The problem with bookstores

Posted by me on Thursday, the 8th day of November, anno domini 2007 at 9:58 PM, local time.

Another quote from iGoogle’s quote-a-day:

Where is human nature so weak as in the bookstore?
  - Henry Ward Beecher

I’m thinking that even these quotes must be given to people based on Google’s huge database of knowledge of everyone’s habits and behaviors? ‘Cause I sure do seem to get a lot of quotes about how I buy too many books. I mean, seriously, I feel bad enough already. Ah well.

Maybe I should go buy a book to make myself feel better?

(A few hours later…)

Now that I’ve done that, I do feel much better. Hopefully, I will get to read the books I have bought soon and can comment on them. They are both things I have not seen before, and I am quite excited that they might both be rather good. Only time will tell!

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Mistborn 2! Out at last!

Posted by me on Monday, the 27th day of August, anno domini 2007 at 12:19 AM, local time.

Just a brief update: Last week sometime, Mistborn 2: The Well of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson came out. I didn’t get around to buying it under Thursday, since the week was rather busy, but I got it finally late last week, spent way too much time reading it that night, and then finished it up Friday after work. It was very good! I was very happy with how it went. For a while as it went along, I was quite afraid the author was going to spite me by having things turn out differently than I hoped for, or at the very least waiting until the final book to resolve things to my satisfaction. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the author did not take that simple way out as a cliffhanger or something like that. By the end of the book, most of the plot lines were tied up nicely, and while there is certainly one plot thread (the main danger to the kingdom really) that is still open and needs resolution, all the minor sideline threads are finished up quite nicely.

The first book was much the same. Pretty much all the main internal conflict was resolved and there was just the one problem left for the next books. Now, I just have to wait one year (the guy is already finished with the book, I think, or close to it) for the final exciting chapter! In the meantime, I think most of my readers would probably enjoy the Mistborn books, if you haven’t already read them.

As an aside, I often find, after ready a great long book, that I suddenly feel like I need to find another book to read right away that will engage my interest as fully and enjoyably as the book I just finished. This might be part of the reason that over the years I have read so many books, one after the other. It is only when I get to a book that I don’t enjoy as much, start to get bogged down, and slow way way down in my pace, sometimes where the book sits on my nightstand for weeks or months without being touched, that I stop for a couple months from reading books so quickly. This is rather sad, but I guess its ok, since I do have a lot of other hobbies that I like to do, and sometimes I think I might read too much anyway. :-)

Luckily, with this book, I have no such problem. No offense to the choosers of books, but lately it has been Book Club books that have given me the most trouble. I really should finish that last one… It’s not very long anyway, and surely at some point here Andy will schedule book club. (*hint* *hint*)

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Harry Potter, with a few days to think about it

Posted by me on Wednesday, the 25th day of July, anno domini 2007 at 12:18 AM, local time.

So, I told myself I would blog today, since I’ve been rather bad about it lately. And so here I am.

Harry Potter. That’s all one seems to hear about these days. That’s fine. I’ll contribute :) Warning: If you havn’t read the last book yet, and you plan to do so anytime soon, please proceed with caution. Things may be revealed below that you would rather discover through your own reading of the book. But seriously folks, you’ve had like 3 or 4 days already. Plenty of time to finish it!

Moving right along, halfway through chapter one of the last book, I almost stopped reading to blog/complain about how disappointed I was in some of Harry’s actions and thoughts, but I figured it would be better to finish the book and present my reactions fully tempered by time and results.

After finishing the book, I still can’t say that I am completely happy with all the choices Harry made, and I still think he is too hot-headed and doesn’t think things through enough to fully garner my respect. And the movie that just came out (The Order of the Pheonix) portrayed Harry at that stage in a very similar light, where at some points I almost hated what Harry had become. Now, I grant that he was quasi-possessed by Voldemort, but still. Your friends are there to support you and help you through these difficult times. You don’t turn your back on them when they offer to help! In the book, I don’t think I was as angry with him at the time (during book 5, this is), but in the movie they had to cut stuff and tweak things and what resulted is a slightly different piece.

Anyway, enough about Harry’s childishness. The other thing I can say after finishing the last book is that in no way was I displeased with how things turned out. Going into book 7 the way things were, I could not have asked for a better outcome, really. Given the constraints of how I knew Ms Rowling was going to have things go in terms of Ron and Hermione (seriously, Ron? Ron is a dufus for six and a half books, then becomes a jackass, and then some great leader. I don’t buy it. He still isn’t good enough for Hermione.).

