movie history...I just loved it!) or the more sinister outright murder of Muggle borns. We start to learn the story of Tom Riddle/Voldemort and the theme of the similarities between Harry and the Dark Lord starts to take shape.  We also hear Dumbledore drive home the fact that in the end it is the choices we make and not the circumstances we are put in that make us who we are. Polyjuice Potion makes its first appearance here and is used to great effect here and in future books. The first book did an excellent job creating this world and it's number one villain.  This book turns it into a saga of epic awesomeness.
Characters/Casting-This book introduced us to a wide range of characters outside of our three hero's.  We get to delve a little deeper into several inhabitants of the wizarding world.  Sir Nicholas de Mimsy Porpington or Nearly Headless Nick is the Gryffindor ghost and we get to see the world of ghosts through his deathday party.  In the movie and game this is left out as it really does not further the whole storyline, but it will always be one of my favorite parts in the book.  I also love how the three friends are willing to go to the party to help Nicholas feel better, even though the party itself is pretty rotten (literally!)  We are introduced to Draco's father Lucius Malfoy in this book/movie and can I just say that Jason Isaacs plays him with a cold cruel perfection!  Lucius is our link to post Voldemort Death-Eaters, he is the face of prejudice and entitlement and while he is a bit of a stereotype, he serves a purpose in the books.  We get to see more of the teachers, Madame Pompfrey (I want to be a wizard nurse so bad!) and Professor Sprout get some great page/screen time and remind us that there is more to Hogwarts then Dumbldore, Snape and
McGonagall (who form there own little trio of of mismatched "friends" through out the books).  I still am not thrilled with the casting of Percy or some of the other lesser students, but most of the casting was spot on.
Gildroy Lockheart-I know he is a character, but he gets his own section 'cause there is so much to say about this guy.  First of all I love him in the books, and the casting in the movie was perfect with Kenneth Branagh smarming it up all over the place.  This character is probably one of the most wonderful embodiment's of how people are around celebrities and how it can easily go to a persons head. His constant need to be in the spotlight, to show up everybody around him, but with no actual talent (other then memory charms) is an ailment that is very pervasive in the real world.  What I like most about this character is how other people react to him.  Hermione and Mrs. Weasley in paticular go ga-ga over him.  This is a great way to show that as smart and logical as our Hermione is, she is still a human girl and is able to be blinded by the most charming smile (five years in a row in fact :-) ).  Here eventual disillusionment of her crush is sort of sad, and yet so relateable. I am kind of sad that this was not shown in the movie (though the Lego game showed in the most hilarious way possible, hearts in the eyes and everything) because I think it is a humanizing point for Hermione and shows that you can be a smart girl, and a girly girl, and a sweet girl, and a genius all in the same package.  I also loved that the Harry and Ron in particular learned you can seriously dislike somebody for reasons other then they are evil.  Lockheart was never an "evil" character, he was never a Death-Eater, he was just really annoying, so annoying in fact that Ron and Harry were tempted to root for the dreaded Professor Snape in dueling class.
The Ending-I will say I have mixed feelings about the last couple chapters of this book.  I thought that the phoenix coming in with the hat, sword and healing tears was a little convenient, I know it was meant to show just how loyal Harry was to Dumbledore and the precepts of Gryffindor, but it felt a little deus ex machina to me.  I did however like how long it took Harry to figure out that Tom Riddle was a bad guy, it shows his tendency to want to think good of people in general. The whole Hagrid and Argog, again seemed really convenient.  I do however love how Harry got Lucius Malfoy to free Dobby and the consequences it has in future books.  The idea that this rich, entitled, powerful man was tricked into freeing his servant, who is a great status symbol by a second year student with a sock was pretty sweet.
I loved the first book for the world building and its ability to completely immerse me in this alternate universe, I love the second book for being just as good as the first and for setting up the rest of the series. There is so much more I could talk about, but this is already a mega post and there are five more books to read!  It is now time for me to go read, watch, play and interact with the third book and I am very excited about it.  I love this chance to just go on and on and on about these books that I love.  Thanks for hanging in there and Happy Reading Everybody!
