Thursday, November 7, 2013

Free New Book Giveaway Continues, The Wedding Gift, Mayflower, and Amazon Rant (and book wish)


Please leave me a comment letting me that you would like to be entered into a FREE GIVEAWAY of this book; expected publication November 12th. I will pick a winner and that person will get a copy sent to them courtesy of the publisher, Grand Central Publishing.
This is the 13th in the fabulous Pendergast series. I'm thrilled to have gotten mine! I have to admit, I'm a few books behind in the series! So I've started in. where I left off, on #10, (#1 of the Helen series) Fever Dream - and so far I LOVE IT.

Please leave a comment to let me know you're interested :)

The Wedding Gift by Marlen Suyapa Bodden

I received this book as an Advance Reader Edition, but I can't figure out from who. There is no e-mail telling me I won a giveaway and no letter with the book-just the book. So, I will thank St. Martin's Press and the author for receiving this gift in the mail (and in the future decide on a way to track my entries for giveaways so I can properly thank the correct person or organization. However, one would think they would include a note... no?). Ah, I found a comment on the very bottom on the back cover to send comments to an email at St. Martin's press. So, thank you very much for giving me this ARC to read and review.

For the first 3/4 of the book I kept wondering if this was going to be presented as a young adult book. The writing is very simple, the explanations of things very thorough, but I felt no depth beyond the descriptions of plantation life.

The reader is presented with chapters written in two voices. Each voice is clearly marked at the beginning of each chapter and one voice may go on for several chapters at a time to tell her side of the stories. The first voice is Sarah, born to a house slave and The Master, she is half sister to the woman she will end up serving when they are both adults. As children they play together, and when Sarah learns at a young age it is illegal for slaves to read, she convinces her playmate to let her sit in on lessons. Sarah also has a half sister from her mothers previous marriage; we learn that the husband was sold. Sarah's one overriding goal in life is to run away from the plantation and be free.

The second voice is the mother of Sarah's sister: Theodora, mistress of the house. She speaks of her life before her marriage, moving into her new home, and learning the rules her husband expects of her as Mistress of the plantation (including her having to come to accept the mistress in her husbands bed). Theodora dotes on her daughter Clarissa (the boys being sent away to school). Where Theodora is intelligent and thoughtful, Clarissa grows up to be spoiled and intractable.

When Clarissa get's married, I started to wonder if the book would still be appropriate for young adults. After some thought, I decided, yes. It's a very good overview of the best and the worst of slavery told in a language that anyone can understand (PG13).

I'd rather give it 3.5 stars, however since that's not an option, I'll give 4.

This review is also posted on

Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War by Nathaniel Philbrick

My mom gave me this book; I do like most things genealogical, historical, and Americana (through WWI). Somewhere in my genealogical research a few years ago, I discovered that my mom's family has a line that *may* go back to William Brewster of the Mayflower, somehow. My account is deactivated, and I'm not yet ready to go back to that hobby anytime soon. If I do decide to pursue it later, I need to remember that it was potentially through the Tappen line.

The beginning of the book is what I remember from school and other reading for pleasure. Not the sanitized President Lincoln form of the Thanksgiving holiday that many of us celebrate now, but the clash and symbiotic relationship that developed between the Pilgrims and Massasoit, the local Indian leader. This relationship would remain peaceful until his death and his crazy son, who came to be known as King Philip, started a sickening and costly war. Costly in terms of lives of both Indians and New England settlers (from Maine to Delaware), and what little property there was on either side, shelters/buildings, animals, tools-all destroyed. The battles are retold in horrific detail based on the accounts of Englishmen who fought in these massacres - this part of the book I could barely get through. Though it's certainly not taught in school, even slavery is common during this early period of America; shipping the captured Indians off to the Caribbean Islands to work on plantations there. Though it is United States history and to better understand the sufferings of the past and present, it is necessary to learn the details. The final chapter, Conclusion, is a wonderful summery of the book, without the gore, but with the lessons. After King Philips war ended, at his death. The path was laid for fighting a combined French and Indian force, starting just 13 years later in 1689, even though the official French and Indian War did not start until the 1750s.

This review is also posted on

If I could, I would have given it 4.5 stars, since I had to choose, I went with 4. I won't be rereading this one so I rounded down instead of up.

