Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Gone: A Photographic Plea for Preservation

Gone: A Photographic Plea for Preservation is a selection of photographs of antebellum structures which in some way, some as limited as columns, survived the American Civil War but have since fallen into disrepair. The photographs are presented in tandem with the short story, " Pillar of Fire" by Shelby Foote. While the story is a nice read on its own, the photographs selected for each page of the text makes it seem like the story was telling the history of these particular structures, even though the story was written nearly 50 years prior. The photographs on their own are stunning and worth looking through for anyone interested in antebellum architecture. My biggest wish would have been more captioning of the photographs like the photographer's notes, as the history and battle scars of these structures is fascinating in their own right.

The story was good, but I wouldn't consider it great, though it might have been the layout of the book may have been throwing me some loops. Each page had a large phogoraph with a small caption on its facing page, with a small photo and large quote or note on the page with the story, so it took some bouncing around. But the pairing with the photographs really made this a 4 star book, and has a message I really support.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Triangle: The Fire That Changed America

Friday was the 100th anniversary of the Triangle Fire. On March 25, 1911, a fire broke out in the Triangle Shirtwaist Company Factory near Washington Square in New York City. 146 employees, the vast majority young immigrant women, died in the fire itself, or jumping from the 8th or 9th floors of the building to escape from the fire. As Von Drehle describes it, it was the worst workplace disaster in New York until 9/11.

CNN aired the HBO documentary about the Triangle Fire last night, and having read this book on it a few years ago, it seemed fitting to mention it in remembrance of the tragedy.

Since its been some time since I read the book, I'll refer you to this article from one of my local news channels and this one by Alice Hoffman from the Los Angeles Times. In the aftermath of the fire, the labor unions were able to fight for and gain improvements to working conditions and fire safety codes were established to help prevent fires from happening in similar conditions.

If you have an interest in social, labor or womens history, I would highly recommend this read. And for a little more updated information on the fire and its aftermath, check out Cornell University's Remembering the Triangle Factory Fire.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Nook Color Firmware Update of Awesomeness in April

In other words, The Nook Color will be getting it's app store, flash support and an email app sometime in April. C-net mentioned that HSN had said it was coming, but yesterday Barnes and Nobles announced it on the Nook Facebook.

This will be a great birthday present for me Barnes and Nobles! Can't wait to get it. But no offical date yet.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Weakness Wednesday

My mom has been on a hunt for one of those toys that Kohls sells as companion to the books for charity, so I offered to stop at the one near where I was going for work today. Which happened to be in the same shopping center as one of the Borders that is closing. So I had to stop.

With restraint, I limited myself to:

Fall of Giants by Ken Follett
Clara and Mr. Tiffany by Susan Vreeland
Luka and the Fire of Life by Salman Rushdie (ok, so I was dragged in by a pretty cover on this one. But it sounded interesting.)
Pope Joan by Donna Woolfolk Cross
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, read by Jim Dale (Finishes my set)

ps. If you need bookcases and have a Borders near you closing, see if they are selling fixtures. This one was, about $75 for a seven shelf bookcase, which is a steal.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A Discovery of Witches

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

I loved this book. Five star, probably can guess that yourself.

This is the first in the All Souls Trilogy. The book follows Diana Bishop, the last descendant of one of the witches killed at Salem. However, she has no desire to use her magic, and wants to do things the "normal" way, through hardwork. She's a historian of alchemy, and the book opens with her doing research in Oxford. While there, she encounters a magical manuscript, a vampire who is a scientist, and a bunch of other daemons, witches and vampires who threaten to throw Diana's "normal" life out of whack.

Within the first ten pages, I could already tell it was going to be a nice read. I normally have an author break-in period, where I get used to their flow and style and that can be up to the first 100 pages. But I didn't need that. I could jump in and enjoy the characters and settings. I very much enjoyed her descriptions of the locations. I really got to have a good image of the reading room after a couple of Diana's days there, and of the Old Lodge from the few appearances it made.

