Showing posts with label silly. Show all posts
Showing posts with label silly. Show all posts

Friday, May 31, 2013

Weekend laughs

I normally don't like these types of lists, but seriously this one is spot-on. Read and enjoy.

(number nine's flowchart is particularly apt)

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Falling asleep while reading

What does it mean if the book I'm trying to read now lulls me to sleep almost every time I pick it up? I'm not reading it late at night, and I wouldn't necessarily define it as boring (I managed to read and finish a much more boring book recently - I'll be talking more about that one in a few days). There is something, however, about this specific book that stumps me.

It's not a long novel - 200 pages. And I'm 40 pages in. Sure, the font is small, but the pace is surprisingly pleasant for a book that does not appear to have any discernible plot for now. But these forty pages were read in very, very short segments: a couple pages here, a paragraph there. After nearly ever segment: a nap.

I don't think I've ever had this before. Certainly I've read boring books in the past, or have read books that were maybe a little more difficult, but I do not recall a single instance in which the act of reading made me fall asleep. I have to wonder if it's just a mark of a book I'm not particularly enjoying. Thoughts?

Friday, June 29, 2012

Book title of the week

I love browsing through Gutenberg. Unlike standard booksellers, Gutenberg is a messy, delightfully unpredictable source of new reading material. Oh, and it's perfectly reasonably to find a book with the following title:
The Discovery of a World in the Moone
Or, A Discovrse Tending To Prove That 'Tis Probable There May Be Another Habitable World In That Planet
This find by John Wilkins was published in 1638 and has all the marks of a book from its era - spelling is random, sentence structure is bizarre, and every point seems to stretch on for eternity. For example, one of the "cautions" in the introduction:
That thou shouldst not here looke to find any exact, accurate Treatise, since this discourse was but the fruit of some lighter studies, and those too hudled up in a short time, being first thought of and finished in the space of some few weekes, and therefore you cannot in reason expect, that it should be so polished, as perhaps, the subject would require, or the leisure of the Author might have done it.
That is, based on my brief flip-through, the most easily comprehensible sentence in the entire book. Meanwhile, the ideas in the book are no less strange (and obviously hilariously outdated). Thank you, Gutenberg: this is going to be amazing.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Sci-fi vs. fantasy

I recently heard this excellent distinction between the two genres.
Fantasy: Because it's magic, dammit! 
Sci-fi: Because it's the future, dammit!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Fads in cyberspace

Fads swept the youth of the Sprawl at the speed of light; entire subcultures could rise overnight, thrive for a dozen weeks, and then vanish utterly. -p.58, Neuromancer
While William Gibson is best known for coining the term "cyberspace", he should (in my mind) really be remembered for predicting our modern internet culture, as is evidenced by the above quote...

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Is that even a real name?

Literary Pet Peeve #3: Girl main characters with "original" names

Among the many annoying phenomena in contemporary young adult literature, there are a few that stand out as particularly annoying - not harmful, not technically bad... but simply obnoxious.

I guess because the majority of young adult fiction is geared towards young women, there are a few things that are going to be imbalanced. This one, however, will never make sense to me: many girls in young adult books seem to have fancy, "exotic" names while the boys around them have standard, boring names.

I noticed this years ago but was reminded of it today when I saw this review over at Rhapsodyinbooks. The book has a main character named Wren (whose younger sister is named "Robin" - which by the way... seriously?). It's a weird name, to the point where I've never actually met anyone with that name, nor ever heard of it in the context of a girl's name. But there's another half to this complaint - her boyfriend's name. Because you see, her boyfriend is named Danny.

I can list dozens of books with this phenomenon and I seriously can't figure it out. Sure, sometimes exotic or different character names in general can add a level of depth to the story, but it's usually just ridiculous, particularly when it doesn't mesh with the tone of the book. There's the flip side of the coin: the fact that the boyfriends always have bland, standard names. If you're already having fun with names, why not have everyone sport a wacky, original name? Be consistent, at the very least...

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Monday, September 12, 2011

Sigh, Amazon - recommendations

Today, we highlight one of the face-palming, head-banging, sigh-causing things that Amazon, this once-actually-kind-of-chill (maybe when I was like, ten...?) bookseller, does.

So years ago, I wrote a modestly negative review of People of the Book. There were some good points, though, so when forced to give the book a rating, I chose 2.7, or, 3 stars. Now, Amazon understands a 3-star rating to be a negative review. Look up reviews, you'll see the glowing 5-star review as compared with the less-than-gushing 3-star. 3 stars and under counts on the "negative" end of Amazon's scale.

So why, can someone explain to me, did Amazon send me an e-mail recommending some book called The Oriental Wife? The book looked boring and not to my taste so I opened the e-mail. Lo and behold: "Customers who have purchased or rated People of the Book: A Novel by Geraldine Brooks might like to know that The Oriental Wife is now available."

Amazon. Really. By your own standard, I didn't like People of the Book. Do you really think I'm going to buy a book that you claim is similar to something I didn't like? This is just another form of your crappy bookseller recommendations, except this time with even less thought...


Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Why does it always have to be chess?

