Tag Archives: bibliophiliac

The secret truth behind book awards…

Just so you don’t get your hopes up, I don’t actually know the secret truth behind book awards.  Except that the people on the jury frequently don’t share my taste.  They like “experimental” books (aka, incomprehensible).  Of the various books that I’ve read that have won awards, the only book awards that I agree with fairly consistently are kids’ book awards.  The Pulitzer, the Man Booker, the Governor General, they very often leave me baffled at why they choose one book over another, and how they even make the shortlist.

In the very near future, I will review Julian Barnes’ “The Sense of an Ending”, where I have to say I spent more time pondering one of the comments on the book jacket than the book itself.

In the meantime, please enjoy this article written by author C.B. Forrest, with his say on book awards.

http://www.openbooktoronto.com/cbforrest/blog/inside_big_book_awards_lies_snobbery_debauchery_seduction_and_graft

I also quite enjoyed his other article with book award commentary as well:

http://www.openbooktoronto.com/cbforrest/blog/writing_it%E2%80%99s_not_about_money_not_yet_anyway

Christie

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Kobo Vox: Having Power Problems?

Kobo-Vox-7

The most common issue I see in the Kobo Vox is people having power issues.  The device isn’t charging, the wi-fi goes on and off, etc.  This is, in my experience, almost always because of the battery connection.  The reason for it occurring is idle speculation, but I can tell you how to fix it.

  1. Take the back off the Vox.  Use a fingernail, or something thin to pop off the plastic quilted cover.
  2. Gently remove the battery.  This is the large, thin rectangle taking up most of the left hand side.  The battery is attached to the Vox with a small cable, emerging from the bottom right  hand corner of the battery.  This step makes it easier to access the cable plug.
  3. Grasp the small white plug at the end of the cable.  Gently wiggle it while pulling, to detach it from the Vox.
  4. Once you have unplugged the battery, plug it in again, making sure you feel a “click”.  If you don’t feel the click, try again.  The plug is not properly seated, otherwise.
  5. Place the battery back in its compartment, ensuring you loop the wires under the tab at the bottom of the battery housing, so they don’t get pinched.
  6. Snap the back of the Vox back into place.

Voila!  Your power problem will now, hopefully, be fixed.  Also, while the cover is off, take note of the small recessed button, located next to the upper right-hand corner of the battery.  This is the manual reset button, just in case you ever need it.

Christie

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The Hunger Games: What’s all the fuss about?


Pretty much anyone not living under a rock, and probably some who are, have heard the phrase “The Hunger Games”  lately.   With the movie about to release, and the merchandise going crazy (check out the display at Chapters if you doubt me), it can be a little tough to tell whether the trilogy is really worth reading, or whether it’s just Hollywood sparkle.   As someone who has actually read The Hunger Games, and, in fact, read it when it originally came out, I think I can give you a review minus the hype.

The Hunger Games was published as a teen book, but I think that it’s a good enough story that adults can enjoy it too.  This is a classic adventure novel, full of action.  There are moral quandaries, questions of ethics, but they are fuel for the drama.  The setting is a classic dystopia, a post-apocalyptic world where all wealth is centred in The Capitol, and everyone else lives in one of twelve districts, where all food and resources for The Capitol come from.  The people in the districts are little more than slaves, and their lives are short and bleak.  The one event that can change that: The Hunger Games.  Teams of two, one male and one female, chosen from each district, compete to the death in an arena full of genetically altered animals and horrific booby traps.  At the end of the games, only one person will stand.    The whole thing is televised, and winning partly depends on capturing the attention of the audience, since audience participation is encouraged, and audience members can send food and medical supplies to favored competitors.

The story follows one of the competitors from district twelve, a girl named Katniss Everdeen, and how her life is changed dramatically when she volunteers to take her younger sister’s place in the games.  The victor’s district will receive additional food supplies.  Imagine suddenly being the symbol of everyone’s hopes – especially as a teenager.

I’m not going to get into the description of the other two novels, since that will essentially act as a spoiler for the first one.

I do recommend these books.  The storyline is interesting, and offers some great visuals.  Once the story hooks you, it becomes one of those books that you drag everywhere with you, and don’t go to bed, because you  need to know what’s going to happen!  The other two books are excellent as well.   There are many debates about how the trilogy is ended, not everyone likes it, but that’s not unusual.  No one ever really wants a series they enjoyed to end, and in a story like this one, there are probably a lot of different ways people would have liked to see the story end.

