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"I may not know how to fly but I know how to read and that's almost the same thing."-- Gregory Maguire, Out of Oz

"...while finding true love was one of the most splendid things that could happen to you in life, finding a friend was equally splendid." -- Felix J Palma, The Map of the Sky

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Friday, September 27, 2013

Tales from the Jazz Age by F.Scott Fitzgerald


The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Other Tales from the Jazz Age 
by 
F.Scott Fitzgerald

I've got a lot to say about this book.

First, I'd like to say, this was a pain in the ass to rate. F. Scott Fitzgerald is a fine example of why classic literature is classic... These stories should be able to hit the full mark easily. They didn't for reasons stated in my hack job rant, but in case you missed that or don't feel like reading it, let me reiterate.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Other Tales of the Jazz Age, as produced by Seedbox Press is a hack job. There are dialogues that merge into narration, words and phrases dropped from sentences leaving gaps in paragraphs, missing punctuation, and character conversations merged into block paragraphs of chaos.

I was happy to get such a collection at a bargain price until I realized the reason they offered it had more to do with its poor editing and formatting. If you're a Fitzgerald fan or hoping to become one, spend a little more than I did, and buy a better version. I will probably read more of Fitzgerald's work, I just won't buy from Seedbox ever again. In fact, if I had the time, resources and motivation, I'd pool it all into a campaign to have Seedbox shut down. For Frak's sake, where's a lynch mob when you need one?


As to the stories within this book, they are beautiful and I can definitely see why they've stood the test of time despite the glaring errors the editor made. I gave each story within the book a brief review.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Benjamin Button is born an old man and as he grows up, he grows younger. I found the story to be entertaining and vastly different than the movie. It's an interesting concept, personifying a concept like opposing age and opposing views. Personally, I found the banter between wife Hildegarde and Benjamin insightful:
"There's a right way of doing things and a wrong way. If you've made up your mind to be different...I don't suppose I can stop you."  
"But Hildegarde, I can't help it." 
In my mind, I see Benjamin Button breaking out in song, singing, "Baby, I was born this waa-aay!"

The Diamond as Big as the Ritz
John meets Percy at school, Percy claims to have a father who is the richest man in the world, because he owns the largest diamond in the world...He later invites John home for holiday, a home which is located on a top secret mountain....

This has a lot of themes going on, for such a short story; a play on capitalist America and how someone can become a slave to wealth... The Washington family can't ever leave their estate, not really leave it, they can't ever allow its discovery, they must always take care of and defend it. Or maybe it's the old adage of how lonely it is at the top of the world...To never have friends, to always be lying and fighting, so busy defending what you have that you can't have anything more.

Tarquin of Cheapside
A bandit/tumbler running through the night, being chased down by guards... This is the story of his escape and the man he escapes to... It starts with poetic imagery, slips into straight up prose. There isn't a great deal of substance besides its entertainment value... I did notice Wessel Caxter was writing a play, something about "The Legend of Chastity" and the character of Soft Shoes told a story of "The Rape of Lucrece"; so maybe there was an underlying theme of the backslide of morals or the changing of societal views on sex, or maybe I'm just grasping at something that isn't there.

O Russet Witch
Merlin Grainger, works at a bookstore and lives alone. He becomes enchanted by a beautiful woman, who he calls 'Caroline' though it is not her name. She's scandalous, she's vibrant...a contrast to Merlin, who's proper and bored. Merlin eventually marries and starts a family even though his life continues to intersect with the mysterious Caroline. As he ages, he reduces her to a figment of his imagination.

I think this story says a lot about missed opportunities. Merlin chooses the safest path, he winds up miserable with a miserable family. Caroline chooses a lifestyle more outrageous than society would hope for and winds up with the world at her fingertips.

The Jelly Bean
Jim  Powell is the jellybean -- he drifts through life. He comes from a family that lost everything, falls in love with a girl named Nancy...Nancy turns out to be the one who gets away, which brings us back to the point of Jim Powell being an idler. If he'd acted, if he'd done something different, said something different, would he have gotten the girl?