This Thanksgiving I will be eating a Paleo meal with my mom and step-father. Since they are both usually vegetarian, I'm not sure if we'll have turkey or another local farm raised meat; but I know there will be wonderful organic fruits and vegetables! (a friend has gifted me Practical Paleo: A Customized Approach to Health and a Whole-Foods Lifestyle by

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

Amazon rant ----- these are taken from Facebook Posts I made when the Amazon articles came out. I wanted to share them and ask everyone to buy Indie. Think of this way... The cost of shipping (they do NOT use media mail) eats up the savings you get; you might as well get friendly with your closest Indie bookstore (many have frequent buyers clubs and such), and once you know them well enough, perhaps they'll give you discounted rates on shipping - or at least ship media mail $3.99 for a book. Really, I think Amazon is kind of evil and definitely bad for the economy as a whole. It is hurting both publishers and independent book sellers, which in turn, hurts book readers. Okay. I'm going to finish this up and post it already.

FB Post:
My question is, why aren't they charging book rate? That's a usually a flat fee, I've seen some of their shipping rates, another reason why I won't order books from them.

Buy indie.

From the e-mail newsletter Shelf Awareness for Wednesday, October 23, 2013:

Shipping Wars: Amazon Rate Hike, Warehouse; E-Bay Competes

Amazon has raised its minimum order for "Free Super Saver Shipping" from $25 to $35, saying to customers that "this is the first time in more than a decade that Amazon has altered the minimum order for free shipping in the U.S."

"Free shipping has long been a cornerstone of's growth strategy," observed Paulo Santos in a post at Seeking Alpha. "Moving this threshold is a borderline desperate measure. A measure which would only be taken if internally was looking at some seriously ugly numbers." The company reports third-quarter results tomorrow, which had already been expected to be in the red.

In addition, the New York Times reported the online retailer had made another "at the edges" change earlier this summer, when "devoted Prime users discovered that the company had started charging variable amounts according to size and weight, with a minimum of $2.99," rather than the previous deal through which Prime customers received free two-day shipping service, but could get next-day delivery for an additional $3.99 per item.


Amazon plans to open a one million-square-foot fulfillment center in Baltimore that will create more than 1,000 full-time jobs. In its announcement, the company said, "We are grateful to the state and local elected officials who supported Amazon coming to Maryland and we look forward to being a part of the community."


On another shipping battlefront, eBay has acquired Shutl, a "marketplace that uses a network of couriers to deliver local goods on a same-day basis," ReadWrite reported, adding that Shutl, "which lists its speediest delivery to date as a little under 14 minutes after purchase, could give eBay a leg up on same-day shipping rival, Amazon. Currently, Amazon offers same-day shipping in select American cities."

FB Post:
I have a tolerate/loathe relationship with Amazon. They also recently opened warehouses in California, providing jobs (and according to what I read earlier today, they're still hiring). I'd really like to read this book.
From the e-mail newsletter Shelf Awareness for Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Amazon: Czech Warehouses; Where Are the Profits?

First the news, then some unfortunate tales from inside Amazon and, finally, detailed analysis:
Amazon has confirmed that it is opening two warehouses in the Czech Republic, one near the airport in Prague, the other in Brno, which is near Vienna, Austria. The company recently announced that it is opening three warehouses in Poland. When the warehouses open next year, the company will have 25 of them in seven European countries.
The New York Times pulls a few revolting tidbits from Brad Stone's new book, The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon (Little, Brown). By 2004, Stone recounted, Amazon was squeezing large book publishers, demanding "steeper discounts, longer periods to pay, and better shipping," the Times wrote. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos "then turned up the heat on the most vulnerable publishers [smaller publishers]--those most dependent on Amazon.
"The company's relationship with those publishers was called the Gazelle Project after Mr. Bezos said Amazon 'should approach these small publishers the way a cheetah would pursue a sickly gazelle.' A joke, perhaps, but such an aggressive one that Amazon's lawyers demanded the Gazelle Project be renamed the Small Publishers Negotiation Program.
"Mr. Stone writes that Randy Miller, an Amazon executive in charge of a similar program in Europe, 'took an almost sadistic delight in pressuring book publishers to give Amazon more favorable financial terms.' Mr. Miller would move their books to full price, take them off the recommendation engine or promote competing titles until he got better terms out of them, the book says.
" 'I did everything I could to screw with their performance,' Mr. Miller told the writer. The program was called Pay to Play until the Amazon lawyers changed it to Vendor Realignment."
Several stories this week about Amazon, which reports third-quarter results on Thursday, focus on the $75-billion company's lack of profits, except for a few periods when Wall Street applied short-lived pressure for the company to make money.
As economist and venture capitalist William H. Janeway told the New York Times: "This isn't supposed to happen. It violates mainstream finance theory. Very few companies have been valued this way outside a systemic bubble."
Consensus appears to be that to make money Amazon would need to raise prices on products and services like below-cost shipping, but that "might alienate customers and slow down [the company's] roaring revenue growth," the Times wrote.
The company likely will continue with its current strategy of seeking to dominate all markets it enters and doing many things customers like--such as allowing many of them to keep products being returned for credit--that other companies would find financially disastrous. It's a simple and unusual model allowed because Wall Street continues to drive up the value of the company's stock. As Colin Gillis, senior tech analyst at BGC Partners, told the Times, "It is easier to sell things and not make money than it is to sell things and make money."
In the same vein, Seeking Alpha calls Amazon "a fantastic company: dedicated, innovative, even daring," but says "the moment is approaching when investors may no longer be willing to support the current valuation of the company.

