Tuesday, December 19, 2006

From the Stacks Challenge

I've finished the second book on my From the Stacks Challenge list; I wrote last week about The Memoirs of Helen of Troy: A Novel. I couldn't sleep Sunday night, so I was awake until about 2 am to finish it. Truthfully, I really wanted to get it over with. As I mentioned, an interesting story but not great writing. The author wanted to pick up on the use of epithets that are famous in Homer's writing (one of the few things I remember from my Classic lit class -- thanks Professor Hoyle!).

Except it sounds a little over the top. And it's not very consistent. On one page she refers to "spear-famed Achilles." Less than two pages later, it's "spear-famed Menelaus." This in a book where she also uses the phrase "pretty much," which I find modern in the extreme. I'm generally not that picky about that sort of thing; this is fiction, after all. If I really want to know about Helen of Troy, I'll pick up a history book. But in this case, the use of language was obtrusive and made the book difficult to enjoy.

On to The Ambassadors, which will be a challenge, because I always find Henry James a challenge. And I have picked up Race and Reunion again; now that I'm back into it, I am enjoying it. There is a lot going on in that book and I'll see if I can summarize some of it when I'm finished.

Full Disclosure

I know there's been a lot of talk on the Web about blogging for pay. I've only paid some attention to the conversation, so I can't really speak responsibly about it. Suffice it to say, some bloggers are reviewing products favorably and then getting "rewarded" by the product's producer or manufacturer. That's just a very basic idea of what's going on. Needless to say, in any situation where you are reviewing a product, you need to be clear about your relationship to the product or its manufacturer. I guess that's the great thing about book blogging -- we can just write about our thoughts and don't have to disclose any special relationships.

In early November, I was contacted by two different organizations -- one was a consumer-related site, the other a new social networking site. Both asked me to write about their product/service on my blog. One of them offered a small gift no matter what I wrote about. There really wasn't anything fishy about either email; they both seemed to be quite genuine. But I also didn't feel right about it, either. I'm really not even sure why.

Last month, I posted about a cute calendar on FredFlare.com for a holiday gift. The post was my own idea. Yesterday, I received a very nice email from someone at Fred Flare, thanking me for my post and offering a small gift. A few minutes later I received a $10 gift certificate via email. It's a very nice gift and I will use it; Fred Flare has some really cute stuff available. But I just wanted to let everyone know. I'm probably being anal about this, but it would seem weird to me not to talk about it.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Reading Update

In reading news, I've finally finished Marie Antoinette: The Journey. I have to admit, it kind of slowed down after the storming of the Bastille in 1789. I was going through it at a pretty good clip up to that point. Antonia Fraser is a great writer and I was really getting a much better sense of who Marie Antoinette really was. Poor Marie did not fare well in the history books (or in her own lifetime, for that matter). After 1789, the book seemed to focus much more on the politics of the Revolution and I seemed to lose a sense of who Marie really was. But it was definitely worth reading.

I've moved on to The Memoirs of Helen of Troy. Although I will finish it (because I'm compulsive and I pretty much have to finish every book I start), I will not be recommending it to anyone. It's a pretty interesting story but the writing is, well, not good. I think this book could have used a good dose of editing before printing. But I read enough Greek and Roman lit in school that at least all the characters and some of the general storyline is familiar.

I still have nearly half of Race and Reunion to finish. I really don't need to; the Civil War project I was going to work on fell through. But, as I said, it's hard not to finish books I start. And I know I'll learn something, which makes it harder to pass by. This book is fascinating; learning about the aftermath of the Civil War makes the present day problems this country still has with race a lot more understandable. But that book takes a lot of concentrating. We'll see if my desire to learn can outweigh my occasional laziness.

Friday Fun -- More Gifts

Anyone who's read this blog knows my penchant for fun T-shirts. Especially if they are related to books or words or reading. "Bad Grammar Makes Me [Sic]" is just one of the cool ones over at
One Horse Shy.

I'm also partial to "No One Cares About Your Blog."

Friday, December 08, 2006

More Gifts

This is a great gift for any reader. A pewter heart bookmark inscribed "To read or not to read..." I think we all know how we would answer that question. From the really cool collection of stuff at Sundance.Com. Just $15 USD.

More Friday Fun

Now this? Is way cool. A chair for reading that actually holds your books. It's called the Bibliochaise. I like this simply because it's another place to store books. My shelves are pretty much all filled up. I really need to do some expanding.

Made by an Italian-based company called Nobody & Co., both the shelving and the cushions come in a variety of colors.