The Camel's Back
Perry Parkhurst is afraid his fiance, Betty Medill won't marry him. Perry draws up a marriage license and demand she marry him at once...Betty is so offended she kicks him to the curb where he promptly picks up drinking and shenanigans ensue.

For me, I think this story had a lot to do with fear. All the characters were afraid of something (and drunk) and were acting on those fears, and getting into trouble because of it. Perry needs to prove he brave enough to let go in order to  get what he wants.

May Day
This story was hard to keep track of, it's two stories entwined in the same timeline. Gordon Sterrett visits his friend Philip Dean; Gordon needs $300 because he's being blackmailed by a woman named Jewel Hudson.

Carrol Key and Gus Rose are demobilized soldiers looking to get a drink and get into trouble. Edith Bradin connects the two plots; she used to date Gordon, and her brother is now an editor at a socialist themed newspaper that Key and Rose and a mob of angry people plan to storm.

This may be the most honest story of the bunch; it didn't try to preach, it didn't try to glorify the era. Instead it showed something real, soldiers after the war struggling to adjust to life. It showed how easily it is for people to adopt a mob mentality when they're angry and scared.

Porcelain and Pink
This short story is actually a play! About two sisters, Julie Marvis who is taking a bath and Lois Marvis who is waiting for her companion. Julie Marvis coyly talks to a man outside her bathroom window, a man who has know idea she isn't Lois... It's cute and it's funny.

The Lees of Happiness
A story of surviving doomed romances. Roxanne and Jeffrey Curtain love each other very much, but Jeff is sick. Their friends Harry and Kitty are the exact opposite; its been a long time since they've loved each other. Roxanne cares for Jeff without question long after he can no longer care for her; Kitty takes her son and goes home to mom leaving Harry to pick up his life.

Mr Icky
A second play; I don't hope I wasn't supposed to learn anything from this, because I certainly LOL'd through it. Mr. Icky is riddled through with ridiculous innuendo. It's about a farmer and his uppity children.

Jemina, the Mountain Girl
This is a romantic tragedy parody, if I ever saw one. A blood feud between two rural families, the Tantrums and the Doldrums! Poor Jemina, caught in between.

ps.
If I had to choose just one, The Lees of Happiness was probably my favorite of the compilation.
I gave this 2 stars or, "It could've been worse," after all, the stories could have sucked.

Rating 2/5

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Quotable Thursday

Here's a little bit of what I'm currently reading:


Battleship: A Daring Heiress, A Teenage Jockey, and America's Horse by Dorothy Ours
"Now, the New York Times would call Battleship and "old campaigner," although he was only seven years old and this was his second year of jump racing. A world that thought Battleship was old at age seven was the same world that saw a woman--even one so vital as Marion duPont Somerville--heading "over the hill" at age forty. Horse racing and the world at large, preferred a romance with youth. And yet some challenges were made for maturity."

I'm thoroughly enjoying this story, as its turning out to be way more than a horse story, not that that wouldn't have been good enough for me.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and other tales from the Jazz Age by F. Scott Fitzgerald (produced by Seedbox Press, an independent butchering company)
"With the awakening of his emotions, his first perception was a sense of futility, a dull ache at the utter grayness of his life. A wall had sprung up suddenly around him hedging him in, a wall a definite and tangible as the white wall of his bare room. And with his perception of this wall all that had been the romance of his existence, the casualness, the light-hearted improvidence, the miraculous open-handedness of life faded out."--The Jelly-Bean

Classics are classics for a reason. And while I could rant some more about poor transcribing, I am still able to appreciate the stories despite...That's important too.

Quotable Thursday originally brought to you by Bookshelf Fantasies.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Top Ten Sequels

The Tuesday Top Ten, as invented by The Broke and Bookish, and these are my picks.

This week's list is Top Ten Sequels--I hope this includes books in a series, because it isn't often I read books written in a 1,2 format.


1. Eldest by Christopher Paolini. When Eragon came out, I'd never been so inspired. An ambitious debut for young adults, written by a teenager! When Eldest came out...Suddenly Eragon was less impressive and Christopher Paolini more so.