Harkness is a historian by trade, so you get an authentic peak at historians doing research, which I can relate to as I studied history and had to do my own research in archives. I enjoyed the science related moments when we get to see Matthew at his laboratory. I always enjoyed science and history, so these aspects of the book really made me a happy camper.

I'm not usually one for the non-traditional interpretation of vampires, but I really liked how she writes them. She actually addresses the differences between the legends and her "real" vampires at one point, and explains it in an almost scientific fashion. None of the magical creatures (witches, vampires, daemons) are really done in the more traditional way, but they generally fit in with the human population so long as not too much attention is drawn to them. This magical world is a truly believable one to me. Its not a completely separate world, like the more Harry Potter magical world is, but its just a tad different, and intertwinned with the "normal" world, so you could imagine these creatures around your everyday life. This was another aspect I really liked about this book.

I really enjoyed the characters, the have good personalities that make their way through the reading. I really cared about what happened to them, and wanted to keep reading so I could find out. I don't think I've enjoyed a book's characters so much since I read Pillars of the Earth last summer.

And one of the best things: there's a promise of a good chunk of historical fiction in the second novel, scheduled for some time next year. Not that I needed that to convince me to snag it when its out, but it is a nice perk.

A much better witchy read than The Witch's Daughter for me. As much as I enjoyed The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, I think I enjoyed A Discovery of Witches even more.

Monday, March 21, 2011

10 Things about Books and You

Stealing this from Wendy @ Wall-to-wall Books, who got it from Weekly Geeks.

The idea is simple. Tell us ten things about you with regard to books and reading. Let your imagination run wild!

For instance: New or old? Hard back or soft? One or lots at a time? Bookmarks or not? What genres? What authors? Favorites? Habits? Stuff you like. Stuff that bugs you.

I think you get the idea. You don't necessarily need to use my thoughts above of course. Those are just to get you started. And when you are done, we should be able to get a nice big picture of your reading/bookish personality.

Have fun with this! Be creative! Then be sure to visit around to other participants to see how you compare to everyone else's bookish personalities.

1. I have a compulsion that all my books within a series shall match. Doesn't matter if its hardcover or softcover, but the series must be uniform. There have been a couple times, where I've acquired part of a series (2 of 3 of LOTR at the library sale, and 5 of seven of Narnia as a gift, but second year on my list) and have not been able to get the missing books for, so I have turned to Ebay to find the missing matching of the set. Yes, I am like that.

Occasionally, if I love a series that is in paperback, I will upgrade it to hardcover (for durability's sake) if I can acquire them cheaply (many thanks to Barnes and Noble's clearance section).

2. I rarely find a used book sale I didn't like. Whether its a used book store, or a library sale, the majority of the time I come home with a new book. But when there's a never been read hardcover of Michael Crichton's Next for 25 cents, how am I to resist?

3. I belong to three public library systems. One each for the city and county I live in, and another in a city nearby where I do a lot of work and shopping in. The latter is just to take advantage of their Overdrive system. Great thing about California libraries (atleast those in So Cal), is you just have to be resident of the state to get a card, not the city or county the particular system is in. Which means I will likely join a couple more for their Overdrive systems.

4. If I see a movie that I like is based on a book, that book will make its way to my tbr list. Given my love of period dramas, my tbr list is very large.

5. I am a bit of a magpie when it comes to bookmarks. If someone offers a free one, I'll take one. I've got a large collection of them, most of which live in a collectors mug for easy finding. My mom has aided the collection by getting me unusual ones when my parents are off on their travels. Some of those are are metal one, a wood one, and a string one with pretty glass beads.

6. Reading hardcovers leads me to the internal battle of removing the dust jacket while I read and getting finger prints on the boards, or leaving the dust jacket on and risk damaging it.

7. I take a book or sometimes a magazine with me where ever I go, to the movies, work, doctor's office, out to dinner with family, visiting family...

