Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Those Crazy Brits

They've gone and got themselves in a bit of a lather. It started with a "row" that erupted between critic John Sutherland and the author Susan Hill. Just read the article -- I couldn't begin to summarize.

Then Rachel Cooke commented on the story in The Observer last Sunday. And by "commented" I mean basically took the side of "professional" critics and said there's nothing worthwhile at all in the world of book bloggers. Really, it's a pretty hate-filled rant against people who are doing nothing more than sharing their opinions about books. At one point she says that most of what she found among book blogs was "untrustworthy, banal, and worse of all, badly written." I have no idea what she was looking at, because virtually all of the book bloggers I read are thoughtful, smart, highly educated and extremely literate.

Needless to say, that prompted a reaction -- a very nice point-by-point refutation of most of Ms. Clarke's article. Kind of made me feel good to be a blogger.

I don't know if you can boil this down to anything. It's old vs. new (in terms of media), professional vs. amateur, etc. It seems to me that anything that gets people reading -- especially something different than they would normally choose -- or talking about what they are reading is a good thing. Books are books; you can say some are classics and some are genre fiction -- but they are all books.

We read what we like. Or what we find interesting, or unusual or thought-provoking. I was an English major; I read many classics while I was in school and I've read many since then. But I'm not averse to picking up the occasional mass-market bestseller. I have no problem with liking George Eliot and Michael Crichton. They provide me different things at different times.

So read what you want, and blog about what you want. Someone, somewhere will thank you for it.

Via The BlogHerald

Friday, November 24, 2006

More Friday Fun

I can't help it -- I find this Jane Austen doll completely adorable. Hardly new, she's been around for awhile, but what a cute idea! Available at Archie McPhee for just $8.95 USD.

Not an Austen fan? Try Oscar Wilde, Shakespeare or Charles Dickens.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

One Down

Finished The Hidden Diary of Marie Antoinette the other day. It was a good, quick read. And all historians can rest assured that I don't confuse historical fiction with the real facts. In fact, books like this make me want to know more. I'll have to keep my eye out for a good biography of Marie Antoinette.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Friday Gift-Giving Fun

For today and the next five Fridays, I'll be showcasing some great gift ideas for the readers in your life. We all know where and how to buy books themselves, so I'll be looking for other book- or reading-related gifts that are floating around on the Web.

The first is this truly adorable 2007 Little Golden Books calendar from Fred Flare. We all have memories of those first tiny little books we read (I even still have one or two!). Relive your childhood or introduce a child to these sweet little drawings. At FredFlare.Com for just $14!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

More on Challenges

As I mentioned in a previous post, challenges are popping up everywhere. I heard of another one today, so I've started a list in the sidebar. These are all great ideas -- I'm just sorry I haven't thought one up myself yet!

Remember, if you hear of/know of others, let me know and I'll keep the list going.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

From the Stacks Challenge

Okay, I'm finally ready with my list for the From the Stacks Challenge. The list sounds rather geeky, but I was an English major. And I still have a lot of major authors I haven't read. Here we go:

1. The Hidden Diary of Marie Antoinette: A Novel by Carolly Erickson (just started it last night and I'm loving it -- I'm always a sucker for historical fiction)
2. The Memoirs of Helen of Troy: A Novel by Amanda Elyot
3. The Ambassadors by Henry James
4. The Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy
5. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (I know, I know, I should have read it years ago!)

There are currently 138 145 people signed up for the challenge -- amazing!

Help for Writers

This is for all you brave souls taking on the National Novel Writing Month challenge. When all those spouses, significant others, kids, co-workers, etc. are bothering you while you're trying to churn out your daily 2,500 words -- just wear this T-shirt and scare them all away.

I'm so glad to be getting the What on Earth catalog again. They've got a great (and slightly odd) selection of gifts and you can order up to December 21 and still get delivery by Christmas. Enjoy!

Monday, November 13, 2006

The Moonstone

I know many book bloggers chose The Moonstone for the RIP Challenge, and many others mentioned wanting to read it. I can't recommend it highly enough. I finished it this morning (as I waited for a headache to subside so I could go to work). It's simply just a great mystery -- but it also has wonderful characters and often made me smile or laugh out loud. I particularly liked the technique of several different characters narrating different parts of the story -- and occasionally commenting on what other characters said or did. Add this to your TBR pile today!

Friday, November 10, 2006

The Birthday Scarf

Here's a quick pic of the birthday scarf I just finished for my sister. It's a very simple pattern of knitting six rows in stockinette stitch, then six rows in garter stitch. I let her pick her own color of Landscapes and she chose Campfire, which is a beautiful fall blend of orange, gray and black.

Since scarves seem to be about the only thing I can actually finish when I'm knitting, I think I'm going to sign up for the Red Scarf Project 2007. It's an effort to provide red scarves to college students who have grown out of foster care and are out on their own. Scarves (unisex style, please) will be given out in February 2007. A great excuse to buy more yarn!

For more charity knitting projects, check out Kirsty's blog, So Many Yarns.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Contests and Challenges Everwhere

So this idea of contests and challenges issued via blogs seems to be taking on a life of its own.

First, there was Carl V's RIP Autumn Challenge. Officially, 51 people signed up -- but there were probably more who participated via the comments section of the post. I've been reading for several days now, on many different blogs, about the From the Stacks Challenge. The idea is to read at least five books from your TBR pile between November 1 and January 30, 2007. As of today, the list of participants is at 72 -- and seems to be growing exponentially.