Though, I must say that when Ginny was first introduced in book 2 or 3 or whatever, I wasn’t very impressed with her either. She seemed, at the time, a very week character with no interesting qualities who hero worshiped Harry to the point of embarrassment. But, by the time we got the book 5 and 6, I was completely happy with how she had developed, and her strength of character was very encouraging. Despite Harry’s faults, he is still the hero of the series and does deserve to live happily ever after at the end, and since Ms Rowling deemed fit to occupy Hermione with lesser interests, Ginny is certainly someone who could be lived happily ever after with.

A few more items here in short:

Snape. Best possibly way that all could have been worked out. Very predictable, but altogether good. I’m glad they didn’t spend 7 books making us hate his actions but learn surprisingly good things about him for no reason whatsoever.

Malfoy. In the end, I didn’t need him to live, but it did allow a few more things to play by doing so. I’m ok with it.

Fred. Eh, there were already two of them. How many jokesters do you really need in a fictional universe? His death served a purpose and throughout the story, while he and George were humorous, I never really got attached.

Kreacher and Dobby. Good show. The redemption of Kreacher made the death of Dobby kind of balanced. Maybe? I know a lot of people were torn up when Dobby died. That’s fine, that’s fine. It was a noble sacrifice. I can’t claim that eye moisture didn’t increase at that point. But people do die in wars. House elves included.

Dumbledore. This goes back a bit to Harry’s irrationality at times. Seriously, nobody is perfect. And imperfect people in the spot light can get misrepresented by the malicious media. It happens. Harry should have been more open minded in the beginning, allowing both for imperfect friends and for malicious journalists. But anyway, I am glad that Dumbledore got the chance to explain himself a bit to Harry. That was nice, if only for Harry’s peace of mind.

Neville. Yeah Neville! I only hope that he and Luna got together and had some very interesting children. Ms Rowling didn’t deem fit to tell us about anything on the Neville-Luna front, and that surprised me, seeing how pat she laid everything else out. I’ll just have to assume, I guess.

The Nineteen Years Later Bit. I liked it. I was quite glad she put it in there actually. I know, I know, maybe now its harder for her to write more books in the series, but really, its not. There is a large gap that can be filled in there, and seriously. Its not like they die after 19 years. More stories can be told afterwards as well! Some might even be really good if they skipped another 10 years and told some stories from the adult point of view of Harry and Ginny’s and Ron and Hermione’s (and Neville and Luna’s !) kids. But I digress. Anyway, I was happy that I didn’t just have to wonder and hope that the right people got together, or that they got to have children, or that they were trying to raise their children properly in a post-Voldemort world, or that Hogwarts was still up and running and producing well-rounded and well-respected young wizards and witches.

Wow. I keep meaning to stop and say that anyone wanting to discuss more is free to bring it up. So, here I will stop and say that anyone wanting to discuss more is free to bring it up.

I was just saying the other day that I think that even with no more stories in the series, and nothing else whatsoever to talk about, people could discuss this universe and the people in it for probably the rest of their lives. Discussion of motives, actions and reactions, logistics, really cool objects (seriously, I am a very hetero guy over here, who never once has considered carrying a purse or handbag or merse or what-have-you, but when I was reading about Hermione’s magic bag that occupied essentially no room but could expand as big as needed to fit whatever you wanted into it… woah. I’ll take two please. And Hermione’s choice to fill it with books was pretty much exactly what I would do, I gotta admit.), etc, etc, can continue for a long time. People are still discussing The Lord of the Rings, for crying out loud, and that’s only 3 books (or so… plus prelude, histories, legends, notes, letters, etc., etc.).

Anyway, as an emergency session of book club was called for later this week specifically to discuss the completed Harry Potter series, I should leave some of that near-infinite well of discussion topics for that time!

Good night!

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Pride and Prejudice

Posted by me on Wednesday, the 27th day of June, anno domini 2007 at 11:39 PM, local time.

Ok, so, sorry guys, I’ve been a little lax this week in keeping up with the blogging. I claimed I would be doing better. But, I’m trying. I’m just weak. Baby steps, right?