Via PopGadget.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

One More Challenge

Yet another challenge on the horizon -- this one I like a lot: the Chunkster Challenge, thanks to Bookfool. I love reading big, fat books -- especially when they are really well written. It's so fun to know that the book is going to take days and days and days to read. In this case, "big, fat" means at least 400 pages.

Not sure if there's a specific number of books to read on this one; I know a lot of people are combining it with the From the Stacks Challenge. No matter what, it's a great way to jump into those big books that sometimes seem just a little scary!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

2007 Winter Classics Challenge

The 2007 Winter Classics Challenge now has a time frame -- five classics of your choice read between January and February of 2007. There's a growing list of participants with the usual (but by no means boring) fascinating and eclectic choices of book bloggers everywhere.

We are all going to be so smart when we've finished all these books.

Great -- Now We're Zombies

First, there was the whole Rachel Cooke thing. Now Gore Vidal is saying "readers are dead." He claims "the novel doesn't interest anybody." I haven't read the whole interview, so I don't know exactly what he's saying. Even so -- what exactly is he saying? I'm pretty sure I've read at least a couple of novels this year. Or did that happen in my zombie other-life?

Found this article on a very interesting Web site called if:book -- A Project of the Institute for the Future of the Book. Check it out -- very thought-provoking stuff.

Cool Tool

Here's a cool little tip about searching the inventory of your local Borders without ever leaving your own home. Very cool. Lots of book people probably already knew about this, but it's news to me. When you just can't wait for Amazon, try this little tool instead.

Via LifeClever.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Knitting for Others

I've started on my scarf for the Red Scarf Project 2007. I am a notoriously slow knitter, so I thought I'd better get started so I can be done by around the end of January.

It's a pretty simple basketweave pattern. Just 12 rows to the pattern and I've only cast on 24 stitches. So it will be narrow but long. I've already managed to make at least one mistake; I somehow added a stitch at some point (really wish I could figure out how I do that).

I'm using a beautiful new yarn from Bernat called Satin. It's super soft; this color is called Bordeaux (the color match on the Web site isn't great; the color I have looks much more like the Crimson).

GIFT Challenge Monday

When I wrote about the GIFT Challenge last week, I really wasn't thinking about joining. For some reason, I'm just not in the Christmas mood yet. But thinking about what I could write about and reading a few comments on Carl V's blog made me change my mind. Here's a family story we still talk about.

I'm not sure exactly when this happened; I'd imagine I was around 8 or 9, making my brother about 7 and my sister about 4. My sister and I, as the girls, shared one bedroom and my brother got his own. After "lights out," he would frequently come in our room to talk until we heard Dad's footsteps coming down the hallway. He would tear back into his bedroom so fast your head would spin. As soon as the coast was clear, he'd be back. We did this for years.

One Christmas Eve, it was the familiar pattern. Now this may have happened more in the middle of the night. The whole house was dark so my parents must have been in bed. We'd send my brother on scouting trips to the living room where the tree was set up. In our house, Santa left out gifts for the kids unwrapped. So we were just trying to get an idea of what we could expect in the morning. Suddenly, my brother came tearing back into the room. As he approached the hallway that connected to the living room, he was absolutely positive he'd seen a shadow of Santa's boot on the wall. I don't know if he was worried that Santa would see him or if he was just freaked out that Santa was really in our house. As I recall, all three of us were simultaenously scared to death and excited. I don't think there were any more scouting trips that night.

We still tell this story in my family. It is now joined by my niece's terrified reaction to the message that the Easter Bunny left on the whiteboard in the kitchen this year. "Was the Easter Bunny really here?!" she squealed. Too bad we can't keep that kind of excitement/faith all our lives.

Friday, December 01, 2006

More Gift-Giving Fun

Now, it may not be a good thing to actually track how much time you're wasting spending reading, but this clock will help you do it. Perfect for your library -- or maybe another room that doesn't already have books in it. From I Want One of Those for about $27 USD.

A New Challenge

Another challenge -- this one with a Christmas theme. Carl V. does come up with some great ideas and I do like this one, though I'm not sure yet if I'll participate. It's the GIFT 2006 Challenge -- Giving Inspiration, Fostering Tradition. It involves posting about your favorite Christmas movies, books, poems, songs, traditions, etc. Check out his blog for the complete "rules."

What a great way to share with others all you love about the holidays. So often, we get so stressed out about buying gifts and going to parties and putting up decorations. Hopefully, this will give you a chance to slow down and remember why Christmas was just so cool when you were a kid.