2. Son of a Witch by Gregory Maguire. A lot of people didn't like it, the main complaints being that the story appeared to be slow and without direction. This book was the rare occasion I liked the use of directionlessness... Lack of direction was sort of the point. Liir didn't know who he was or where he was going... He had to find out for himself.

3. Does The Lord of the Rings counts as a sequel? I'm saying it does.

4. Fell by David Clement Davis. I read The Sight as a kid... I was in love with wolves; there was something magically haunting and wise about the animal...So when I found The Sight at the library, a book that was magical and haunting and just happened to be about wolves...I was enamored. I read Fell as an adult, who secretly always wondered what became of the troubled black wolf...And now I know.

5. Like LOTR, I don't think Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince needs much introduction...Except to say, "Shit gets real."

6. I read Angels & Demons. It was good, but The Davinci Code was way better. A&D was a little too far fetched (and this is coming from someone who favorited a story about magical wolves) The DaVinci Code had just the right amount of crazy controversial conspiracy to surpass its prequel.

7. The Eye in the Door by Pat Barker. This book was funny and sad and a little ahead of its time, even for the 90s.

8. The first book, The Map of Time, was steampunk-ish, centered around travel and murder. Imagine my surprise, when The Map of the Sky became a stage for an alien invasion.

9. I haven't read every story in The Newford Series, and this is hardly the weirdest of the collection, but I loved getting to know Jilly Coppercorn, even if she was confined to a hospital bed.

10. Mira Grant is mean. She saves the biggest plot twists for the end and leaves you waiting for the next book (luckily the trilogy is ended so new readers don't need to wait). Humor and horror blend in this science fiction action adventure story...The conspiracy is here, as is the apocalypse.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Updates

1.       I'm still fairly new to the book blogging world and the more I explore the more ideas I get for improving upon my little corner of the bloggerverse. I'm noticing most book bloggers, have review policies and rules on what they read, what kind of interaction they want with their followers. Do they accept requests for reviews, do they participate in giveaways and ARCs... So I put some thought into what my blog is about "officially" and added a Blog Policies page under the Home link.

2.       The more obvious update; I added a background that better matched my banner. The soft blues are easy on my eyes...No harsh color contrasts for me.

3.       Book Memes. I notice a lot of book bloggers have something fun, book themed, thing they choose to do on the same day as whoever invented the meme in question...I am intrigued by the concept and looking into it...So add that to my list of maybes. If you know of a good one, feel free to tell me all about it.

Friday, September 20, 2013

A little breaking news...

...if you don't already know. If you haven't been on GoodReads today, or if you aren't a member of the Feedback group, you may have missed the memo. Apparently, GoodReads has been taking the accusations of bullying very seriously and have decided to update and enforce their policies. Hateful comments between venomous readers and spiteful authors are being erased; reviews, bookshelves, and booklists that personally attack authors are being permanently deleted even as I type this entry.

Personally, I'm pleased to see that GoodReads is restricting negative reviews to book content, if only because I'm a very literal person, and GR is very literally a book review site as much as a social network... I was also a bit relieved to see Admins stepping up and trying to rein in the animosity...until this announcement spurred on a whole new round of whining.

Who would complain? People who have the most to lose, the people who enjoyed flaming, spamming, and  bullying. The people who had hundred of books listed under shelf-titles that were meant to hurt and enflame. And most of those people who are outraged that they can no longer give voice to their hatred of a fellow human being, have threatened to leave GoodReads forever.


Personally, I don't think GR is gonna change their minds over a threat like that, I think it just makes Admins' jobs a lot easier if the unpleasant little firestarters walked away... And wouldn't a just be easier all around, if a negative review wasn't immediately flamed by an angry author or deranged fan? Less stressful, if authors didn't have to have their personal lives dragged through the muck by someone they'd never even met? Wouldn't it be fun if, when reading through a book's reviews, you found they were actually about the book?

But now people who actually use GR for books, have gotta listen to those people complain until they make good on their threats and leave...

Monday, September 16, 2013

World War Z by Max Brooks

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks



I loved this! It was really well thought out, very smart.