Trust me, buy the trilogy, because odds are you’re not going to stop at one.   And from the number of adults snapping up mockingjay pins, I’m definitely not alone in enjoying the series.  It’s a fun read, is really what it comes down to.  Don’t read it for great literature, or thought provoking philosophy.  Read it for the book equivalent of an Indiana Jones movie, or Star Wars.  It’s a great adventure story, and well worth the purchase.  It is available on e-book, too, which is nice.

C.

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Who looks forward to the zombie apocalypse?

Who looks forward to the zombie apocalypse?  The answer is, apparently, a lot of people.  Maybe not really, but it’s clear that speculation on what we would or would not do in the event of a zombie apocalypse is a favorite topic of conversation.  Some people plan to head for a forested area, and live off the land.  Some people want to stay in an urban environment, for easy fortification and access to supplies.  Some would head for sea.  I, as previously stated, would head for somewhere really really cold.  Ever see a zombie in a parka and mittens?  Exactly.  I refuse to consider the possibility of zombie penguins.

Some of my readers have shared the reasons they like discussing the zombie scenario.  Most of them revolve around a desire to imagine a life without nonsense.  It would be stripped to necessities, all etiquette, social climbing, and fashion sense rendered immediately useless.  Ok, more useless.

I find freedom in imagining a world where all the material stuff, all the celebrity ridiculousness, and reality shows, and social standing, stops mattering, because mankind has managed to collectively focus on something more important.  Not that I think a zombie apocalypse would be a good thing, but sometimes trying to pretend that the superficial is important gets to me.  And so picturing myself with a composite bow picking off zombies, and debating escape plans in case of a zombie infestation makes life a little less mundane.   Besides, it doesn’t hurt to be prepared…

So what do you need, in terms of know-how, for the zombie apocalypse? Someone who knows how to dress game.  Someone who knows how to start a fire without matches.  Edible plant knowledge.  First aid.  Battle strategy.    Do you bring people to care for and teach children?  What about books? Music?  Do you set off with a gun, field rations, and water purification tablets?  Do you try to save some of our history and culture?  Strictly what’s needed to keep you alive, or bring food for the soul, too?

Here are a few more good sources of zombie survival info:

If you’re going to fight zombies, better know what your best weapons are, what to target, and how to fight singly and in groups, against one zombie or a horde.  The Zombie Combat Manual, by Roger Ma, can help.

A good hunter can get inside the brain… or, something, of his prey.  A zombie hunter must be able to think… erm, shamble mindlessly, like a zombie.  Uh… I’m sure this is useful.  There’s gotta be some zombies that are sneaky, right?  Well, if you want to find the sneaky ones, check out Zombies: A Hunter’s Guide.

This book is called The Mammoth Book of Zombie Apocalypse.    Why wouldn’t you read it?

Oh, and for humor:

Because humor is definitely needed for survival.  And if Zombies Hate Stuff can’t make you laugh while the world’s ending, nothing will.   FYI: zombies hate roving bands of ninjas.  Who knew?

 

So.  Given 5 days of warning, what do you do?  Who do you bring, what do you take, where do you go?

C.

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Versatile Blogger Award

versatile blogger award

Mike Olavarria, aka Mike Reverb, has done me the honour of nominating me for The Versatile Blogger Award!  Mike’s awesome blog about his writing, and his love of zombies, can be found at http://mikereverb.wordpress.com .  I will always be in debt to Mike, not only for the nomination,  but also for creating the horrible, thankfully (so far) hypothetical scenario of zombie penguins.

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Necrophilia? You can love zombies, but you shouldn’t “love” zombies.

In terms of response and traffic, my post Everybody Loves Zombies  had an overwhelming response.  Also, zombie penguins.  Which made me stop and think… why, exactly, does everybody love zombies?  Where did we even get the idea of zombies?  Why won’t this zombie thing go away?  So, in order to stop having audienceless monologues like a supervillain without the lair, I will be writing a few posts on zombies.  This first one: zombigenesis.   Where did zombies come from?

There are stories from cultures all over the globe that feature animated corpses.  Anchimayen, basically zombie children, in Spain.  The draugr, who guards graves in Norway.   The jiang shi, from China, Vetala from India.

The zombies in books, graphic novels, and movies, mostly have their origins in the zombies of Voudoun.  Practitioners believe that they are corpses controlled by bokor, Voudoun sorcerers who practice black magic.  One scientist (for more on this, see his book The Serpent and the Rainbow), whose specialty is ethnobotany, thinks that the zombies are created by basically drugging someone out of his/her mind, including ingredients that make the victim extremely suggestible.  Like being frequently dosed with Rohypnol.  Incredibly creepy, but not exactly raising the dead.