"Shares in are trading at price-to-earnings ratio of 360, or 108 using the next year's expected profits, and the earnings multiple was at these levels for most of 16 years since the company went public. Very few companies in history managed to keep their valuations so high for so long. Investors believe that at some point in the future the company will be able to translate its rapidly growing sales into substantial profits." But Seeking Alpha argues that this won't happen soon:

"Benefits of scale have been realized by now. Growing from 1 warehouse to 5 cuts delivery times dramatically. Adding 7 new facilities (announced plans) to the existing 49 distribution centers in the U.S. will not result in the same rate of improvement. The same logic applies to all the other areas of customer experience and internal operations.

"In fact, Amazon may have reached the point where the economy of scale turns negative, i.e. further growth leads to more expenses, not less. For example, the company has many more markets to support--both in geographical and in product terms, more business units to manage, and more platforms to develop and maintain. It used to sell [only] books [only] in the U.S. Now it sells everything from groceries to paintings, operates on several continents, develops its own hardware and software, streams movies, offers software services, etc. It is a valid growth strategy, but this fragmentation makes it very hard to substantially improve operational efficiencies from the current levels."

Even though Amazon has won some major battles, competition continues to be fierce, Seeking Alpha wrote, and "in many areas the company faces tougher competition today than ever before (e.g. media, tablets). There are hundreds of online retailers, like or, that carved out their own niches and seem to be doing fine.

"Any attempt by to raise prices or scale back customer service (including free movies, free delivery, etc.), will give a second wind to all the competitors that collectively represent a formidable threat. Selling merchandise online is a low-margin business, and it will remain so in the foreseeable future."

The Kindle was introduced and sold at a loss with the premise that losses would be "more than offset by sales of digital content to the owners of these devices. This assumption has already proved to be wrong. Most buyers of the original Kindles have already upgraded to the newer versions, so any loss on sales of those units was never recovered. More importantly, by now consumers own tens of millions of Amazon devices, and the company already offers a huge selection of content, but the profits never materialized."

Amazon Web Services likely accounts for more than half of all Amazon profits expected this year, Seeking Alpha wrote, which makes the service "the only bright spot in Amazon's portfolio, and, by extension, means that the situation in other businesses is even worse....

"The bottom-line here is that AWS is a viable growing business, but it will be a few more years before it is big enough to contribute at least $1 billion to Amazon's profits. By that time investors may start questioning the wisdom of moving all these packages around, streaming movies and selling tablets at a loss, when most profits come from the services division."

Thanks for Reading!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

There's No Such Thing As Too Many Books... The Tenth Witness Review, and White Fire Giveaway

Jane Smiley
“Many people, myself among them, feel better at the mere sight of a book.”
This quote is not only true, I smile every time I read it. I smile when I think of my books - all of them, read and unread...

So, I've got all these books to read. Old books of mine that I would like to reread, books from my mother, either new ones she's passing on (willingly or not) - or the boxes in my shed of the adult books she read as I was growing up, new books I've bought or been given as gifts, and now, Advanced Reader Copies (ARC), "First Reads" (from GoodReads), and "giveaways" from the author or publisher themselves (see below). Now that I have a book blog, I have moved up in the book world; or at least I'm getting more "free" books and it's feeding my ego. There is one problem. So many books and so little time.

The idea of the ARC is to give "Uncorrected Proof" copies to booksellers, libraries, and reviewers (including bloggers) so that word of mouth about the title can begin before the book is released or during/after release to have it fresh in book-people's minds. My problem is since I love too many books, I sign up for too many giveaways and have been very, very, blessed with a new pile of books to read for review - I'm stressing about reading each one, getting a review written, and published, in a timely manner. The worst, for me, is I won an ARC biography-written by a Pulitzer prize winning author; I desperately want to read this book, and review it, however it's written in the kind of non-fiction style that I don't care for, and now, just a few pages in, it sits at the bottom of a pile of books that came after. I even asked my step-father if he was interested in reading it and commenting on it, he declined, not the time period he is interested in. Sigh. I want to do right by each and every one of these books.
At least here is one I can.