Did you like the second book as much as the first?  What are your feelings on Dobby?  Did this post make any sense?  Do I ever make any sense?

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Water And Wizards

You know those books you know you should read, the ones by the authors you are pretty sure you are gonna love, the ones that you see on the shelves of your local bookstore, reviewed favorably by all your trusted sources and raved about by all your closest reading buddies, the ones that will probably become one of your favorites...if you could just pick it up an read it. So then finally one day you do pick it up and read it and then you beat yourself up for taking so long to pick up one of your new favorite books, WHY WHY WHY you groan to yourself, why did I take so long to read this, I could have read the rest of the series by now, I could have reread this by now, I could have gushed to everybody who would listen to this by now...why why why?!? That folks is how I felt about A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin, yep it has taken me more years then I care to admit to finally read this gem and I will tell you why shortly, but first as always SPOILERS AHEAD!
A young boy dwelling in a northern island called Gont is found to have great wizarding potential.  He is taught by the local witch and saves his village from eastern Kargard raiders who have crossed on of the many oceans and seas to raid the boys little village.  He calls down a fog so thick that the villagers can escape and the many of the invaders are killed in the confusion.  The boy (who calls himself Sparrowhawk) is then taken to be taught by the hermit wizard Ogion who gives him his true name which is Ged.  Ged learns quickly and soon chafes under the slow pace that Ogion appears to be teaching him, culminating in him showing off to a local girl by summoning a spirit for the world beyond.  Ogion tells Ged that he has a choice, he can stay and continue to learn from Ogion at a slow pace, but will learn great control along the way, or he can leave and sail for Roke, where wizards are trained under the Archmage and his associates.  As much as Ged loves his master, he is young and hungry for power and chooses to leave.  Ged gets to Roke and is accepted as a pupil, and there he meets two people who will play two very different roles in his life.  The first is Jasper an older boy who seems to always be not quit mocking Ged, always challenging him, making him feel young and stupid, but not in an obvious way.  The other is Vetch, the big man from Iffish who is becomes Ged's
steadfast friend.  Ged learns quickly, always hungry for more knowledge and more power.  This all comes out when Jasper who has been awarded the title of sorcerer challenges Ged, resulting in Ged summoning what he ends up calling the Shadow, a twisted, deformed monster that hungers to take over Ged's body and use his powers for evil and destruction.  Ged is severely wounded and the Archmage dies protecting him.  A new Archmage is chosen, telling the finally recovered Ged that he must stay of Roke as that is the only place the Shadow cannot get to him. Ged stays and returns to his learning, but at a much slower, much more cautious pace.  He eventually earns his wizard staff and goes out into the world to earn his keep.  He ends up being the wizard to a small fishing village in the west of the world, very close to the island of Pendor which houses a dragon and his spawn.  The village is worried that when the dragons spawn get older, they will sate their voracious appetites by eating the villagers.  Ged works and lives among the people, until he starts to sense his Shadow, he knows he cannot stay and endanger the villagers, yet he cannot leave them defenseless against the dragons either. He decides to go to the island of Pendor and take care of the problem head on.  He defeats several of the young dragons and confronts the father dragon with his true name (in this world any who know a person or things true name has mastery over it, this is the real study of wizards).  The dragon tries to bargain with Ged, offering to tell him the Shadows true name, but Ged refuses and instead exacts an oath that the dragon or his offspring will never harm the villagers.  Ged then sails hither and yon, attempting to flee the Shadow.  He ends up in Osskill, a frozen island to the north where he has a run in with the Shadow, who uses Ged's name and saps him of all power.  He ends up in the care of Serret and her old husband the lord of the castle.  Serret shows him a stone that appears to be all powerful and tells him that it can tell him the name of his Shadow.  Ged realizes that the stone is actually a
prison for a malevolent spirit that has already taken in Serret and her husband for its own uses.  Ged refuses the offer of power and flees.  He sails to various islands, learning and processing life, eventually ending up on his old home island of Gont where his old master shows him that he will need to confront his Shadow if he is to ever have any sort of life.  Ged takes this to heart and instead of running starts pursuing his shadow.  After chasing it hither and yon (I love that phrase) Ged ends up on the island of Iffrish and meets up with his old friend Vetch. Together they set sail past the last known island to the south east and into the open ocean. Eventually Ged finds his Shadow and names it using his own name, finally figuring out that the Shadow he called up so long ago is actually part of him, and by naming it his true name he assumes mastery over himself.  The two friends sail home, thus starting the Earthsea Cycle and the adventures of Ged a wizard of Earthsea.
