Winner of A Girl Named Disaster giveaway!

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!

Please go and read our original review if you haven’t already and then read this great book!

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Erg, publishers!

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. >=(

Bleeding Violet by Dia Reeves

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!

Inside Cover Copy: “Hanna simply wants to be loved.”

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!

The Goose Girl – Shannon Hale

IQ: “In the dizziness of early morning and little sleep, Ani wondered what she would find outside, if the night and the water had washed it all away, the pasture, the walls, the guards, the palace, and left her with her name again standing in mud and darkness.” (p 155)

Recently, I have been craving, or I guess needing, really immersive fantasy when it comes to reading material. A close friend of mine passed away recently, and while I spend a good deal of time thinking about her and the time we had together, sometimes I need to think about something else, and that’s when I turn–as always–to books.

By a stroke of luck, another couple of friends (really friends of my boyfriend, but a cooler pair of twins I could not know, and I’d like to think of them as my friends too) lent me some of their library about a month ago, and among the selection was Shannon Hale’s Book of a Thousand Days. That one I picked first and devoured, so when I was at the library recently looking for good fantasy, I grabbed another Shannon Hale–this time, The Goose Girl–in the hopes that it would be as satisfying and amazing as Book of a Thousand Days.

I’m glad to say it definitely is.

The Goose Girl, like Book of a Thousand Days, is based on a Grimm fairy tale; Ani, a shy and awkward princess of the kingdom of Kildenree, is sent to the neighboring kingdom Bayern to marry a prince she has never met. Due to a coup during the journey, she must flee and hide under a false name as a goose-herder in Bayern, alone and afraid for her life. It’s a story of personal and physical journey, as are many young adult books, peppered with humor and romance to counter the trials.

The Goose Girl scratched a slightly different itch for me than Book of a Thousand Days; it’s longer, with slightly more trauma in the main character’s narrative, and Ani the princess is a very different protagonist from Dashti the mucker maid. Book of a Thousand Days was also somewhat more alluring to me at first glance because of its psudeo-Mongolian setting, while The Goose Girl springboards off of the fairly common western-Europe fantasy setting.

What the two books have in common, though, are main characters who go through interesting and believable changes and growths, a lively and detailed world, and wonderfully evocative prose that accomplishes a lot in terms of both storytelling and lyricism without being overly flowery. They have that fairy-tale feeling to them, warm and familiar (despite being fairly obscure tales), but Hale weaves strong characterization and worldbuilding into the framework to create something new.

This has become more of a Shannon-Hale-post instead of the Goose-Girl post I was intending, so let me just say this. Ani, not a particularly likable character in the beginning, struggles through a great deal of hardships (though not as many as the titular character of Plain Kate, another book I read recently–a beautiful book, but harrowing and rather painful to read, especially at this juncture in my life) and learns how to be strong for her own sake and develop her own identity, which is a very satisfying place to see her reach. The humor is fun and appropriate, and her awkward romance with Geric is charming to watch unfold.

Though I’ll have to return The Goose Girl to the library (and Book of a Thousand Days to my friends),¬† I would gladly welcome any of Shannon Hale’s work on my already-overflowing shelves. I greatly look forward to reading Enna Burning, another book based in Bayern, following one of the side characters from The Goose Girl. Hale shows a lot of skill in harnessing fairy tales and making them her own.

P.S. Don’t forget to sign up for our giveaway of A Girl Named Disaster! We’re already halfway to a winner!

Poem of the Week, “Windchime”

Windchime

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
wasn’t making
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.

You can visit Tony Hoagland’s website here, which has reading dates and other assorted things.
For more poems and a little biography, The Poetry Foundation is basically where it’s at.

A Matter of Class by Mary Balogh

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!

Jessica’s Library Haul

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.”

 

The Agency: A Spy in the House by Y.S. Lee

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.

*faints again*

Seriously, guys, this book was freaking written for me. I think.

 

 

Perennial Vegetables by Eric Toensmeier

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!

 

Farm City by Novella Carpenter

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!