8. I get a secret joy of freaking out non-readers or the casual readers with the monstrous tomes I read.

9. I am an ereader convert. I hated the idea at first, and its still not the same as reading a book. But its an easy way to carry around a bunch of books, and don't have to hold it open, so it works really well if you are trying to read while eating. But I'm not going to give up real books. Ebooks are still awfully expensive given I don't get a tangible item to hold for something $2-3 cheaper than I can get a real book.

10. I typically read the following genres: history; historical fiction; science-fiction/fantasy, including young adult sci-fi/fantasy; and classics. I read a tiny bit of mystery, which usually are Kathy Reichs books, but my neighbor has tried to get me started on some that she reads for her book club. I'm not really into Chick-lit, romance (Outlander and Phillipa Gregory are the closest I go towards that), anything with a religion qualifier, (classic mythology is ok. I'm just not a religion type of person), biographies, or current events. I don't even really want to read much on WWII since it just feels too recent.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Witch's Daughter

I found this book earlier in the month looking through my library's new acquisitions list. I admit, I was drawn to the cover, and the lure of a historical fiction story. So I put a hold on it and it came in last week.

The novel tells the story of Bess, a girl in the 1620s, who learns how to become a witch from Gideon, the area warlock, after her mother is tried, convicted and hanged for being a witch. But instead of fleeing with him, she decides to make her way alone, and begins a game of cat and mouse, trying to keep away from Gideon. Besides her creation story, a couple other moments of Bess's life are presented to the reader, all sandwiched around present day (2007) journal entries.

The whole "creation" tale was done a bit different than I'm used it (though I've not read that much in the way of witch or wiccan story lines). Instead of being just born into the skill, its more of a learned skill and gift from another.

My favorite portions were those from Bess's past. Those flowed better for me, and the characters were more interesting. Even the stalker aspect that usually is a turn off for me in other books wasn't so off putting in this. But when those retellings ended and it rejoined the journal entries, it was more disjointed there, and had to readjust to the tone of the narration.

Its not a bad read, but I just wasn't enthralled with it. I didn't want to read because I wanted to know what happened next, but more so for finishing on the library deadline. I really enjoyed reading The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane a heck of alot more

Friday, March 4, 2011

The Chunkster Reading challenge

Saw this on someone else's challenge sheet, and thought I could do that.

Definition of a Chunkster:
  • A chunkster is 450 pages or more of ADULT literature (fiction or nonfiction) ... A chunkster should be a challenge.

I have chosen to go in at the:
Mor-book-ly Obese - This is for the truly out of control chunkster. For this level of challenge you must commit to EIGHT or more Chunksters of which three tomes MUST be 750 pages or more. You know you want to.....go on and give in to your cravings.

Les Rules....

Really I don't see this as any sort of problem. Figuring that my personal definition of a short book is one under 500 pages at the moment. I may keep a seperate ebook list, and you can really see my wordy habits (at the default setting on my Nook, there's about 2-3 "page" turns to each 1 page of the page count, based on the two I've read so far on it). But I'll keep lists here of books that apply to the challenge.

Books that Count
1. A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness. Finished 3/20/11. 592 pages
2. Madame Tussaud by Michelle Moran. Finished 3/26/11. 464 pages.
3. A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin. Finished 5/25/11. 835 pages

Books that don't count (e-books and young adult fiction mostly)
1. We Two: Victoria and Albert Rulers, Partners, Rivals by Gillian Gill. 522 pages ebook edition
2. The Blighted Troth: A Novel of New France by Mirella Sichirollo Palzer. Started 4/30/11. finished 5/4/11. 452 pages e-book
3. The Throne of Fire by Rick Riordan. Finished 6/19/11. 452 pages.
4. Into the Wilderness by Sara Donati. Finished 8/3/11. 756 pages.

Hello again

I've decided to use this old thing as a book blog, since Shelfari doesn't have any sort of blogging feature. As of writing this, I've just got challenges up on a page.