Obviously there is a whole lot of rich detail that has been left out of the synopsis.  This book is actually not all that long, but the story and the words and the imagery are just packed in like a delicious box full of chocolates.  There are a couple of reasons that it took me so long to pick this book up, the first being I had read a couple short stories of hers and while I enjoyed them, they seemed a bit dense and hard to get into and I have read "classics" that are no more then pretty words that do not add up to anything special.  This was not the case for this book.  In this case I think the full novel length of this book is much more suited to the style of prose that Ms. Le Guin employs, it is like the world of Earthsea itself a prose that swells and ebbs just like the ocean, and having enough pages for this full cycle of words to be expressed works much better then in a short story (in my own little opinion).  I will however go back and read some of the short stories now that I have a handle of the rhythem of the authors prose and see if it comes across differently. The second reason it took me a while is that there was no "hook" to get me excited to read it, I knew I should for all the reasons in the opening paragraph, but there was nothing that I had heard about that made me go "oh I have to read that right now!".  Of course now that I have read it, well I still feel the same way.  See this book is very subtle and not a really in your face type of work.  To me it is more of a story, or a piece of a long saga, and less of a book, which I love!  In some ways it reminds me of what Tolkien was trying to do with his Middle Earth saga and that is create a whole mythos for a world.  This wizard Ged we are told right away is a great and mighty epic wizard of fame and awesomeness, but the story we read is his personal journey to become the eventual legend. There is also a taste of C.S. Lewis in her prose, in the
actual traveling and interactions of Ged. This is not in any way to say that she is copying these authors, or that she has no style of her own, quit the opposite Ms. Le Guin has a very unique and beautiful writing style that is all her own, any references I make are just points of good writing that I think any good author needs to hit to be considered a writer worthy of praise. I loved that the struggle of the main character was not an epic violent battle of good vs. evil with a whole war to tear the world of Earthsea apart.  In fact the author purposely did not have her world at war, or any major world wide struggle, which is so prevalent in high fantasy.  The story however did not lag, it was still a battle of sorts, and the out come of the struggle was still as dire as any war, it was just more about a powerful man knowing himself and using that knowledge to defeat the dark parts of himself. This book is one of those where the setting is almost a character itself.  This world of Earthsea is just that, a place that is mostly water, where the land is all of these islands, there are no major landmasses like we think of, just greater and lesser islands. This influences a lot of the story in a very positive way (also keep the map in the front of the book handy to help keep all the places straight).  I also loved that nobody was white (Ok the barbarian invaders where white in a Viking sort of way, but that is it).  The hero's, the women, the men, the children, everybody was some shade of brown or black 'cause that is just how it is and especially in the era these were written, in the hey day of epic fantasy, non-white hero' were not (and sadly still are not) the norm. This point of her world is not pounded into our heads, this is not a "hey look I'm being awesome by writing about brown people" type of book, this is just how it is and I love it.  Ok so this post is getting to be as long as the book so I will attempt to wrap it up.  As I am sure you can tell, I really enjoyed this book.  It is powerful, yet subtle, epic, yet personal, involves a whole world, but is about the individual, there is magic, friendship, oceans, sailing, learning, jealousy, dragons, family, enemies, everything you could want in a book without it feeling crowded or stuffed. It is beautiful and sticks in your head and will go on my favorites shelf along with the rest of the series that I am now on my way to the book store to pick up.  I give it 9 out of 10 islands in an endless sea.
What books do you know you should read that you haven't?  What is stopping you from reading those books? Do I know how to ramble or what?

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Hipster Kindle

Long night (yep two in a row) so here is a little chuckle and then off tho find more coffee
E-book with attitude
Happy Reading Everybody!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Free Books!

