It’s been almost three weeks and while we haven’t reached ten entries yet, I (Jessica) thought it was about time to end the contest! I rolled a die (I have many lovely dice from my RPing hobby) and the winner was the second entrant, Sylvia! (Here’s a link to her speculative fiction blog.) I owe a big thanks to Ari for promoting the giveaway!
Monthly Archives: February 2011
Jane from Dear Author and Sarah from Smart Bitches Trashy Books both posted today about the HORRIBLE limitations HarperCollins is hoping to place on libraries who lend e-books. I recommend going and reading either or both of those posts, as they provide a good overview of what’s going on.
If you didn’t bother clicking the links, what’s going on is that HarperCollins is allowing libraries who buy a new title to lend it only 26 times before renewing their license. Essentially, they are saying that libraries must buy a new copy. After 26 lendings. Cause that’s how often print books need to be replaced, am I right? The especially frustrated thing about this is that libraries are already only allowed to lend e-books one at a time. In fact, for many titles, libraries can’t relend the e-book even if it was returned early!
The other thing that HarperCollins did was “express concerns” over library “card issuance policies” and the “qualification of patrons” who will have access to e-books. I will be honest with you, this makes me boil with fucking rage. STOP treating me like a damned pirate. I WANT to buy your damned books. Don’t make them ridiculously expensive (why should an e-book be the same price as a print book when readers don’t have the same user rights: that is, to lend and resell) and don’t make them hard to access!
Here’s the thing, Mr. and Mrs. Publishers: You want to sell books and readers want to read books. These two things don’t have to be mutually exclusive. You see how I said “and we want to read them,” not “but”? No, they don’t have to be mutually exclusive, but you act like we’re your enemies. STOP IT. Yes, consumers like free things. We also like to support the people who create things we like. For every book I borrow from the library, I buy two or three. If I read the first book in a series or by a new-to-me author, no matter where I got it, I am far more likely to buy the next books.
But here’s the real thing: In battles between producers and consumers, consumers always win. If we can’t get books cheaply and easily, many people will either stop reading or drastically reduce their reading habit. If people stop reading, you will lose. You depend on us. We are your livelihood, not the other way around. You will fail, and then the many, many people who love books will suffer, too.
STOP BEING IDIOTS. PLEASE.
P.S. I apologize for my angry ranting. I just! I get so angry when people do things to limit my reading and those “people” are almost always publishers. >=(
I don’t know about anyone else, but I thought the African American Read-In was a huge success! I really enjoy talking with people about books, but that usually happens one-on-one. It was fun and enlightening to hear so many people’s thoughts. Thank you so much to Ari, Doret, and Edi for hosting!
Everybody reads reviews differently, so for those who like it short and sweet: I loved Bleeding Violet and heartily recommend it. For those who like to know a bit more about a book before buying/borrowing it, there’s a bit of plot at the bottom of the review under “Regarding Plot” (really, it’s what *I* would have put on the back cover instead of what was actually there). And for the rest of you, just read on!
Regarding Character: There’s more to the cover copy than that, of course, hinting at some of Hanna’s problems and how she tries to solve them, but that is, without a doubt, the most important sentence. She just wants to be loved. The other important thing to know, what will put the rest of my ruminations in context, is that the book is a fantasy novel. It takes place in a small town in Texas, Portero, where strange and scary things happen all the time. But to get back to Hanna…
She simply wants to be loved.
That’s important to remember, because it is, at times, the only identifiable thing about her. Hanna is beautiful, utterly gorgeous, and confident with the opposite sex. She’s also diagnosed as bipolar and has a hard time wanting to take her pills. She uses people and is, time and again, reckless with herself and others. There were a number of people at the Read-In who struggled with Hanna. Bleeding Violet is in first person, so disliking the main character makes the whole book a struggle.
I didn’t have that problem. I read the whole book one night and only put it down long enough to grab three hours of sleep before finishing it in the morning. I suppose I may identify with Hanna more than some because I am diagnosed as clinically depressed. I identified with Hanna’s frustration with non-crazy people and their lack of understanding, as well as her inner struggle with trying to figure out who she wants to be and how her mental illness fits in with her own identity.
On the other hand, Hanna is incredibly different from me. I doubt I would have made any of the same choices as she did. But isn’t that what fiction is for? To explore places I can’t go and meet people I likely never will? To try to understand and empathize those people by being inside their brains in a way that is much harder and rarer in the real world?
