Friday, December 29, 2006

Gender Genie

Interesting program from that predicts whether the author is male or female based on the text that you enter into it. Very cool.

The page 123 meme

While perusing Reading Matters, one of the book blogs that I frequent, I came upon this particularly whimisical meme.

The page 123 meme

The instructions are as follows:
1. Grab the book closest to you.
2. Open to page 123, go down to the fifth sentence.
3. Post the text of the next three sentences on your blog.
4. Name of the book and the author.
5. Tag three people.

Page 123 was the end of a chapter with only three sentences, so I turned to page 124 and counted two sentences down.

Here it is:

Thus, on All Soul's Day, 1959, Materlinck and I found ourselves in a crocodile winding its way through a profusion of bamboos, tree ferns, palms, banana plants, cycads, orchids, overhanging mosses, and pitcher plants. The sub-tropical atmosphere dripped with outlandish perfumes; in the outside world beyond the curved glass walls it was freezing cold. As Fr Brown paused at a fork of the path, it began to snow.

What fun, this is one of those books that have been sitting on my book shelves for ages. It's a beautiful and odd book in 101 chapters, each titled with a different color from Dragon's Blood to Dorian Gray:

Shamrock Tea - Ciaran Carson

I'll be sending this to some of my friends in hope that they're bored enough to participate^_^.

Amazon Chase Credit Card - BEWARE!

It's always unpleasant around the holidays to have to deal with credit card companies. This holiday season I had a particularly frustrating experience.

If you are a frequent shopper at, no doubt you have been tempted at one time or another to apply for the Amazon Chase credit card. You are offered an instant $30 coupon to go towards an Amazon purchase, plus with every purchase, you earn points to go towards another gift certificate. Sounds tempting? It certainly did to me.

Word of advice, this is one card you can do without. After the six month the APR skyrockets up, and while this has not affected me because I do pay off the card completely every month, trying to claim the rewards is another story.

Companies love gift cards and gift certificates because many people forget to use them or a portion of them. Additionally most people end up spending more then their gift card or gift certificate. All in all this means greater revenue for the company when it comes to these things. There is nothing ethically wrong about this.

However when a company promises a gift certificate and then manages to 'lose' it in the mail everytime, one begins to question their business practices.

I have earned two $25 gift certificates since signing up in May, 2006. While my bill for that particular month always seems to get here just fine, the gift certificate (sent out seperately and 14 days later...hmm I wonder why) always gets 'lost' in the mail. Additionally, Chase offers a paperless service, but they DO NOT and WILL NOT (I've asked) send this portion to you by email or online in your account center (again, I wonder why?).

The 'business rationale' behind this is that most people will forget, and/or get confused about how many rewards they are entitled to and therefore leave their rewards unclaimed. And since Chase doesn't make it easy for you to track it down--- they have the most apathetic, snide and confused customer service reps that I have ever had to deal with---they discourage you from tracking your rewards.

The last reward certificate I earned should have come to me in the middle of November. To this date, I have yet to receive it.

Between now and then, I have made three or four calls. I have been told that my address was changed (not by me), that I should not be receiving any rewards because I didnt have enough points (not true, customer service rep was very confused), had my call dropped twice, and on the last time promised a solution within days(this was in early December---I still don't have it, although they did manage to mail me a duplicate bill.)

If it had been just once, I would've understood, but this has happened to me each and everytime I have earned rewards and each time it gets harder and more humiliating to track it down. It doesn't take much brainpower to see a pattern.

Anyways this card is not worth the pain and anguish, as I hope I have demonstrated. Please let anyone who is thinking about this card know. As a booklover, I hate to see people with the same passion that I have tricked and humiliated in this way. Alright, sorry for the long rant, check back tommorow for postings of the lovely presents that David and I received this season.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Pictures From This Year

Mostly for my friends and relatives. . . scroll down for pictures from my bookshelves.

My pretty pretty boyfriend^^

Me and my mommy!!
At the beautiful Longwood Gardens:

Our Formal:

I may look cute and harmless, but I planning ways to kill you right now...