This book was a giveaway by the author. I would like to thank Len Rosen *very* much for sharing his book with me, taking the trouble to sign it, and include a personal note. I try to keep my "good books" in perfect condition; this book, has been well read and well loved. The note included is still tucked in it's pages.
Let me start by saying, I read this book in two long sittings; unfortunately they were not all that close together. It wasn't that I didn't want to get back to the book (like some others), life just interfered.
Once I did complete it, I had to sit with this book for a long time. Two weeks to be precise. It tackles themes that I've been questioning recently myself; the book does a beautiful job exposing them like a flower with the petals opening, exposing a new thought, a new way of looking at the situation, a new conundrum. The love story is stunning and powerful; as are many of the relationships, grandparents, parents, and children, "uncles" who are not related by blood-but by love, war comrades, and enemies across generations.
It was fascinating to read a book written completely from the European point of view. All of the primary players are European, though there are travels to other continents, and important discoveries made during those trips. Through the characters we see both war torn Europe during WWII, and the lingering effects on the population in the late 1970's (not just in Europe, but worldwide).
I tend to avoid most books written by European authors (the exception being books about books, such as Shadow in the Wind or The Club Dumas), however Mr. Rosen is an American, therefore his writing does not have the affected, pretentious tones that I find in so much European literature.
This book is a prequel to his "much-honored debut" All Cry Chaos (which, luckily I had not already read, since I *hate* reading books in a series out of order, regardless of when they were written). All Cry Chaos was the winner of two Awards, and a Finalist for three, including the highly prestigious Edgar Award for Best First Novel. I am now looking forward to getting it and finding time to read it!
I did notice on GoodReads that The Tenth Witness is shown as Henri PoincarĂ© Mystery #2; since it is a prequel should it not be #.5 if All Cry Chaos is #1? Curious about that.
Please leave me a comment letting me know why you would like a FREE giveaway of this book; expected publication November 12th. I will pick a winner and that person will get a copy sent to them courtesy of the publisher, Grand Central Publishing.
This is the 13th in the fabulous Pendergast series. I'm thrilled to be getting mine, however, I have to admit, I didn't realize, I'm a few books behind in the series! So once the two missing books arrive (used, unfortunately, due to budget constraints), I will dig into this as soon as I possibly can! (I can usually read these very quickly).
Thanks for reading!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Fall reading, Italy, and Wizard Fairy Tales

It's fall and here are two good books...

Read from September 19 to 21, 2013 — I own a copy, read count: 2

I love this book so much. It would get six stars, if I could. I read it first in 2000, either when I was in Venice or shortly after I returned from my trip (my honeymoon for my short-lived marriage). My ex-h and I were both opera singers at that point in time. My Crohn's was in remission, or at least under control. Italy seemed the obvious place to go.

When I got to Italy, I was mesmerized. I literally said, send all of my things (including my cats), I don't want to leave. I came away from that trip to Italy with two things... 1) the knowledge that a couple should *always* take an overseas trip before they get married, even if you've been living together, you learn a lot about how a person handles new stressors & 2) a nasty case of bronchitis, because everyone there smokes, 24/7, especially the concierge in our hotel who was right down the hall from our hotel room and the smoke came up under the door; day and night. Leaving was the only option.

Unfortunately, I missed a few of the sites we had scheduled for the last few days of the trip; and though he dragged me out of the hotel room for a gondola ride, I have no memory of it and it wasn't in the least bit romantic.

This book has haunted me all these years. I've wanted to read it again. It's a short read, less than 200 pages. It has everything I would have liked to see and more. Cats, Venice in the moonlight, gondola's, ancient Palazzo's (both renovated and being reclaimed), dank churches, and cemeteries. When I found it in a box of books, I pulled it out and put it back on the shelf. It's one of those works that stays just behind my shoulder with it's own particular hum frequency.

A United Stated stock market trader, with a tenuous relationship with his father, and an obviously mismatched fiancé, is sent to Venice by him firm for a year to report on financial and political issues leading up to the Italian elections. He is haunted by the death of his mother's cat, at the Vet's hands due to old age, and his leaving the country; the cat was the last link to her, a surrogate sister, his mom having died in a car accident when our hero was 12. The book is so tightly written, we've learnt most of this by page 13, and he's off to Italy.

There are very few books I'd read more than once, and even fewer that I'd read more than twice. This is one of those special, magical books for me. This one won't go back into the bottom of a box.


Read from June 09 to September 19, 2013
I'm not a Harry Potterphile, or whatever the trendy word of the day is. I waited for Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Harry Potter, #6), to be published and then I bought the first six books, figuring by the time I got near the end #7 would be completed. It worked, I got all the way through in paperback, and then read The Deathly Hallow in Hard Cover. As they've come out, I've also gotten some of the companion books, such as this one.