But we're not done with this year yet. Kailana has issued a November Reading Challenge with the theme of books set during World War I or World War II in honor of Remembrance Day. If you're looking ahead, there's the 2007 TBR Challenge. This also capitalizes on all those books that have been lying around (in this case for at least 6 months) that we've never read. Pick 12, read 1 a month during 2007. The participant list is still small, but I bet it will grow.

I'm working on my list for the From the Stacks Challenge right now. I've decided it's not really fair to include the books that have been loaned to me, so I'm going to have to see what else I can find in my library. This may mean I finally have to read some Thomas Hardy (whom I've never been able to crack).

I've barely touched the surface of challenges, I'm sure. If there are others you know about or are starting, let me know and I'll start a running list.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

A Daily Dose

Daily Lit is bringing back a Victorian tradition: the serialized novel. In the late 1900s, novels were often published in a serialized form in popular magazines. Daily Lit is doing something similar -- delivering a portion of a novel or other work (all in the public domain) to your In Box on a schedule you choose.

Each segment can be read in about 5 minutes. And you can choose your schedule: every day, weekdays only, or Monday/Wednesday/Friday.

I signed up for The Communist Manifesto. I know, it sounds so geeky. It's one of those things you think you should read at some point in your life. Doing it in little pieces sounds much more palatable than actually sitting down to read the whole thing.

Via Tech_Space

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Oops

So I thought I was being so clever a couple of weeks ago when I changed my blog template. Well, the joke was on me. I'd signed up for Google Analytics a couple of months ago to track visits to my blog. I really have no grand illusions about how many page hits I might get -- but Google Analytics is a neat little tool and it's free. It's great to look at a map of the world and see little dots indicating from where people have viewed your page. Once you see that first international hit, you're hooked.

So I couldn't figure out why there has been no data the last few weeks. Turns out I goofed big time. There's a little piece of code that Google provides to you that has to sit in your template. When I changed blog templates, I lost that piece of code. So no tracking for me!

I've fixed that little problem and should be getting data again in a few days. I may not be so quick to change my template again!

Penguins Everywhere

I'm not talking about the new movie Happy Feet. But Penguins of another sort did seem to jump out at me yesterday. First was this online photo collection of vintage Penguin and Pelican paperback cover art (via Cool Hunting).

Also yesterday I found these deck chairs, based on classic Penguin covers. They're a little pricey at just over $100 USD -- but still, what an original addition to your library! Find them at I Want One of Those.

Monday, November 06, 2006

I've Become One of Them

I've become one of those people I always admired -- those who can read two books at the same time. Not simultaneously, of course (that would be COOL!). Race and Reunion is one of those books that can be a little challenging. It's highly educational and makes a whole lot of things in American history more clear when you understand how Americans tried to deal with the horrible carnage of the Civil War -- but it can seem a little bit like work trying to get through it.

I find that after reading a chapter or so, my mind starts to drift a bit. It's not the topic or the author; Blight is a well-respected historian whose style only occasionally gets a little too academic for me. I hate to admit it, but I think it's a function of getting older. My concentration just doesn't seem what it used to be.

So last night, after I finished a chapter in Race and Reunion, I picked up The Moonstone again. I hate not finishing a book I've started, and was more than halfway through this when I put it down. And it's just the right style to read before I'm ready for bed.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Thursday, November 02, 2006

I Also Buy Yarn

In addition to buying books, I also buy yarn. (And clothes. And makeup. And jewelry. I'm very girly.) Now, my stash is nothing compared to Kirsty's. Seriously, she buys the best. yarn. ever. Alpaca, silk, and all sorts of beautiful colors. My yarn purchases are still in the Jo-Ann's/Michael's arena. I console myself with the fact that I've only been knitting about a year and it's not something I do real often. Buy yarn often, yes. Actually knit -- not quite so much.


But my sister just had a birthday last month, so I wanted to knit her something. The very first knitting project I ever completed was done using Lion Brand's Landscapes yarn. It's got tons of great colors. I'm making a scarf for myself in Deep Sea. She choose Campfire -- which is the perfect autumn color. Let's just hope I actually complete the scarf while it's still autumn!

Since I was buying online and had a coupon, I also bought a few others. I've been wanting to try Mystery, which is a boucle. And Jo-Ann's has their own brand of yarn, called Sensations. This Licorice looks fun, though I'm not yet sure what I'll do with it.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Rest in Peace, RIP Challenge

I failed. And I hate admitting that. But I did not finish my last book for Carl V's RIP challenge. I'm about a quarter of the way through The Moonstone, and it has sort of migrated itself back to the "to be read" pile instead of what I'm actually reading.

Since I started doing some research on the Civil War for my little consulting project, I've become obsessed with it. I started out with a basic attempt to find out about life after the Civil War, and I've now gone totally overboard. I'm rewatching Ken Burns' The Civil War, which is utterly fascinating. If it's been awhile (I haven't seen it since it originally aired) or you've never seen it, make sure you do. It is brilliant.

And even though I don't really need to, I've now started David Blight's Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory. It deals with how we have remembered and -- too often -- misremembered what happened during the Civil War and what it really means.

Finally, I've had yet another novel foisted upon me for my "to be read" pile -- Carson McCormac's No Country For Old Men. Sigh. I'll never catch up!