One picture too many

Books!(click for enlarged photo):
Some of my favorite children's books:

More books:
Why I love the Folio Society:

One of my bookshelves. Thats it! Happy Holidays!!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The Year's Best Underrated Authors

Getting sick of seeing the same books and authors on all the year's best lists? Then go here to the underrated list of writers for 2006 compiled by some of the best litbloggers around.

Notice Jeff Vandermeer, Jeff Ford, Iain Banks, and Laird Hunt all made the list. GO read them!!!!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Early New Year's Resolution

I have decided that I'm going to challenge myself to read 100 books next year. I know I'm overreaching, but part of the fun is seeing if I can live up to at least one new year's resolution this year.

After what can only be called an hiatus from reading in college, I have finally managed to get back into a reading schedule in the past five months. Hopefully next year, I will be able to read more non-fiction, as well as collections of stories. I would like to also read a greater variety of authors and keep a better reading journal as part of the process.

Here's my new Amazon wishlist for some books that I would like to read in 2007.

Monday, December 18, 2006

A story told with grocery lists...

Fascinating, David sent me this link today. A (excerpt?) short story made up completely of grocery lists.

5 Highly Recommended Short Story Collections

It's interesting to reflect as this year comes to end, how much I've become enamored with short story form. Since an early age, I have always preferred the novel to the short story. But as I have grown to love form and style as much as I love plot and character, short stories have become increasingly appealing to me.

This year there were numerous collections that I have found immensely rewarding, and still more that are on my to-be-read list. Here are a couple of them

Things That Never Happen - M. John Harrison. Possibly my all-time favorite collection and certainly the one collection that was most influential in making me love the form. This is a work in fantastic fiction, but many times what is fantastic in the stories takes a backseat to the very realistic characters that inhabit Harrison's slightly sinister England.

M. John Harrison stories are usually amorphous which does not mean that he lacks clarity in his craft. Like many good things in literature, this collection takes effort on part of the reader. It does not make the stories any less enjoyable as an experience, but one can not expect to be provided with the answers at the end.

There is something about Harrison's writing that is intensely terrible, haunting and realistic as well. Harrison never writes of people who are whole. His characters are broken human beings, who are aware and in many ways disastisfied with their state. They are constantly seeking something---perhaps meaning, perhaps magic in their lives. Yet this need or urge, even when the character succeeds, is never rewarding, but in turn haunts them. There is something terrible about existence, and I feel that Harrison captures this in his stories. There is great power and emotion in his writing, and it's written with absolutely beautiful prose. Go here for a better description of his work.

Magic for Beginners - Kelly Link
Magic for Beginners is notches higher than her first collection Stranger Things Happen, which was lauded by both mainstream and genre critics. I'd highly recommend, "The Faery Handbag", "Stone Animals", and "Lull".

The Lottery: And Other Stories - Shirley Jackson
I have always been fascinated by Shirley Jackson, and I find it somewhat tragic that the only thing I ever read by her in high school was The Lottery. Her ghost stories are equally fantastic. The Haunting of Hill House is easily the most terrifying example of the classic haunted house story. Read it and see why.

The next two are books that are on my TBR list.

Brief Encounters with Che Guevara - Ben Fountain

The Dead Fish Museum - Charles D'Ambrosio

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Discovering Elizabeth Costello

I'm reading J.M. Coetzee's Elizabeth Costello at the moment. It's no wonder that he is considered one of the greatest writers alive. While I hold little stock in general pronouncements of this nature, Coetzee's mastery of language and expression would, I imagine, make any novelist slightly envious. I'm fascinated by the book, especially the way the Mr. Coetzee examines the life of this particular writer, Elizabeth Costello. The writing is concise yet eloquent, and proves that intelligent and masterful does not always mean difficult and inaccessible. It's this sort of book that makes me elated that I can read the English language.