This is a series of five children's stories written for the Wizarding community (non-Muggles), collected by Ms. Rowling, translated by Hermione Granger, and with a commentary on each story by Professor Dumbledore, himself. Ms. Rowling has taken the liberty of adding comments where she feels necessary to clarify points for Muggles readers.

The stories are delightful, the writing clear and focused for children, and a clear moral. The commentary at the end of each story is insightful and illuminating.

A delight; recommended for all ages.  
Battle your dragons, &
Thank you for reading!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Lyme, National Suicide Week, and Books!

Sometime in the last week or two it was National Suicide Day and Week. I reposted some stuff on FB that caught my eye. This is a link to (another) blog about "Lyme Disease and Suicide, An Ignored Problem":, I posted it on FB the other day; my psychologist, Dr. Richard Bransfield of Red Bank, NJ, is quoted in the article. I always love it when my doctors are quoted. I don't remember if I've mentioned, my LLMD, Dr. Richard Horowitz, has a book coming out any minute: Why Can't I Get Better?: Solving the Mystery of Lyme and Chronic Disease .   

I follow many Lyme forums now, and have a few particular favorites. This keeps me away from reading as much as I'd like, or blogging about books... however, I do write quite a bit on the forums, when I can. One forum that I've been going to more and more is geared towards those who are suicidal. Though I can't remember why I originally joined, (probably to support a friend) I know that it's helpful to me to reach out to people who are in my position or worse, and try to give them emotional support and practical suggestions from my own life.

A few years back I made a FB friend in Colorado. He was suicidal from the Fibromyalgia pain (I can relate). I diagnosed him with Lyme almost immediately, and told him to see a specialist asap. Jump forward more than a year, he is finally diagnosed with Lyme, and finally starts treatment. His Lyme rage becomes a problem on some of the forums, he moves to the mid-west, Chicago maybe, to see a certain LLMD, I'm vague on all the details. A year or two later, he eventually gives in and takes his life. I miss him all the time. When he was coherent, we would have lovely talks. When he'd close his FB account, I'd email him or call him on the phone. He was passionate about his big bird, a macaw, perhaps? Because my memory is so poor, I can't even remember how I found out about his death-that also makes me sad. I wish I had known about this forum when he was still alive, maybe it could have helped him.

I was suicidal in college: just once because of an obsessive, emotionally abusive boyfriend; I took an overdose of aspirin. Ironically, I'm now sensitive (not allergic, but sensitive) to all aspirin products, can't take any of them, Advil, alieve, motrin, etc., can't take them, I get welts all over my body... and, amazingly, he and I are friends now on FB, he's married with a couple of kids. Strange what time and forgiveness (of both oneself and others) can do.

Although I am not suicidal any longer, I am hyper-aware of the feelings that Lyme and it's family of co-infections and concurrent illnesses can generate. The closest experience I've had was an extremely vivid dream in the 2nd year of being sick, I woke knowing exactly how I could kill myself should I want to, it was probably October or November of 2010. The pain at that time was indescribable, I was on Percocet/Hydrocodone several times a day -as needed- or Dilaudid/Hydromorphone when I just couldn't stand it and the Percs weren't doing anything. Three surgeries later, in March of 2011, we would learn that I had had endometriosis and other unpleasantness, but to top it off the third surgery was an emergency appendectomy -- my appendix was half eaten by the endometriosis. I still get mystery abdominal pain, but nothing compared to that winter. So, living with this pain that was *literally* eating me up inside, I dreamt the perfect suicide scenario (for me). I wish I had had the energy to write it down at the time, it was so completely formed down to every last detail. It would have made a wonderful story -- a la, Kate Chopin's, The Awakening. And probably good therapy.

From a FB post by a stranger to a young FB friend who is on the edge:
"I saw a meme last week that I liked: "Even the longest day of your life, is only 24 hours." Keep breathing. ♥♥♥"

When I have "good" days, I can sit up, shower, go downstairs, even drive to the store or a doctor's appointment. And then there are varying degrees of bad days. Recently, I've been having pretty bad days. I have this chest cold that started back over 2 months ago as a sinus infection. The sinus infection rages on and the bad head cold has moved into my chest. I'm waiting for the paper pushers to call me to set up a time for my sinus CT scan and a chest x-ray. When I went to bed for a "nap", I felt like I was sinking into the bed, and wondered, not for the first time, if it wouldn't just be easier to just not wake up. However, when a medication (like Cymbalta, thank you very much) gave me the side effect of suicidal thoughts, I knew what they were, packed them away and waited it out. I wouldn't act on these thoughts, but I do have the feelings. There are times when I'm starting a new drug or supplement and I go through an adjustment period that puts me flat out for a few days (or longer), when I'll wonder if I'm going to die. It's natural, and not permanent.