Several months ago, I was convinced that I should watch the Pride and Prejudice movie (the 2005 version). I had never read any Jane Austen novels, thinking they were just for girls, or whatever nonsense you pick up here or there about such things. So, I watched the movie. As many people know, I’ve long been a sucker for simple romantic comedy, which is, I guess, how I would categorize the movie. I enjoyed it. Thought it was pretty good. I enjoyed the arguments between the main characters, thought the scenery was pretty good, and really like the piano music in the background.

So, between watching the movie, countless recommendations from some of my friends, wikipedia articles, and a couple other secondary sources, I thought I would read the novel. Barnes and Noble’s had the Jane Austen collection on sale, and there was a copy of Pride and Prejudice in the “Everyman’s Library” hardcover edition, which I collect. So, I bought them both (it’s a problem, I know) and read Pride and Prejudice. Then I read it again.

Spectacular. I gotta say, had I known that authors from the 1800s could write like that, I would have read more of them beforehand. The dialogue is superb. The characters were very well drawn, and by and large, you could not wish for a better book. It is an easy, quick read, and there really is no reason whatsoever to not read it at every so often. It just goes so quickly!

When I first read the book, I was very much gladdened that the character of Mr Darcy was much larger in the book than in the movie. By no means was he the main character, but at least in the book, there were many times where you got to see things from his point of view, and you could see the basis for some of his actions before Elizabeth got to interpret them and skew them to something despicable. I was very pleased. It was nice to have a strong male hero to, not necessarily counter, but certainly complement the wonderful heroine, the younger Miss Bennet.

Very recently, I decided that since I enjoyed the book so much, and had enjoyed the movie when I first saw it, I should watch the movie again, to better compare it to the book. I had recognized before, after reading the book the first time, that the movie didn’t have a lot of the scenes in it that the book had, but didn’t think too much about it. It was a movie, after all. They do that sort of thing. But, when I saw it the second time, I was almost disgusted at the amount of stuff that was left out. There was a lot of characterization that was simply not there. Whole scenes, whole characters, whole conversations, etc., etc. Not only do we see nothing from Darcy’s point of view, but we see nothing of the “relationship” between Elizabeth and Mr Wickham develop, and we see nothing of the real awkwardness of Elizabeth meeting Darcy’s sister for the first time. These things are key to the book, really!

In comparison to the depth and, dare I say, majesty, of the book, the movie is a collection of short quick sketches, each merely outlining a portion of the masterwork that is the book, “Pride and Prejudice”. The only redeeming qualities the movie really keeps is the wonderful piano music, which really, by the way, prompted the blog post about background music a few days back. And Keira Knightley is hot. But we already knew that from Pirates, and you could just watch that to get your fill. (And sorry to mention her name, I just am really curious about how much google PageRank that will earn me.)

Anyway, for all my complaints, its not a bad movie, and I must respect the initial impression it had on me, that led me to read Austen’s various novels. I have now read enough of them that I would like to compare and consider each of the greater pieces here in my blog, but that is a larger task for another day.

Almost entirely unrelated from that, other than I used the word in this writeup: dialogue. Not dialog. Seriously people. It’s bad enough when I see it everywhere, but to have my own spellchecker refuse to accept the correct form of the word, and suggest the improper bastardization, is downright unacceptable. At least there exist proper dictionaries online and in print yet that use and promote the correct form.

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More about Mistborn

Posted by me on Sunday, the 24th day of June, anno domini 2007 at 12:08 AM, local time.

So, I finished reading Mistborn yesterday and was very happy to find that it is pretty much one of the best books I have read this year to date (as I suspected it would be earlier). It was also pretty much entirely self-contained… there were a few loose ends, its true, and I have discovered that there are in fact two more books in the series forthcoming, making it a full trilogy (sorry Darcy!). The next book is due in August of this year, and the final book is finishing up now, and should be out by next summer.

Anyway, the book was quite fun. It has the feel of Ocean’s Eleven (or Twelve, or Thirteen, etc., etc.), in that the main characters collect a group of specialists in order to pull off a rather complicated plan against the opposition. The system of magic is quite well thought out (just as it was in Elantris) and rather novel for fantasy works I can bring to mind right now. I’ll leave those secrets for your own discovery, however.