Elizabeth Costello is a hard book to describe. It is grouped together into eight chapters, called "Lessons". Each chapter tells an set of events that happen in the life of an Australian writer named Elizabeth Costello. Some have said that the books is closer to philosophy than fiction. The books describes actions and events framed around rhetoric pieces in which characters define and explore the "African Novel", the "Lives of Animals", and so on. The rhetoric pieces, usually speeches delivered to an audience, are perhaps what makes some people categorize this novel as philosophy. I find this somewhat of a useless categorization. Certainly, Coetzee philosophizes; but he does so in the voice of his characters---flawed, often rambling philosophizing that not only shares ideas, but the inner workings of the characters themselves. This gives a frame of reference, so that we may study the ideas through the characters rather than in vaccum.

This is my first experience with Coetzee, I can not say for sure whether much of this text is autobiographical in nature. To me this seems to be a slight question in comparison to the ones posed in the text.

Now I crawl back into my hole to explore the book.

Friday, December 15, 2006

What I'm listening to...

The Bat Segundo Show of course. For some reason it took me this long to stumble onto the site, and listen. Features hour-length interviews with prominent authors about various topics. Great when your procrastinating or on a long commute. Go check it out, and listen to interviews of Kelly Link, Jeff Vandermeer, and Jeff Ford, (some of my favorite authors) as well as David Mitchell, Bret Easton Ellis..the list goes on.

The Morality of HAL 9000

David and I watched 2001: A Space Odyssey last night, and I have to say it was an impressive film if you can appreciate the art of long stretches of silence and the hotly debateded and highly ambiguous ending. I know allegroically, the movie is suppose to send a rather specific and signficant philosophical message, but since I don't have the analytical ability to discuss those things, I wanted just to muse over some emotional responses that I had to the movie.

I found it interesting that both David and I were incredibly sympathetic towards HAL throughout the movie. In fact I would go so far to say that I felt much sorrier for HAL than I did for David Bowman. After all, Bowman and Poole were the ones who initialy plotted the 'death' of the computer, and what HAL does is in reaction to a threat to his own sentience. Since HAL is built with the ability to 'mimic' or reproduce all higher human functions, he should be recognized as a cognizant entity in his own right, one that has every interest and right to protect his state of being.

It's interesting because I wonder whether people feel empathy for HAL or whether the vast majority of viewers see him as a threat to be overcome rather than a character in a moral drama. I found it interesting that most people on the internet use the word 'murder' to describe HAL actions in pulling the life support from the sleeping scientists, but used other words such as 'disconnect' to describe what Bowman and Poole intended to do with HAL. If we treat HAL as a sentient being, as he is obviously meant to be treated, it doesn't seem these two actions are any different.
From this prospective, HAL is not a crazed, murdering computer but rather a being who reacts in order to defend his right to have sentience. This makes his actions not those of agression or betrayal, but rather those of defense. He must kill in order to avoid being killed. Once Bowman and Poole determine that HAL is in error, he does not have the option for mercy or rational argument, because Bowman and Poole view HAL's sentience as a tool, not as an entity in its own right. So HAL's actions under this light can be interpreted as the actions of a rational being who acts in self-defense. Interesting that viewers preceive him to be villianous, psychotic, and a cold-blooded murderer...

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Notes to Self

It's close to the beginning of the New Year, and I am no where close to finishing my autumn reading list. The problem lies partially in the fact that I have completely ignored the pact I made with myself to put a hold on buying books until I've finished my list. There was a Barnes and Noble Classics sale that I couldn't pass up, and the Amazon orders that I made without even thinking about my pact, and of course the books that were sent to me for review.

All in all, I don't even want to make a list of the unread books in my apartment because I think I may get a headache. So I'm making a couple of notes to self to keep me on track in the new year.

  • Pay off your fines, and start actually using your library card. After all it seems that your taste in books is completely off kilter when compared to the general public, so there's no point in shelling out 14 bucks everytime something hits the bestsellers list. Case in point: You were so unimpressed with Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time that you have actually considered using it as a doorstop.