I love books, books books books, I love to buy them and read them and look at them and feel them and put them on shelves and rearrange them. And now I have discovered that I like scouring the internet and old used book store for free books!  Yep you heard me right, FREE BOOKS.  How does one score such a wondrous gift...well I will tell you.  You have to put some effort in, but it can be done.
Online- This is probably the easiest, fastest way to obtain new and even better, classic books.  If a book has gone out of copyright in the US then it is considered public domain and can be shared with any US citizen for free.  There is an awesome site called Project Gutenberg that has everything from Jane Austen to old school manuals on how to raise a barn.  This site is just fun to explore and it is completely free! Feel free to donate if you have some spare cash.  You can also sometimes find free books on sites like Amazon or Barnes and Nobles that are from newer authors trying to hook you, or sometimes even established authors.  This is a great way to discover some new favorites.
ARC's-Sometimes if you are very lucky, or if you run a successful blog you can get ARC's or Advanced Reading Copies from either the publisher or from one of the distribution sites like NetGalley.  Different companies handle ARC's in different ways so it may take a little effort, but it might be worth it to read a book before the general public.  I don't do this very often as my backlog of TBR's is so huge if I started adding yet to be published books...well I would probably implode.  The other thing to be careful of is that these are may still be edited before they are actually published using advanced reader feedback, so the final book may be a wee bit different from the one you read.
Giveaway's-There is always a give away going on, either on various blogs, author sites, publishing sites, so many people want to give you books.  Again this takes a bit of effort, but usually it is as easy as logging in, or giving them your e-mail address and commenting to qualify.  I have even seen groups of blogs get together for a progressive give away.  If you are willing to look and take some time, the possibilities are endless.  This is also a good way to get some interesting versions of books, or signed copies, or bundles, it all depends on the giveaway. This is a great way to visit other blogs and sites and find some new favorites (note to self, should probably do a giveaway at some point soon).
Book Swapping-This is where you essentially take a book you have already read and swap with somebody who has a book you want to read.  This is not totally free as you need to have books of your own, but it is a "free" way to expand your reading repertoire.  You can do this with people you know, or you can use a site like BookMooch which works on an international point system.  The plus side to this is that you can get books you have been wanting, or looking for that are hard to find for free.  Especially on the websites the variety is mind boggling.  The down side is you usually have to give up one of your own books.  If it is with a friend or family member, you may get it back, but if it is a true swap...bye bye book.  Also super popular books are a little harder to come by.
Free Bin-This is where your second hand book shop once again proves to be your best friend.  Not only does it provide you with a plethora of books (some of which are impossible to find otherwise) for a usually decent price, but a lot of them also have the free bin.  This is where you can bring books you no longer want, or that the shop decides are probably not going to sell, or are not in the best condition and are put out for first come first serve free for all. These bins are usually outside, and you can usually tell why they are in the free bins, but if you take some time to go through them all you can occasionally find a gem.  This is also a great place to get books to tear apart for some of the projects using books and pages without feeling guilty about tearing up a good book.
Library-of course I cannot leave out the oldest and still most wonderful way to get free books.  Your local library!  Here is a place you can pick up any book at no risk, you can delve into new authors, try a new genre, see if that hyped up book is really worth it.  Several libraries are even offering e-books to rent!  Of course the down side is that you do have to return it at some point, or they make you pay for it and it is no longer free, but still better then no book at all. Libraries also tend to have periodic book sales with there own free bins, so keep an eye out.
So there you have it folks, six ways to obtain books at no cost to yourself.  I wish some of these had been available (or more accessible at least) when I was a broke college student.  The library was my best friend and I would hunt down and swap books with a vengeance.  This is a case where technology has enabled more people to have access to more books which is always a good thing.
What is your favorite method for obtaining free reading material?  Do you mind giving up or returning books once they have been read so you can get new ones, or do you become unnaturally attached to the vast majority of your books?  How has e-books changed your reading/buying/swapping habits?

Monday, January 13, 2014

So Many Babies!