Hanna’s main motivation is love, as I have said. But specifically, she’s looking for the love of her mother, Rosalee, who she hasn’t seen since, well, she was born! We talked a fair amount about that at the Read-In: beyond Hanna’s craziness and Portero’s craziness lies a foundational story of a daughter seeking the love of her estranged mother. When you keep that in mind, I think Hanna’s actions become a lot more understandable.
Regarding Plot: I don’t want to make this humongously long and there are a million and a half more things I could write about (this was a big book, with any definition of big you want to put on it), but I will leave off with my own back cover copy. It’s going to be more boring than the one that came with the book, but I think it will also be more accurate. *glowers at the crappy copy*
Hanna simply wants to be loved. (What? That one line was good so I’m stealing it!) Her Swedish dad loved her and she loved him, madly. But then he died and, mostly, left her (she still hears his voice sometimes). In search of love, Hanna travels to Portero, Texas in search of her estranged mother, Rosalee. She expects to be the craziest thing in town, but then nobody reacts when she has a weird hallucination and everybody’s calling her a transy, whatever the hell that means. But there’s a cute boy named Wyatt and her Swan and Hanna knows that she can make Rosalee love her. Soon she’ll figure out what’s going on, uncovering the town’s history and secrets, uncovering Rosalee’s history and secrets, and she’ll turn everything topsy turvy.
Disclosure: Borrowed from the library!
by Tony Hoagland
She goes out to hang the windchime
in her nightie and her workboots.
It’s six-thirty in the morning
and she’s standing on the plastic ice chest
tiptoe to reach the crossbeam of the porch,
windchime in her left hand,
hammer in her right, the nail
gripped tight between her teeth
but nothing happens next because
she’s trying to figure out
how to switch #1 with #3.
She must have been standing in the kitchen,
coffee in her hand, asleep,
when she heard it– the wind blowing
through the sound the windchime
because it wasn’t there.
No one, including me, especially anymore believes
till death do us part,
but I can see what I would miss in leaving–
the way her ankles go into the work boots
as she stands upon the ice chest;
the problem scrunched into her forehead;
the little kissable mouth
with the nail in it.
“Windchime” appeared in Tony Hoagland’s 2003 volume What Narcissism Means to Me and was first published in Threepenny Review. I chose it because I think the last two stanzas are incredible, and it seemed fitting for St. Valentine’s Day.
I had trouble sleeping last night and ended up reading quite a lot of Bleeding Violet, which I finished this morning. I’m not going to talk about it just yet, though, I think I will save my post/review until after the Read-In.
However! I read a short romance before I went to sleep. That brings me up to five for the year, so I’m just about on track for the 50 Book Challenge. Anyway! Onto the review!
A Matter of Class by Mary Balogh is an unexpected take on the arranged marriage, which is damned hard to do!
Reggie is the dandy son of a rich coal merchant. Annabelle is the ruined daughter of an impoverished earl. Their fathers have been enemies for years, but a marriage between their children would solve all of their problems (aside from having neighboring estates, that is). Both Reggie and Annabelle protest, but neither are in a position to refuse what their fathers “suggest”. How does Mary Balogh turn this trope on its head? You’ll just have to read and find out!
I really enjoyed this short book. Reggie is, refreshingly, not the typical Regency hero: he doesn’t brood, he’s social and funny. I love me a hero who teases! Annabelle is more typical, but perfectly enjoyable. Their interactions with each other are truly delicious, and isn’t that what romance is all about?
The book has only one sex scene and isn’t too strong on the sensual front, which is neither a plus nor a minus for me though it may be for some. I do find it, to be honest, a relief when the couple aren’t majorly attracted to each other at first sight, but I tend to prefer more of the physical side of things once the romance progresses.
The only real complaint I have is that there was a bit too much exposition at the end. I had already figured out the essentials of the twist and didn’t need Reggie and Annabelle to spell it all out for me. Still, I enjoyed A Matter of Class a lot and, clocking in at only 224 pages, it’s the perfect book to pick up and read in an evening!
Don’t forget to enter our A Girl Named Disaster giveaway!
God, I love the library!
I’m reading Bleeding Violet by Dia Reeves for the online African American Read-In (hosted by Ari of Reading in Color, Doret of HappyNappyBookseller, and Edi of Crazy Quilts). It’s going to be on February 20th so I had to get my act together and get a hold of the book! I’m super excited, though. I’ve heard such good things about it and just needed the excuse!