  • Books = dead weight, something your going to bemoan when you have to move once again. So unless you think that book you are coveting is going become out of print before you move into a real house, don't even think about it.

  • Have you noticed that everytime you get a new book you have to rearrange everything? Even though almost all the furniture in your apartment aside from the bed and the couch serves as some sort of bookshelf? That is in addition to the 3 bookshelfs you already have? And have you noticed that still, you have to keep some of the books in piles in your chairs and on your windowsills? You know people have been buried alive in books right?

  • Books are for reading, and the TBR/read ratio is making a mockery of you.

  • Finish a book, please for goodness sakes, finish a book!!!

The ways that childhood can be damaging

Lately I've been feeling incredibly scatterbrained everytime I try to sit down and write. I can't seem to focus, and something in the back of my head keeps on telling me that I should be doing something else.

It's times like this that I find myself thinking about doing a hundred math problems. Because that's the sort of thing that my dad use to spring on me to see whether I was on top of my game in middle school and high school. Finishing those problems always made me feel accomplished and calmer, because my father was pleased, and I felt that I had proven myself once again.

I guess I was/am so used to pleasing my parents, that I see myself from their reference point when I gauge my accomplishments. Whenever my values and desires conflict with those of my parents, I find myself fighting tidal waves of guilt, anxiety, and doubt. So even though doing an hundred math problems right now would be a completely meaningless gesture, I still feel that it will benefit me in some way that creative writing will not.

It took me about four years to realize that this is a problem. I'm sure everyone with loving and demanding parents go through this in some way shape or form.

But sometimes I wish I could sit down and read or write and not feel so extremely guilty.

Sunday, December 10, 2006


I've joined BookMooch, which is a fun little website, if you have books that you no longer want. BookMooch is an book swapping website, where you send your books to other people, and get ones you want in return. Great if you don't want to go to the hassle of selling the books that you no longer want. I personally like BookMooch better than some of the other websites, because they happen to have more of the books that I would want to read. Check it out.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Circle of Poverty

Way to point the finger, assholes.

"Birth Rate 'Harms Poverty Goals'"

Random Mumblings - Love Actually, and violence towards my mail

The holidays always makes me think of Love Actually, one of only a couple of movies geared towards women that my cynical little head will allow me to watch without quipping "yeah right", or "like hell", every two minutes or so.

It's not that the movie reflects reality better than others in its genre----unless men and women are just made completely differently over in England. But it's got enough quirkiness, a good soundtrack, and a certain awareness of its own fantasy that makes it much more bearable than other 'chick flicks'. And let's face it, Closer, which reflects quite accurately how love actually works (at least some of the time), just doesn't give you the same warm and fuzzy feeling.

Love Actually is a beautiful movie to watch because it's pure make-believe, something we need to indulge in once in a while, especially around the holidays. Like the holidays, its a break from the world we live in, into the world that we would like to live in.

On a completely different note, I don't know if the postal people are just a lot busier around the holidays (or a lot grumpier), but every package I have ordered thus far has come to me completely smashed in on one side. I haven't thought much about this until this morning when I received a book in an thick envelope that was completely ripped open on one side. It seems to me that a lot would have to happen 'accidentally' for it to arrive like this. I wonder if someone is playing kick ball with my mail. I don't think I could blame them, the holidays being the way they are. Still making an mental note not to order anything fragile online.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Magic For Beginners

I'm reading tidbits and excerpts from Kelly Link's Magic For Beginners. Kelly Link writes beautiful short stories that can be described as fantastic in nature---usually mixing elements of myth, magic, and surrealism. Link's first collection of short stories featured several stories that were inspired by fairy tales and myths. Her second collection, while inspired thematically by many of the same things, steps away the reworkings of fairy tale and into her own territory.

"The Faery Handbag", the first story of the collection and winner of Hugo, Nebula, and Locus awards, tells the story of a girl, her grandmother, and a boy who has vanished. I struggle to put into words a cohesive description of the story because the magic lies in the writing and not in the plot. The voice of the writing, is haunting, wistful, and slightly tense, as the protagonist tries to balance what she knows to be true of her grandmother with reality. It's truly original, and a haunting piece.