I had a fantastic weekend and hope yours was the same.  I got to help celebrate my nephew E's first birthday (ha you can't see it but I just tried to type first and birthday at the same spell check hates me ha ha ha ) which was wonderful, watched a bunch of boy movies which was interesting, actually got to spend some time outside with the Hubbin which was glorious, and was even productive enough to get to sessions of CMU's in.  And of course I read, oh I read and read and read.  Finished a book, started two others and bought two more YAY ME!  One of the interesting things about this weekend was a conversation I had with Hubbin about crowded and potentially unsafe living conditions in the area.  As an EMT I see every kind of living condition you can think of, this paired with my Baby E time and my CMU's in patient care all came together to remind me of a book I just finished reading.  Call the Midwife: A Memoir of Joy, Birth and Hard Times by Jenny Worth.  I picked this book up 'cause I love the BBC series by the same name and was in the mood for something a little different.  As always SPOILERS AHEAD (kind of)
This book is not one that has a plot so much as it has a bunch of stories all strung together.  The memoir format is not one I have read in a while, being more of a fiction person, but this book reminded me why I used to read a lot more of them.  Quick synopsis.  Jenny Worth arrived in the East End of London in the 50's to what she refers to as Nonnatus House, a pseudonym to protect the privacy of the patients and caregivers involved in these stories.  The author takes the name from St. Raymond Nonnatus who is the patron saint of childbirth, midwives, children, and pregnant women.  The author takes us through her first year or so as a trained midwife in this new and different environment.  In the 50's in the after math of WWII people live in crowded tenements  where running water is a luxury and a whole floor, or even a whole building sharing a lavatory is not uncommon.   Families often had children into the double digits all living in two or three rooms, heated by a stove that doubled as the kitchen.  In these conditions our young midwife had to learn to how to deliver babies as safely as possible.  She tells us of the various patients she saw and the various circumstances in which the births occurred.  Some of the stories are sweet, some silly, some sad (obviously I am in an alliteration phase today) but all of them real.  My favorite stories are the ones about Conchita Warren and her 25 live births, there a couple stories about this exotic woman who spoke no English yet seemed to be the paragon of wife and motherhood.  Both stories she is involved in makes me want to stand up and cheer.
This memoir is fascinating to me as a health care professional because it shows in some ways how far we have come (gloves were rarely used, shaving and enema's before birth were the norm, hygiene was optional for most patients), but also how we are starting to lose some of the personal touch that makes a nurse or doctor or even EMT a good one.  I also noted how much more parents were involved in making medical decisions for themselves and their children.  Now day's, especially if you go to a hospital to give birth, the mothers are made to feel that they must do everything the Dr. or Nurse says.  Now the vast majority of the time this is a good idea, but sometimes a Mamma has to go with her gut and say no, or speak up about something wrong.  In the book a baby is premature and the consensus is that he should be placed in an incubator in the hospital, but his mother refuses to let him go, knowing that she can give him the best care.  In the time period this happened, there was not a whole lot the Dr. could do but come check on the little guy, now days there would have been court orders to take the child away to be placed in a sterile incubator with minimal human touch.  Again, Drs. usually know what they are doing, and Nurses tend to be top notch, but this example of society allowing a parent to be a parent seems to be missing now days to our detriment (that was an awkward sentence, but I think I got my point across.).
The TV show so far has followed most of the stories fairly faithfully from the memoir.  I watched the first season before I read the book and was surprised at how closely they followed it, with a few tweaks of course, but totally recognizable.  It will be interesting to see if the future seasons follow the later memoirs, or if they go off on their own, but either way I am enjoying both immensely and cannot wait to get my hands on the next book.  Books like this remind me that as much as I will always be a fantasy/sci fi/fiction girl, that real life is just as exciting, varied, and interesting if you look for the right also makes me want to write down some of my favorite calls for future people to read.  I give this book 8 out of 10 babies and recommend it to anybody who is interested in post WWII history, midwivery, a couple good stories, or enjoy the tv show.
What type of memoirs do you like to read?  What era interests you?  Did you ever think a tv show about midwives would ever be so popular?