In looking for other books by the author, Brandon Sanderson, I discovered his website (I just linked to it! Jeez!) and thence the books mentioned above as forthcoming. But, the other very cool thing I have discovered on this site is the author’s commentaries on his own books! Apparently, after he has written them, and the publisher’s editors have read them and made suggested changes, he has to reread them and make sure all corrections were, well, correct. So, as this could be rather boring, he writes down what he was thinking about each chapter, how we was trying to portray the characters, and missteps he took along the way. It’s very much like a director’s commentary on a movie. Each chapter of each book he has published has at least one writeup, if not more, along these lines. He releases them in the weeks following the initial publication of the book.

Well, anyway, I thought it was cool. I wish more authors would do so, as sometimes, when I am reading some books, I really wonder what the heck the guy was thinking when he wrote that!

That’s all the update I have for now. I rather think both Elantris and Mistborn are worth reading.

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Cheesecake and Books

Posted by me on Saturday, the 16th day of June, anno domini 2007 at 12:50 AM, local time.

So, I gotta say, Cheesecake and Books is a great combination. I love bookstores; this is a well known fact. Also well known is my enjoyment of a good cheesecake. In Rochester, these two hobbies are combined in both Barnes and Nobles that we have here, where they have the lovely Cheesecake Factory/Starbucks combo cafe thingies in the stores. Every time I got to these places, whether I intend to or not, I usually end up buying a book or some music or something, and maybe a piece of cheesecake, possibly with a mocha or a cappuccino. They really have my number, apparently.

They like to change up the cheesecake selection, and some recent excellent pieces of culinary art include this month's Wild Strawberries and Cream, which is very delicious, and last month's Vanilla Bean Cheesecake (Need I say more?), and also a double chocolate creation that is also very very good. What will they tempt me with next?

So anyway, next time you are near a Barnes & Noble's bookstore, go inside! They have lots of great books! And chances are good that they will have lots of great cheesecake as well!

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BookMooch. [This title edited to fit your screen.]

Posted by me on Tuesday, the 5th day of December, anno domini 2006 at 8:20 PM, local time.

So, I don’t remember who first sent me the link to an article about BookMooch, but it was a while ago and my memory isn’t all that great. Anyway, I thought I would write a bit about it here so others can learn about it as well. As a disclaimer, I have not started using BookMooch, and I am not sure if I ever will, but that’s just me and I know a lot of other people don’t get as attached to books as badly as I do. On the other hand, I do have some duplicate copies (same editions, don’t worry) of books that I might be able to put up on BookMooch to get rid of.

But anyway, that was a horrible introductory paragraph for this piece on BookMooch. BookMooch is a community site where everybody is trying to get books that they want, and trying to get rid of books that they no longer want. Its all free, except that if you send a book to someone else, you have to pay postage fees. So really the site gets no money what-so-ever from you, it just finds you people to send books to, and finds people who you can contact to get books from, as well as providing an easy way to do that contacting. Of course you can read more about it on their site, but the idea is pretty simple.

Here is an example to illustrate (names unchanged, to protect no one):

Let’s say Darcy is done reading some books that she owns. She will probably never read them again, Andy doesn’t want to read them, I’ve already read them, and Adam is too snooty to read them. Well, she simple lists the books on BookMooch as available. Kyle, in Hawaii, is searching around on BookMooch for the next book to read, and finds one of the books Darcy listed and says, “Hey, look, that might be interesting.” So he asks Darcy to send him that book. She puts it in a lovely little mailing box from the post office, pays cheap book rate shipping charges and sends it over to Kyle. Everybody is happy: Kyle has a new book to read, and Darcy got rid of a book she no longer wanted.

There is a point system involved, where the more books you list and then actually send to people, the more points you get. And in order to get a book sent to you, you have to consume a point. So I don’t really know how well the point economy balances out in the end, but its a relatively new site, so they may make adjustments to the point system until it works out to keep people from accumulating all the books (like me) and to try and give a reasonable amount of trust that if you request a book they are going to actually send it to you. But, even if they don’t you don’t really lose much on the deal (though if you are the only person in the system actually sending books, the postage could build up… but I would recommend not sending any more books if people don’t send you the ones you had asked for).

Anyway, its an interesting little community and I think you all should go and try it out. And let me know how it goes. Maybe I can use it to my advantage somehow…

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Why is Google Mocking Me?

Posted by me on Tuesday, the 5th day of December, anno domini 2006 at 1:00 PM, local time.

Based on the last few quotes of the day on my google homepage, I have determined that they are deliberately mocking me and my habits. Here is today’s quote:

To be a book-collector is to combine the worst characteristics of a dope fiend with those of a miser. – Robertson Davies

I mean, seriously, that’s just not nice. I’ve never made disparaging remarks about google, and so shouldn’t have to expect them to make such remarks about me.