Be warned that if you are looking for resolutions or endings in Link's collection, you will be disappointed. As in real life, there are no true resolutions or answers. You are left to imagine of what is to come, what will be, and why.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Flora Segunda: Being the Magickal Mishaps of a Girl of Spirit, Her Glass-Gazing Sidekick, Two Ominous Butlers (One Blue), a House with Eleven Thousand

I have just received a review copy of Flora Segunda: Being the Magickal Mishaps of a Girl of Spirit, Her Glass-Gazing Sidekick, Two Ominous Butlers (One Blue), a House with Eleven Thousand Rooms, and a Red Dog, and I have to say I am enchanted.

Two chapters in, and I am already falling in love with the girl of spirit, and her bewitched house. The last time that a book so entirely delighted me within a couple of paragraphs was when I was in middle school. If you have ever read, The Westing Game, Twenty-One Balloons, or Howl's Moving Castle as a young child, you will understand the kind of delight that I am talking about.

Although Flora Segunda is geared towards a teen audience, you don't have to be a teenager to enjoy it. While I have to wait until I am finished to give this an honest review, I can already say that Ysabeau S. Wilce, the author, has made it onto my list of people to watch. If you have an imaginative child, friend, parent, or significant other, I would highly recommend this as a gift. I'll try to have this review up as soon as I have finished the book.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Waste of Time: The Drawing of The Three

I have just finished The Drawing of The Three by Stephen King, and I have to confess, I am deeply disappointed. To give brief background, The Dark Tower is Stephen King's dark fantasy series about a knight's quest to the Dark Tower in a world that has moved on. The tale is inspired by Robert Browning's famous poem "Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came". Anyone who is interested in the series should read and study the poem, because it provide clues to what kind of story King is trying to tell. Stephen King claims that the series is his magnum opus.

In The Drawing of The Three, the second of seven novels, Roland, from The Gunslinger, makes preparationgs for his journey to the Dark Tower. While there are only very brief references in The Gunslinger, we are led to believe, that somehow there is a connection between Roland's world and our own. In The Drawing of the Three, we find that the connection is fleshed out. Roland is given three doors, all leading to different times periods in our world, to "draw" his companions for his trip. Much of what happens in the rest of the book takes place in our world.

Now for my reactions. I felt that the book was tediously longwinded. The story can be summed up in a paragraph, but took more than 400 pages to tell. Worst of all, the majority of those pages were not enjoyable reading material.

While King spent an surprising amount of time fleshing out the new characters, I felt that they were not only ill conceived, but less than believable. King's strong point has always been creating interesting and unforgettable characters that are believable as human beings. Without that, many of his horror stories could not have the impact that they do. It's the deeply human quality of his characters that makes you identify and thus fear for them.

From the first pages of The Gunslinger, Roland struck me as the sort of character---maybe a little cliched, a tad less than original---but a well-fleshed out archetype of the western hero. He is believable and intriguing. One can not say the same for his sidekicks in The Drawing of Three. Eddie and Odetta bored me. Much of what is said about the two felt contrived, from Eddie's heroism, to the love that is conviniently blossoming between the two, everything King does with the two seem forced rather than inspired.

The problem was that the whole book feels forced. And what needed to be told cover to cover, should have only taken a couple of chapters, not an entire book. Much is wasted on needlessly long action sequences, time jumps, and tedious backstory. It did not help that King's language in the book irked me. The gunslinger is this, Eddie is that. Odetta knew this. No showing, and a whole lot of telling that seemed too convinient.

For now, I'm not sure I care what happens to Roland, Eddie and Odetta. It's really Roland's history, his world and his purposes for the journey that intrigue me. But I am not sure I could survive another tedious book in the same vein to get to those things. That's the problem with planning of series of books to tell a story. You end up adding too much fluff and the story suffers.