So, what does all this have to do with books? It has to do with my spending so much time on FB (and occasionally email) with my other Lymie or sick friends, and not reading quite as much as I was. I'm writing a lot, but it's been targeted in supporting other people. I will continue to do my best to keep this blog up, I'm enjoying it for what it is (whatever it is), and I hope you are as well, dear reader.

Recently completed...


's GoodReads review
bookshelves: from-mom, own, fiction
Read from September 15 to 19, 2013

I don't usually like starting a series by an author when I'm still working on another; in this case, I love the Cold Stone series but have not completed it. Mom gave me this book, it happened to be the first in this series and exactly the kind of book I needed in the moment. So, why not. I was not disappointed. Mr. Baldacci is one of those writer's -- like a modern day Agatha Christie -- where if someone put his books down in front of me in stacks in the correct reading order, I would just read them one after another. Like eating grapes, or Cape Cod potato chips (40% reduced fat)... (yum, cape cod potato chips...)

This conspiracy theory book is completely believable. And thus, fairly terrifying. The main characters are all strongly written, fleshed out, and have strong motivations. Even the secondary characters start to feel like someone I'd recognize on a train or subway. It is almost unbearably sad in places and fairly graphic, at least it felt that way to me. There is some discussion about the deep places some people end up going because of their suffering, this is explored in several ways, however also left open ended, a "to be continued" into the next book.

In the first few chapters, I wondered if there were too many characters being introduced, and worried it might get too complicated. However, having read Mr. B. before, I chose to trust him and go with it. He earned the trust by wrapping everything up very neatly, and made me longing for the next installment in the se

Apparently this is Mr. Baldacci's first *international* thriller. He seems to have had fun spreading his wings. Looking forward to more, and more, and more...

I have several more books completed or near completion, I'll get to them once my brain stops hurting, my eyes see more clearly, and the mucus in my chest stops drowning me..

To your good heath!

Thank you for reading!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Bookends, bedside tables, and Gypsy's

This picture was going around Facebook. I thought I'd share; it made me laugh aloud.

If I need a bookend, I'll pile up a bunch of books...
Barely hanging onto my bedside table are nine books, in two piles. Most of them are thick books so they're at old angles with bedside table thingy's shoved in on and around them. Camera, fun; I can take a picture and post it! (I just learned how to do something new here on my Blog...) 

The books on my bedside table
I don't mean to brag about the size of the books I happen to be reading now; I do have a lot of small books too (particularly the plays, unless it's an anthology, the acting version of a play tends to be much, much smaller than a regular book). So these are the reasons I may miss my reading goal of 104 books for the year; they're just too big/long/non-fiction/etc. for me to get through quickly. Though, in another pile, on another table (not shown), are three more books I'm working through, one of which, I'm almost finished. Who knows. I shouldn't worry about the numbers.

My own known, (to myself anyway) OCD compulsions have to do with books. It can manifest in many ways, but I've noticed always around books.

The homes I grew up in and even those of my extended family on my mother's side, were cluttered with books. At my father's parents, we all sat around reading books (until the day when pretty much everyone had a laptop, even then I had at least one book). Both my parents have walls of bookshelves. Books - clutter - they're part of my heritage; practically part of my DNA. You'd figure I'd take to ereaders/whatever, I just can't do it. I like books. Big, heavy, hold in my hands (even if my arthritis is acting up, then I'll find a way to prop it up), BOOKS. I have "broken down" and gotten an app for my smartphone so that if I'm stuck somewhere I can read a public domain book, I have a few downloaded for an emergency. And, as you may have read a couple of blogs back, I read my first ebook on the computer - but then went ahead and ordered a copy for my personal library, because I was compelled to. It's an addiction; I'll be the first to admit it.