The formatting is very different from anything else I've read. It isn't written in a traditional story line and is a compilation of many mini-stories of the people who survived. The main character is faceless/nameless...He's not really narrating the story, he's just moving it along. The "chapters" are broken down into pivotal points during the zombie war: the first outbreaks, corner cutting solutions, survival, war, and revolutions... Each point in the story is seen from the point of view of many characters as opposed to just one. No "interview" lasts more than a few pages and each adds to the bigger picture.

I think this book was beautifully done; it illustrates how far people are willing to go to survive, depicting desperation, ingenuity and at times, insanity. I think Max Brooks took a pessimistic and probably too true view of those who would try to profit from the worldwide crisis. And he had interesting theories on how militaries, governments, whole civilian populations, would react in a war against zombies. I think the shifting of political and social powers throughout the world, as the zombie war came to a climax and close, aren't that far-fetched. With nations in turmoil, change would be inevitable, whether people liked it or not.

There is so much more to this than horror or science fiction, its bordering on the edge of being political/social statement. Not unlike AMC, The Walking Dead, using zombies as obstacles, WWZ uses zombies to force change. (of course, i could be overthinking it).

Rating: 5/5
Original post date: 
May 19, 13

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Ranting About A Hack Job


The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Other Tales from the Jazz Age by F. Scott Fitzgerald

This is one of the books I'm trying to read at the moment. It was a free book, I got off of Pixels of Ink. Its a compilation of short stories by F. Scott Fitzgerald, a writer who is supposed to be one of the greats. So far I've read, Benjamin Button, Diamond as Big as the Ritz, and Tarquin of Cheapside, and for the most part I'm enjoying them. But whoever did the compiling screwed up. Dropped words, phrases and at times whole sentences.

I'll be reading along, reading along, and suddenly I hit a blank space. When the blank space ends, I'm located somewhere in the middle of a sentence. When I finally muster up a review, I'm going to review Fitzgerald favourably... But I'm gonna flame the shit out of the transcriber.

The real question is, who takes classic literature and butchers it? Who does that?

Seedbox Press, LLC apparently. Here we have a stunning example of the internet making it easy for amateurs to do hack jobs.

Seriously, though, if you have a job to do, do it right.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

P2P

The phrase, pull-to-publish is getting thrown around a lot these days. P2P is the act of taking a story that started out as a highly popular fan fiction and translating it into an original work of fiction. Fan fiction is basically amateur writers, showing their appreciation for the works that inspired them by writing stories based on those works. So if you like Harry Potter, maybe you write a story where Hermione falls in love with Draco...Or if you're a Twilight fan you write about what happens if Bella chose Jacob instead of Edward. And if you're a fan fiction author, who has chosen to P2P, you take the story you once offered for free, down off the Internet, send it to an indie-publishing house, and make money off of it.

Stories like Fifty Shades of Grey come to mind, as does The Mortal Instruments. Two very popular stories that started out as something else entirely.

Is this illegal? No.

P2P is not illegal because plagiarism is considered merely unethical; it is morally criminal not legally criminal. It could be considered copyright infringement, if it utilized enough elements from the original author's published works BUT most fan fiction authors who choose to p2p, have the sense to change character names and locations... And chances are, the reason the fanfic was popular to begin with, was because it was vastly different from the work that inspired it. The end result is characters and places eerily similar to another work, but a plot line that is extremely different. Even if one author decided to sue another over copyright infringement, it would be difficult to prove infringement had happened unless the new work contained sentences and phrases unique to the old work.

This act of pull to publish is a blurry line. Fanfic-authors-turned-original, don't want their fans passing around PDFs of the fanfic version because it might affect their book sales. Alternatively, the author's fans might run out to buy that book, encourage others to buy it, and discourage others from reading the free version. It isn't illegal to pass around that free PDF, nor is it wrong to have that story on your Kindle or bookshelf, if its truly what you want to spend money on.

Now as someone, who occasionally dabbles in fan fiction, because 1. books get expensive, and 2. it's just entertaining, I can honestly say the for-sale version is often disappointing. I have indeed bought one and I've scanned a few others. The common denominator between books that are considered p2p, is that there is little alteration between the 1st draft and the published draft. So this person change some names and phrases, so what? It is still written poorly, which is just fine for fan fiction because fan fiction is free and you get what you pay for, don't you?