From the inside cover: “Hanna simply wants to be loved. With a head plagued by hallucinations, a medicine cabinet full of pill, and a closet stuffed with frilly violet dresses, Hanna’s tired of being the outcast, the weird girl, the freak. So she runs away to Portero, Texas, in search of a new home.
But Portero is a stranger town than Hanna expects. As she tries to make a place for herself, she discovers dark secrets that would terrify any normal soul. Good thing for Hanna, she’s far from normal. As this crazy girl meets and even crazier town, only two things are certain: Anything can happen and no one is safe.”
Brand new to my library! *faints from being TOTALLY THRILLED TO PIECES*
This book hits so many of my book fetishes. Orphans, secret societies, secret societies WITH FEMALE AGENTS, historical setting (Victorian), INTRIGUE, MYSTERY, a mysterious house, people with SECRETS.
Seriously, guys, this book was freaking written for me. I think.
And, of course, my (first) obligatory gardening book and, like all of them, fairly useless since I don’t have my own garden. This one is pretty awesome, though. I love growing some of my own food and not having to replant every year is a huge draw for someone as lazy as me!
For the non-gardeners out there, annuals are plants that you plant every year and die every year. A lot of flowers and vegetables are annuals. Biennials are a bit longer-lived – their life cycle takes two years to go through. Perennials live anywhere from three years to, well, as long as any plant can live. Trees are a great example of perennials. Oftentimes, perennials will take two years to get a real harvest.
The book is split into three parts: Gardening with Perennial Vegetables, Species Profiles, and Resources. As you would expect, the largest part of the book are the profiles. I’ve already read through the first part and can’t wait to start making a wishlist of plants I will someday grow!
Do I really need to read yet another memoir sort of book detailing some twenty- or thirty-something’s adventures in urban farming?
Yes, yes, I do.
To be honest, I probably wouldn’t have picked this up (like I said, I’ve read a few of these books already), BUT Carpenter’s tale takes place near me, in Oakland, California. The street she describes living on sounds eerily familiar to my brother’s street.
I love living here in the Bay Area. I love its life, its diversity, its wonderful weather… I love to read about other people loving the Bay Area. So when you combine that with urban farming, well, I found it pretty irresistible!
So what have ya’ll gotten from the library recently? And if you liked the sound of Bleeding Violet, join in on the Read-In!
Jessica: Mia and I both belong to a Young Adult book club with a few other friends. Last month Mia picked our book: A Girl Named Disaster by Nancy Farmer. By chance, both of us had read it for the first time when we were younger, at similar ages, so it was interesting for both of us to revisit it from a more critical mindset.
aaaIt learned how the Matabele ants carried their young at the center of a line while the soldiers ran along the outside. It learned that when Uncle Kufa pursed his lips as he was eating, he was angry at Aunt Chipo. It learned that the wind smelled one way when it blew from the stream and another when it came from the forest.
aaaNhamo’s spirit had to be kept very busy to keep her from losing her temper.
aaaThe other girls in the village never felt restless. Nhamo was like a pot of boiling water. “I want… I want…,” she whispered to herself, but she didn’t know what she wanted and so she had no idea how to find it.” (pages 1-2)
Mia: You can see how much both of us enjoy writing summaries. Nhamo has a long adventure in the forest and on the water where she is, more or less, by herself. Her experiences bring up a lot of questions about lines between the human, animal, and spirit worlds; what makes a family; and the strength of body and mind in trying times.
Jessica: So Mia, do you remember how you responded to this book as a kid? I only read it the one time, but I know you read it a few times.
Mia: Well, I mostly remember being absolutely captivated by the adventure story the book provided. Nhamo’s strength through adversity and her experiences were utterly outside of everything I knew, and Nancy Farmer does a great job of keeping the story at a clipping pace while maintaining a pretty-but-practical style of writing–which to my mind matches Nhamo’s personality well. What were your impressions?
J: You know, I don’t really remember! I definitely loved it. I think I probably gobbled it up in one bite. The adventure is definitely a big draw, especially for girls. There are so few adventure books that feature heroines. On Amazon there were a few reviews that were obviously written by boys who said things like “It was too boring” and “This is a girl’s book!” which broke my heart.
M: Boring? What! I never. I am a big fan of rereading books, especially since I tend to read things quickly on the first time through, and this is one that definitely drew me back again and again. There are so many facets to the story–adventure, family, the spirit world, storytelling–that I could always look for something different when I picked it back up.