Why, though, have zombies captured our collective imaginations?  The first zombie movie came out in the late 1930s, and since then it’s been a genre that just won’t… die.  Sorry, had to. Also, let’s not just look at zombies that are called zombies.  What about mummies?  Basically zombies, but more stylishly dressed.  What about people that are just empty shells, being controlled by alien puppet-masters?  Still zombies.  If you expand your definition of zombie to anything where someone that is dead, and despite that is still walking around (debating inserting joke about bible being original zombie story), zombies show up even more often than you think.

Is it a fear of death, of the body’s fragility, that makes us fascinated by zombies?  Because the zombies aren’t showing up in rom-coms (Corpse Bride excepted, and really anything by Tim Burton), they’re in some of the most disturbing books and movies of all time.  Is it literally coming face-to-face with mortality, in all it’s scariest , lingering, painful forms (radioactivity, virulent disease, evil magic)?  The desire to be able to kick the ass of Death, preferably with a sawed-off shotgun, a la Bruce Campbell?

Or maybe we just like being grossed out.

My first zombie experiences were Thriller,  and The Hilarious House of Frankenstein (I don’t remember which came first), both of which featured Vincent Price, possessor of the world’s creepiest voice.  I know my sister agrees, because I used to use his part of  the “Thriller” track  to send her fleeing out of our shared room.   I still love B-movie zombie flicks more than sincere horror.  Bruce Campbell will always hold a special place in my heart.  Evil Dead, Evil Dead 2, Army of Darkness… For books, after the ones I have already mentioned, I will note  The Cell, by Stephen King.  Good, classic, hide-under-the-blankets horror.

So.  Where did your love of zombies start?

C.

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George R.R. Martin: Prima-Donna, or Overwhelmed and Overworked?

georgemartin

For those of you who read my earlier post on George R.R. Martin’s upcoming signing in Toronto,(see here )you may already be familiar with the rules outlined for the signing. For those who are not familiar, I will re-list them:

• Line-up will be first-come, first-served. Due to anticipated attendance, line-up may begin outside of Indigo Manulife Centre – Bay Street entrance ONLY. Please dress appropriately for the weather.
• George R.R. Martin will sign ONE to TWO (1-2) books maximum, depending on the number of people in line.
• No personalizations – author signature only
• No posed photography – can take photographs from the line

Some people are taking this as evidence that Martin (sorry, I got tired of writing the whole thing, plus two initials, over and over) has fallen victim to his own celebrity, and has a vastly inflated ego as a result.  That if he can’t even take time to add a name to a signature, or pose with a fan, why should the fan take time to buy his book.  And then there is that nasty rumor that he doesn’t actually care if he finishes the series, because between the books and the tv show, he’s made his money.

I admit, this was the camp I initially found myself in, thinking of all those people, including fellow employees, who will be waiting hours in line to see him, in Toronto in March (which is a potential horror in and of itself), and he can’t exert himself a little?  After the initial righteous indignation passed, though (the advantage of being out of my twenties), I thought about this a little more.

First of all, Martin is not a young guy.  See above photo.  He, too, will be there for hours, shaking innumerable hands (thanks to Bruce Campbell’s autobiography for acquainting me with what a scary process this can be), and signing innumerable autographs (think of the hand cramps!).  If he took individual photos with everyone in line, it would either mean the whole event would be waaaaaaay longer, or, more likely, that he wouldn’t be able to see as many people.  So this stuff actually is probably to increase the lowly line-waiter’s chance of a face-to-face, however brief.  Also, the day before the signing, he has a reading and Q&A at the Toronto International Film Festival (sold out).  Just so you know, these events encompass more than just the time he spends with the public.  There is much going on behind the scenes to make it all possible.    So, he is probably already exhausted.  I would be too.  I had a look at his schedule of appearances on his official site… he already has bookings for 2014.   http://georgerrmartin.com/appearances.html

Also, although it could be a be conspiratorial marketing scheme, looking at various pages of his site, including his journal, he seems to actually like (most of) his fans, and even has a soft spot for the crazy ones who name babies after his characters.  So maybe we should go easy on him, and author and fans can appreciate that the other one is setting aside time out of their schedule for them.   I, for one, think of all this as further evidence that books are definitely still relevant, or we wouldn’t be so passionate.

So thanks to you both.

C.

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Sad, Mad, and Bad

mad sad bad

I’m not a big non-fiction reader, but the title of this book caught my eye; Sad, Mad, and Bad: Women and the Mind Doctors from 1800.  The book is a look at “madness”, how its definition changed constantly, and how it should be cared for.  The book takes a look specifically at women who were considered insane, and how their care evolved.   It is not just for women, however, or about them, for that matter.