But when you're asking people to shell out hard earned cash, how do you justify pimping a book that is not only riddled with grammatical errors, but the plot line is now in question, if only because things that make sense in fan fiction world no longer make sense in the world of published fiction? And who agrees to publish these books? I don't mind independent authors and editors as long as they do the job correctly. Small businesses need business too. But the Internet has made it easy as pie for people to market themselves for a job they might not be qualified for.

And you can pick apart these books, and find fans willing to defend them.

Against: The grammar is bad. 
For: The grammar doesn't matter if the story is good! 
Against: The grammar does matter and the story isn't good. 
For: The story is awesome, why'd you read it if you hate it so much? 
Against: How do I know if I hate unless I read it?

There is no sense arguing. People who love it will never understand people who don't, and vice versa.

As someone who enjoys fan fiction, the free kind, I am of the group that does not love it. First, the writing sucks. Second, the editing sucks. Third, why would I spend money on something that I can enjoy for free? Fourth, ever hear of artistic integrity? You took the work that someone did before you and you put your own spin on it, decided at the last minute to package it up and sell it. For this 4th reason, I will never again knowingly purchase something considered p2p.

If you're a fan fiction author, and you want to get published, I support you. Everybody has gotta start somewhere. But do the author you love a favor, do your fans a favor, do your reputation a favor: Write something new, something no one's seen before. Don't be just another hack riding the coattails of a better mind.

(Feel free to give your opinion on the topic)

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Passage by Justin Cronin


I had to force myself to give this story the 5/5 rating. Don't get me wrong it certainly deserved the full score. It has all the things I love in a story: a richly detailed setting, engaging multi-layered characters, an outrageously addictive plot, great writing... I loved it while I was reading it. On the other hand, once the story ended, I thought through everything the story contained and its ending, and I admit it makes me slightly suicidal.

It's one of those reads that is written well enough you want to climb right into the pages and at the same time makes you wish you hadn't. I loved this story, will probably never read it again, but will probably read the sequel. It is also one of those stories that is going to be difficult to review without dropping spoilers, simply because so much happens, but I'm going to try.

This story can be broken down by major plot points.

The Beginning of the End
Characters of the beginning of the end include Carter, Wolgast, Lacey, and Amy...Carter is an inmate on death row and Wolgast is a government agent working on a top secret experiment. Lacey and Amy, a nun and an orphan, are about to fall victim to that very experiment. Now, I'm sure the premise of the story won't surprise or spoil, as it has been done before. A top secret experiment, goes out of control and eventually destroys the world as we know it.

The Colony
Characters change as the setting leaps ahead, after the apocalypse. After a virus has turned most of humanity into murderous terrors of the night, Peter, Mausami, Michael, and Alicia, and many others step forward. The army abandoned their ancestors in a settlement in California...Generations later, it is their job is to protect life as we know it, a life that is now spent living under flood lights, behind tall walls.

The Quest
The story steps out of this cloistered world as characters from the future collide with characters from the past. A group of Colonists are flushed out into the open in a search for answers that they hope will save the Colony... The landscape the cross into is unforgiving and ruled by monsters that used to be human.

The Beginning is surprisingly long, but not unimportant to the plot. Not only does it set the story up, it sets the characters up. The reader gets to see how the world ends and later, just how little the families living in the colony actually know about the outbreak that changed everything. Cronin interjects biblical parables, ideas of fate and predetermined paths, into a story that at times, appears godless. As the characters begin to understand just how much they didn't know, didn't want to know, they start to realize; ignorance isn't bliss, it's hell on earth... and knowing the truth might be a relief worth dying for.

This story has a little of everything. Moments of beauty and innocence followed by nightmares that I'm thankful are confined to imagination. There's tragedy and insanity, friendship and romance, war, blind faith and suspicion... And let's not forget the gore...If you're a horror fan with a gross-quota that needs to be filled there are some moments in this book that make me want to retch.

This story is awesome and awful... For now, I'm going to go find something happy to read and when I'm feeling brave, I will read the sequel, The Twelve.