On another book related note, I have finally managed to pick up the book club book, Time Enough For Love by Heinlein, again and started reading it. Our first meeting for the book is this Friday, and I have about 200 pages short of where I need to be for it. But, progress was finally made. And, the little short sub-story was very entertaining. It was subtitled as “The Man Who Was Too Lazy To Fail.” It was fantastic. The motivations of this guy seem very familiar… I have heard laziness being called the Engineer’s Disease, and I am no longer ashamed that it is so!

Anyway, my opinion of the book is improving. It has points where it is a bit of tedious crazy Heinlein-ness, but by and large it appears to be shaping up as the kind of book where some old cantankerous fellow is interviewed by a much younger man for insights into life and living in general. One must deal with the old fellow’s occasional oddities and eccentricities, as well as his antiquated notions and not-quite politically correct ideas, but there are a lot of fun, interesting, and useful stories to hear from him.

But, I am not very far in the book, so who knows if it will stay that way for very long.

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Lots of Books

Posted by me on Monday, the 4th day of December, anno domini 2006 at 10:17 PM, local time.

So I found this quote on my google homepage today. Its accuracy is remarkable, yet somehow depressing. Oh well.

Books to the ceiling, Books to the sky, My pile of books is a mile high. How I love them! How I need them! I’ll have a long beard by the time I read them. – Arnold Lobel

On another book related note, yesterday, when I foolishly went to the bookstore, I purchased a couple more books, which is unremarkable in and of itself. However, one of these books was a small collection of poems by Tim Burton (whom you might recall from such movies as The Nightmare Before Christmas and Corpse Bride). I thought, well, I like his movies, they are touchingly surreal; surely his poetry will be similar. And so I brought it home.

It was definitely surreal. But rather than being touching, most of it was just disturbing. The art was very familiar as Burton’s, the poems were all short doggerel at best, but the topics were downright grotesque. I am slightly disturbed. Note, Kyle, if you are reading this, this is definitely a book that you would enjoy. Everyone else reading this, I would recommend perusing a bit so you are fully aware of Mr. Burton’s psychotic tendencies, but only do so on an empty stomach and only if you are of healthy constitution in general.

On a completely unrelated note, yes, it has been months since I last updated this. Yes, I plan to continue to update it on the same loose schedule. And yes, if anyone still bothers to come here and read these things when updates do happen, I do appreciate each and every one of them.

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Too many books.

Posted by me on Wednesday, the 28th day of December, anno domini 2005 at 10:21 PM, local time.

Having come home for Christmas, I am spending several nights in my childhood bedroom. Now, it certainly looks nothing now as it did in my younger years, but it still contains the same items, just now they are stored away in boxes and the like in the closet. What currently occupies the vast majority of the room is books. Books on bookshelves, books in piles, books stacked up neatly, and books stacked completely haphazardly. I recall that at one point, I had planned to remove my bed from the room to make more room for books. I would merely sleep on the floor in a sleeping bag, said I. I was ignored. At any rate, there are still a lot of books in here. As everyone who has seen my apartment in Rochester knows, I have a lot of books there as well. But, there is simply not enough room to bring all the books that are here back to Rochester with me. They would have to sit in boxes somewhere, waiting for a time when they could range free on bookshelves and possibly be read sometime this century. (By someone. I have long since given up the hope that I would read all my books. Its simply not possible. Especially since the rate that new books are purchased currently exceeds the rate that books are read. I now only hope that someday, someone of my line may find a given book useful for something. Hopefully not burning…)

While thats all very interesting, you might say, why should I care? Well, for the sole purpose of having a place for all my books, I think I need to buy a house. It will most likely not be the house I will live in until my death, or even until my retirement, or even raise a family in, but I need to buy a house. And I probably should do so somewhat soon, so that my hard-earned (oh, who am I kidding?) money will stop going down the drain in the form of rent. Of course, I do have some time before my lease is up, but at the very least, I should probably begin looking relatively soon here. And the first step there is to leverage my current finances a tad better, by refinancing and consolidating loans and the like, so that when the time comes I know how much I can afford in a down payment and mortgage payments.

Again, I’m sure there are many people who couldn’t possibly care less. And thats fine. I never claimed you had to read this thing. :-)

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