J: Yeah, I really enjoyed rereading it. I’ve always meant to, so thanks for picking it! The quote we picked up there is one I really identify with now. You mentioned it, and it was exactly the one I wanted to feature, as well. I wonder, though… I can’t remember if that quote jumped out at me back then. I associate that sentiment, wanting but not knowing what you want, with twenty-somethings more than any other age group. Aside from maybe babies!
M: Babies indeed. The fact that you don’t really remember the quote affecting you then speaks to me quite well of the importance for looking back at books you loved or even liked as a child. For most of us, our priorities have changed drastically from what they were when we were preteens, and in reading books that shaped us (or didn’t) as young adults, we get a chance to reflect on what we wanted, or thought we wanted, or didn’t know we wanted. This segues us back to the book, though. Jessica, do you think Nhamo has any better idea of what she wants at the end of the book than she did at the beginning?
J: (My dad never rereads books. He reads primarily for plot, so it’s understandable, but I still think he’s missing out on SO MUCH!) That’s a really interesting question. I think she’s definitely more fulfilled, but maybe that desire for the unknown is something that stays with us always. Here’s another question, since I don’t know what else to say: Nhamo ends the book (SPOILER ALERT, OBVIOUSLY) being bookish and smart and in a modern place. I think Farmer does a pretty good job of not favoring the modern over the traditional (that’s assuming a false dichotomy, but we’ll leave that alone for now). BUT we have that ever-so-common trope of the bookish and intelligent girl in a book whose audience is primarily bookish and intelligent girls. When Nhamo learns to read and thinks about going back to her village where there aren’t any books (combined with her reaction to Uncle Kufa’s misspelled letter)… I don’t know, it seemed almost… too easy? We talked in book club about how it seems pretty obvious that the audience she is writing for is mostly white, and definitely not African. It almost felt to me like it was a Western idea of a happy ending for this girl. What do you think?
M: It’s easy to look at Nhamo’s choice to embrace modernization as a Westernized betrayal of her roots, but I think largely it’s a choice made largely out of practicality for Nhamo. Electricity and stoves mean no more cookfires for which she has to gather fuel, plumbing means she doesn’t have to haul water from the stream, and in general her daily life is made much easier and more convenient. One could say–and I’m doing this because I’m not sure if this is what I believe myself, so I’m saying that one COULD say–that with so much time freed up that she doesn’t have to use doing chores, a more intellectual approach is natural, especially as the other characters keep emphasizing what a smart girl Nhamo is and how many opportunities her intelligence could afford her. (This was one thing that bothered me about the book–I think Nhamo showed us quite well how intelligent and capable she is through her adventure, and it felt a little strange to have the other characters keep saying that.)
J: I agree with you, and I don’t think it’s an odd ending, really. I guess I just wonder if Farmer chose Nhamo to end up at Efifi, either consciously or unconsciously, because of her background as an educated, scientific type woman and because her audience is primarily educated, middle-class girls. Anyway, this is getting LONG and we should probably wrap up. Is there anything else you wanted to mention/discuss? The spirit world/characters? Nancy Farmer being white but having lived and worked in Mozambique? Something else?
M: I feel like any of those topics would bring us along another five or ten pages, so I’m a little wary of jumping into the fray.
J: I’m definitely with you! Maybe it’s enough to say that there is a LOT more we could discuss about this fantastic book, eh?
M: Rather! I wonder what LeVar Burton would say.
J: Don’t take our word for it! Go and read it yourself!
(Still Jessica…) Actually, we’ll make that super easy. I know I have a copy of Girl Named Disaster in a box somewhere, but I bought a new (used) copy for the book club SO I’M GONNA GIVE IT AWAY.
Here’s the deal: write a comment (make sure to include your email!). When I get ten comments, I’ll draw a random number and email the winner! I’m going to have to limit this to the US and Canada as I am very poor, sorry!
by Philip Larkin
Caught in the centre of a soundless field
While hot inexplicable hours go by
What trap is this? Where were its teeth concealed?
You seem to ask.
I make a sharp reply,
Then clean my stick. I’m glad I can’t explain
Just in what jaws you were to supperate:
You may have thought things would come right again
If you could only keep quite still and wait.
A bit of background: myxomatosis is a disease affecting rabbits. If the rabbit has no form of resistance to the disease, myxomatosis can kill a rabbit in two days. One of the most visible symptoms of the deadly disease is that the affected rabbits become lethargic. It was introduced in Britain by humans in an attempt to curb the over-abundant rabbit population after the second world war. Philip Larkin was a British poet who wrote after WWII. “Myxomatosis” comes from his second volume, The Less Deceived, which appeared in 1955.