Monday, September 9, 2013

The Magicians by Lev Grossman



I think this book was really strange and hard to get into. The plot moves fast but for the most part, it moves seemingly without a point to its direction. Quentin gets into magic school, graduates magic school, goes to the city to party it up, goes to alternate realities to have an adventure, comes home...He's always happy to find out he's getting what he wants, but once he has it, he's miserable. I keep asking what's the point, what's the point; at the end, the point is "never hope, never want, never love."

I also think the author, while clearly LG knows how to write, he spends too much time thumbing his nose at Harry Potter, when he should be describing settings or people clearly... "The room was richly detailed..." How? Tell us about those details! "The room was like a hobbit-hole.." Let's pretend I've never read Tolkein, how was it like a hobbit hole and what the hell is a hobbit? Why are the Fillory books so ridiculously alike to Narnia?

And more importantly, what are the rules to magic? There's this contrast, where the possibilities of magic are endless and at the same time, characters keep saying there are rules...But what rules exactly? Use too much magic, and become a nifflin...What constitutes as too much? What are the punishments for pissing off the Magicians Court? And who put them in charge? It seems to me, Lev Grossman, put miserable people in a magical plotline for the express reason of driving home the point of being content with what you have and ask for nothing more. He didn't really construct anything new, but hijacked old ideas for his own cause.

The ending of this book was best, and I don't mean that rudely, but that's where the action was, the twist, and of course where he outlined exactly why he was writing this story. However the last couple pages contradicted the point; if the point of Quentin is to illustrate the concept of being content with what mundane things you've already got, why is he abandoning his life again?

I think this book was good, in the sense that I don't often see such sad characters, drifting through life, being used to underline the be careful what you wish for bit... but the story would have improved with more imagination. And the worlds the character visited, needed a little more structure.

Rating: 2/5
Original post date: 
May 9, 13

Monday, September 2, 2013

The Wise Man's Fear by Patrick Rothfuss

The Wise Man's Fear (The Kingkiller Chronicle #2) by Patrick Rothfuss


This was an awesome sequel, despite being over 1000 pages, I flew through it. I also laughed hard when I flipped past Chapter One Hundred and Eleven and saw there were quite a few chapters to go...Who writes a book over 111 chapters long? Patrick Rothfuss, that's who.

As to the actual story: The story picks up pretty much where the last one left, Kote the Innkeeper, telling the story of his days as Kvothe the student. Kvothe is back at school, still looking for information on the Chandrian and the Amyr, trying to find the mystery of who killed his family. He gets in a bit of trouble (no big surprise) and is asked to take a vacation. He travels in search of answers and a patron, one adventure leading into another.

I loved and hate that we got to know Denna...In the previous book, I noticed how many strong female personalities were involved in the story and speculated that Denna didn't really add anything. Kvothe loves her, but he can't tell her or himself...But PR delved into Denna a bit, and now instead of disliking her I feel sorry for her. All she knows of men, is that they will oppress women, and while that's not true of every man, she's clearly been hurt enough that she can't ever move on to someone else. I loved Kvothe's journey with Tempi and the Adem; I thought it reflected well on real life: some cultures will never understand each other unless an effort is made to try. I think the Maer's wife is a biotch but what can you do... I think there is reflections on reality there too: racism and unpleasant people will alway be a part of life.

I'm curios about Bast. What is his place in all this. He isn't human, but he's Kote's student. He wants his teacher to remember who he is, but why? and is he good or evil? at the end of the book it looks like his character could be considered either.

The only reason this book misses out on a five star rating is, Kvothe's dalliance with Felurian. I'd like to chalk up the story to Kote lying to the Chronicler; maybe the fairy took pity on the virgin, trained him and set him loose; He's the hero after all, he's entitled to lie a bit about arriving early... My problem with this section isn't really with Kvothe's surprising sexual prowess...It is more about the length? This part of the story went on sooo long... The first few chapters on it were interesting but then I felt this gap, in between the start of their relationship to where Kvothe met the sadistic tree and the story started up again...

But overall, I enjoyed it, the story meandered enough you could believe this was someone's life and not so much the story strayed from point. Its just a fantastic adventure.

Rating 4/5
Review's original post date:
Apr 12, 13