The author, Lisa Appignanesi, looks at mental health up to the present day (or at least five years ago, when the book was published).  This is not a light read; this is a book that takes its topic seriously.  It is, however, fascinating.  The book is very well researched, and well written, so it is a smooth read.  It probably helps that the author is primarily a fiction writer.

Aside from the obviously interesting, like unusual treatment methods, or bizarre diagnoses, what I wasn’t expecting is how much hasn’t changed.  People wondered why so many more people seemed to be mad, and doctors insisted it was just better and more sophisticated medicine and diagnoses.  Some doctors argued that people being different from what was currently considered being socially acceptable did not qualify as a disease.  There were debates over when someone committed a horrible crime, how you could tell whether they were insane.   There was research into whether the cause of mental illness was psychological or biological, and some pioneering doctors attempted very early to debunk myths that women’s reproductive organs had anything to do with it.

There are also some interesting profiles of famous individuals with mental illnesses.   The focus in these is not just on the symptoms, and treatment.  You get an interesting look at how they were viewed at the time, and how our perception of them now differs.

She is obviously trying not to take sides or make judgements here, which does at times make for somewhat of a dry read.   It also means that some areas go on and on, I’m guessing because she felt duty-bound to fully present both sides of the case.

Anyone who is interested in the topic of mental health, in almost any fashion, would find something of interest in this book.   It is the kind of book where you hope to find someone else who has read it, so you can talk to them about it.  So, for god’s sake if anyone else has read it tell me!  And if you haven’t, get going.

C.

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George Takei Happy Dance

This has nothing to do with books, and everything to do with awesome.  George Takei (aka Sulu from Star Trek) has been trying to raise money for a musical he’s in, called Allegiance, about Japanese internment camps during WWII.  Having surpassed the goal he’d set for fundraising, he released his promised “Happy Dance” video.  This made my day, week, life.  Enjoy, guys.

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Romance…Why the Shame?

romance
I’ve noticed a weird phenomenon with women buying romance novels.  There are a lot of excuses. “I started reading them in high school, and I can’t stop.”  “They’re for my mom, really.”  “I don’t usually buy this sort of thing…”  “I just need a little break from Tolstoy.”  “I know they’re not exactly literature.”

It sounds more like teenage boys buying an issue of Playboy.  The wording of the excuses, obviously, differs (at least I hope it does), but the tone doesn’t.  In fact, people buying erotica aren’t as shamefaced as some of these ladies.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with reading romance.  Some of the authors are very talented as writers, if in no other way than the ability to deliver what the reader wants, time after time.  If it’s a bit of a guilty pleasure, like indulging in Godiva truffles, that’s fine, but why act like they’ve been caught drinking vodka straight from the bottle?

To me, one of the reasons reading is wonderful is that it can create so many different experiences.  Not every book you read has to be “literature”, and you don’t have to like all the literature either.  I, for one, despise Joyce’s Ulysses .   Also, if you want a light read, a story with a happy ending, what basically amounts to an adult fairy tale, that’s romance.  They can be formulaic, sure – but most fairy tales, both romance and adventure, are.

The original definition of romantic meant knights, adventure, true love, duels, etc.  The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers are romance.  The Princess Bride is romance. Robin Hood, Canterbury Tales, stories of Arthur and Camelot, all classic romance.  Somehow, though, even though modern romance novels contain many of the same elements of heroes, villains, derring-do, true love, reconciliation, and happy ending, they are sneered at as being “fluff”.

Well, I like fluff.  I sometimes like a story where I know it’s going to work out ok.  Sometimes there is enough tragedy and politics and brutality in real life, and it’s nice to, for a while, live in a world where you know the hero or heroine will always save the day, the couple will always kiss and make up, and the bad guy will get what’s coming to him/her.   And the lovemaking never fails to be spectacular.  Every time.  Hey, it’s fantasy, right?

Romance and adventure novels (and many combine both elements) are, for me, the book equivalent of comfort food.  In fact, if I can read them while eating comfort food, that’s even better.   Ladies (and gentlemen, of whom I see even fewer buying romance), there is no shame in buying romance.

Reading Harlequin is not a crime.    It’s ok to have a bodice ripper next to Kafka.  Keep in mind that Shakespeare was the Michael Crichton of his time.   Or perhaps Steven Spielberg.

Bring your romance novels to the counter proudly, knowing that you’re going to have way more fun than the people in line who are only reading a book to impress their friends and colleagues.

Later, we can sit around, eating chips (from the bag), and drinking beer (from the bottle), and having a fabulous time.   Maybe we can convince those other guys to join us.

C.

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