We moved around a lot when I was young and after I graduated college (two colleges in two cities; seven different apartments), I continued the trend of moving often. Now I can tell you (and so can my parents) having a book fetish and moving often is difficult when you have two tons of books to carry around. TOUGH.
The book of the day…
I started this book as a change from non-fiction, and I had a cold coming on. The sicker I am, the more I want “comfort books”: well-written fiction with a strong, and hopefully, quickly moving story line (preferably, a fast 800+ pages), leaving me wanting more. Some authors, I know I can trust for this; some are quirky, and I have to be in the correct frame of mind (I read A Tale of Two Cities in as close to one sitting as I could possibly get; whereas, as much as I wanted to read it, Oliver Twist bogged me down); then there are the certain authors that even when they write fiction, I want to have all (or, in my peculiar condition, as many as possible) of my faculties at my sharpest. With a new author, or even a new book by an old friend (the Dickens example, above), I roam into the unknown—have to go by instinct and the dust/back cover. So for this, I picked a new author of the pile “W-Z”, and dove in. **One thing about my shelving/piles, they are sorted by titles of books, not by author. Otherwise, I’d be reading Dickens entire collection before moving on to Dickinson… It would be crazy. Or maybe I am. But yes, the fiction books tend to be kept separately from the non-fiction and sorted by title so I can get a nice diverse cross section, I don’t like to read the same subject, genre, author, in a row (unless it’s a series that’s been completed and I can’t put it down until I get to the end). Though right now, I’ve been mixing more non-fiction titles in, because I want to read more of them, instead of having them sitting by themselves being ignored.
My random pick was:
I didn’t realize “who” Colum McCann “was” until after I finished the book and realized his newest book is on the Man Booker Long List for 2013 (TransAtlantic is already on my to-read list, I felt like quite an intellectual for wanting to read it before it was nominated—even though it didn’t make the short list).
Zoli is a book I would have gotten more out of if I hadn’t had a raging head & chest cold.
I much prefer linear books to “fancy” books that jump around the timeline of the story. This one starts in 2003, then jumps back to “1930s-1949”, then jumps forwards and backwards at the same time (that will make sense if you read the book). Not so good for someone who prefers linear books and has a bad cold. It took a *lot* of concentration and checking the dates at the beginning of sections—oh, and each section is written by an entirely different point of view—to try to figure out what was going on where and with whom. That was almost enough to cause a headache.
My mom gave me this book once she had read it, so there had to be some value in it; plus there’s my “have to read at least 50%” rule. One option I had was to put it down and start something easier, but once I got into the rhythm of the 2nd section, I was hooked, and determined to get through it. One section, with the change of POV, almost stopped me; I was confused about the new voice, and both where and when the story was picking up. I slugged through it.
Now, I’m fairly well read, and self-educated on many topics I may have missed in school. However, I learned so much from this book on the 20th Century from the Slovakian/Czechoslovakian perspective, and the Gypsies throughout Europe. (There is a wonderful interview of Mr. McCann by Frank McCourt that speaks to this.)
Zoli is a Czechoslovakian (or whatever they were calling the soil she was standing on at that moment) Gypsy also called Roma. Her character is loosely based on a real 20th century Polish Gypsy Poet (from the Author’s Note p.332). After her family is killed, she is raised by her Grandfather, who upon scrutiny may not be her biological Grandfather; however, he does right by her, and raises her well. This includes, teaching her to read and write, and eventually allowing her to go to school with non-Roma children, which is pretty close to Taboo for the Gypsies (there are many taboos). She is a singer, and as she becomes political, she starts to make up her own songs, and writing them down—this is the first time Roma poetry has ever been written down, and at just the right moment the Gypsies are in favor with the people, and the Government; readings are done of her poems, she becomes famous. More of her poems are gathered and a book is planned; again the Government shifts and now the Gypsies are to be forcefully relocated, from their wagons and life on the road, into apartment buildings.
The story continues, however I don’t want to give away spoilers. I’ll say this—Zoli is very resourceful.
Each section talks about her from a different point of view, many sections include the back-story of the narrator's life and how that person came to be involved in Zoli’s life.
I appreciate how much I learned from this book, and I hope I will have the opportunity to read it again to get even more out of it.
Thanks for reading.


Monday, September 9, 2013

A small rant and Mongols

Quiet rant…

I was just reading 1 star review on GoodReads about a book that everyone else was giving 4 or 5 stars. The guy never finished the book. How can one give a star rating on a book that wasn't completed? That peeved me so much, I almost left him a comment. He's welcome to not care for a book, a writer, a subject, whatever, but to rate it without knowing how it ends and the story comes together... Mind you, I haven't read this book, I like to read pro and con reviews about books I'm unsure of adding to my ever growing list of books I want to read. This one has promise, this guy just got under my skin. I figured, it's about a book, I can vent here. (The book did get added in the end.)

Just for kicks, I'll talk about one of my GoodReads books. Go figure.

My mom gave me this book, after reading it herself. She knows I've always been drawn to the Mongols, perhaps due to a past life experience (if you believe in that sort of thing), or perhaps because my fathers German - as far as we can trace back - family has distinctly Asian features. I've been asked by Japanese women where my ancestors/grandparents were from. High check bones, rounded nose, large lips, slight eye flap. Me, Dad, Uncle, Aunt, both Cousins... It fascinates me where/how this trait came to be in our family line.

It took me six months to read this book (almost to the day). That's not the books fault; I tend to read non-fiction very slowly, sometimes reading a chapter and putting it down for a long time and then picking it back up again several non-fiction books later. History isn't going anywhere after all... Right? I might have done this book a slight injustice handling it in my usual fashion. The real Mongol queens come to life in some places and by putting it down, I may have ruined some of the magic. I did prefer the beginning with Genghis Khan and his daughters/granddaughters and the end (I won't spoil it). The middle was - historically - more about the men and the mess they made of everything after Genghis passed on. However, it was important to the narrative to keep the historical flow going, even if the stupid guys were a little tedious.

I particularly liked how Mr. Weatherford was able to use multiple sources throughout the centuries, both Mongol and from outside cultures to cross reference the stories and narratives that have been passed down through history. Where there are holes in the records, he says so.

The four star rating comes from it being non-fiction and I have a very specific type of non-fiction that gets five starts. I know it when I see it; this one came close 4.5 if I could.

And the ending is divine. Worth reading every word. To me, it is inspirational.

After posting this review on GoodReads a high school friend, who is now a university professor, contacted me on GR, she had this to say: "I teach a course on the Mongols and I assign this book.  Weatherford is a very appealing writer and his books also got me interested in the Mongol Empire. Check out his _Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World_ which is a more general history of the Mongol Empire but also very appealingly written. If you still need a Mongol fix, there is a good English-language version of the epic _Secret History of the Mongols_ (Paul Kahn, ed., Cheng and Tsui Publishers)." Both have been added to my "want to get" (now at 2309 books). Another GR friend recommended a 2007 "Russian movie about Genghis Khan's early life called Mongol." I'll definitely be checking to see if that's available for streaming. 

Next up a novel that got me through a sinus infection/head cold.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Still learning – might switch to another blog site (any recommendations?)

This is my third try at this installment, which I originally intended calling “Bits & Pieces” as I hoped to get through several titles in one sitting. Not today.

What I’ve learned is that the Blogger’s “Save” function doesn’t mean that the information entered is saved once you leave the program. So, I’m writing this in Word and when I’m done, I’ll transfer it over to the blog and add the links and reformat the font, spacing, etc. Seems like unnecessary extra work to me, but perhaps that’s the way they all work, and I should keep a Word Folder for all my Blog posts? You know what? I’m going to do that now. BRB…  Well, this one is saved for real at least.  

I’m going to start with a shout out to an author who sent me a GoodReads message after I added his book to my “to-read” shelf. Honestly, I probably entered a contest to get an Advance Reader’s Copy (ARC) or some kind of free copy. This man did it right.

message 1: by Landon (new)  

Thanks Leigh for adding my book to-read. I like to take time out of my day and reach out to some of my suspense readers. Every time someone reads First Night of Summer, it helps to raise awareness for the safety and welfare of children. Be sure to write a review and let me know what you think. I hope you enjoy it and become a fan! For a limited time, the ebook price is only $2.99 cents for kindle, nook and ibooks.
It is #1 NYT Bestselling Thriller Author, Sandra Brown's debut author pick for 2013.
Click the link below to watch the book trailer...and feel free to share it with others.

And my response back, I guess I have no shame….

Hi Landon, thank you so much for reaching out to a reader! It is very humble and inspiring that you would do so. I have not (yet) developed a taste for ebooks, I like the feel of the paper in my hands. At some point I am sure I will have to adapt, however, I'm not ready yet!

Yours is the first book trailer I've watched, it touched me. If you do any give aways or have any ARC's left, please consider me? I have a book blog (recently started) and will review it on GoodReads as well.

Thanks again for the message.

That kind of made my day. Now I really want this book.


Now on to a book review.

No Picnic An Insider's Guide to Tickborne Illnesses
by PJ Langhoff

5 of 5 stars
Read in August, 2013
ebook (edit)
I recommend this book to every single person who asks me a single question about Lyme disease. This is an all-in-one handbook of pretty much everything a person needs to know about TBD (tick bourne disease).

If you or a loved one has a single question, PLEASE READ THIS BOOK. It is available for free on the internet, I just wish I could remember the webpage I downloaded it from.

To your best health.

To order (nominal fee) or (FREE) download:

Because of my book addiction, I ordered the paper copy for my collection. It was $7.20 & shipping through Amazon. I’m not a big fan of ordering through Amazon, but as I’m learning how the system works, I’m dealing with it. It should arrive any day now. Since I've already read it, it will go on the already read shelf, but that way I can hand it to friends instead of sending them the PDF. I find it so much easier to read paper. Though this was my first ebook read, ever. But it's only 70-odd pages.

All right, that wore me out. Now to transfer to Blogger and upload. Again, any suggestions for a better blog site are encourage. Thanks!