Literary Pet Peeve #2: Chess as the marker of intelligence

You know that thing where authors try to write realistic teenagers? Yeah, so despite the fact that almost every author in existence was, at one point, a teenager (I have my doubts about a very specific few...), most authors seem incapable of capturing the true essence of the teenage years. Part of it may have to do with the fact that the teen brain is almost like that of an adult, but with a bunch of obvious childish flaws (forgive me - I speak as someone only starting to get over this serious and potentially harmful affliction...). Whatever the cause may be, some authors use a few "handy" tricks to bridge the gap between their teenage reader and the adult mind. This typically comes in the form of intelligence. Think about it. How many less-than-average teenagers have you encountered in literature (young adult or otherwise)? They're almost always just a bit cleverer than your average kid, just a bit more intelligent.

And all too often they play chess.

Chess. I mean, seriously, why does it always have to be chess? The amount of books I've read that use chess as symbolism for the cleverness and talent of their young protagonist is... high. Very high. It's frustrating, if only because it's a cheap trick: a writer who has to elevate their character to above-average intelligence just to make them sound "realistic" is a bad writer. And chess is pretty much the cheapest way to accomplish this.

In general, the use of chess in literature is to indicate growth and intelligence. I mean, I get it. Chess is a logical game. It can be wonderful symbolism for certain thought-processes, for how certain characters think. But it's not the only way. You know what else works? Computer strategy games. Risk. In fact, I want someone to write a book in which a character is analyzed and developed throughout a game of Risk. Seriously. That would be awesome. Chess may have once been wonderful symbolism, but use of it today feels trite and inappropriate. Such a shame - I actually always liked the game...

Friday, July 22, 2011

Please like the BPL... or something

Can someone explain this one to me? I recently got my I-have-no-idea-how-often-it-comes eNewsletter from the Boston Public Library (BPL) and the following paragraph caught my eye:
Thank you to all who helped the Boston Public Library reach 5,000 likes on Facebook last week. Now, it's time to set our sights on 6,000 and beyond. Like the Boston Public Library's Facebook page and enjoy updates on library events, behind-the-scenes photos, and the opportunity to interact with other library fans.

What in the world does the BPL need Facebook likes for? (I can justify the reasons for the BPL having a Facebook page in the first place) I'm not going to get into the general question of the purpose of Facebook likes, but I really want to understand what possible benefit it could have for a public library. People aren't going to become fans of the library and then buy more of its stuff. Likes have, until now, been used as a sort of gauge for the popularity of certain artists, organizations, politicians, etc. The BPL is none of these things. Please explain.

I can understand that maybe the BPL want to increase library attendance and solicit donations, but this feels like the completely wrong approach. Asking people to "like" their Facebook page just makes them seem childish and silly. Also, kind of lame. 5,000 likes... cause for excitement? Even Henrik Ibsen has more Facebook likes than that!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The start of a good week (and a half)

Yesterday marked the launch of one of my favorite yearly events - Hebrew Book Week. The morning opened with the now-familiar writers/poet takeover of Ha'aretz's news pages and continued onto... well, nothing. I didn't attend any events yesterday. But you know what one of the greatest things about Hebrew Book Week is? It lasts a week and a half.

So I turn to my shelves (reminded of a great ad I saw that showed packed bookshelves and a small gap, with a sign that read "Reserved for Hebrew Book Week!"), thinking about these past months. I've decreased my book-buying incredibly, only purchasing two books in eight months. Meanwhile, I've knocked several titles off my guilt list, making my shelves look a lot less threatening.

All that is going down the drain this week. And I'm so very excited.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

In honor of Bacchus

This weekend, I happened upon my 1939 edition of The Oxford Book of English Verse. This is a poetry collection I purchased in eighth or ninth grade for that years poetry unit, enjoying the old-school styles and poems. As I now flipped through the small hardback book, I noticed that several slips of paper served as bookmarks, and also that I had dog-eared many of the pages. Surprised, I began to take more care in my perusal of the book, trying to spot which poems had struck my 13-year old fancy.

The following find particularly made me laugh. I suspect it did back then, too.

A Drinking-Song

Bacchus must now his power resign -
I am the only God of Wine!
It is not fit the wretch should be
In competition set with me,
Who can drink ten times more than he.

Make a new world, ye powers divine!
Stock'd with nothing else but Wine:
Let Wine its only product be,
Let Wine be earth, and air, and sea -
And let that Wine be all for me!
-Henry Carey

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Stop me if you've heard this one before

Literary Pet Peeve 1: When I find myself reading/reading about the same book I've read a thousand times before. Particularly when it isn't even riding a bandwagon.

Note: I did not seek out any of these titles. The first two I read (sadly - I wish I could take those hours back...), the second two I came across in my daily book travels.
  • Exhibit A: Saving Zoe, Alyson Noel; Plot: Little sister Echo is the normal kid, big sister Zoe is the exotic, popular, beautiful one. Zoe is murdered - Echo starts following in big sis' footsteps, including involvement with boyfriend. She uncovers secrets. Drama ensues.
  • Exhibit B: Goldengrove, Francine Prose; Plot: Little sister Nico is a normal kid, big sister Margaret is the exotic, popular, talented, beautiful one. Margaret drowns - Nico starts following in big sis' footsteps, including involvement with boyfriend. Drama ensues.
  • Exhibit C: The Sky is Everywhere, Jandy Nelson; Plot (as summarized by Goodreads): Seventeen-year-old Lennie Walker, bookworm and band geek, plays second clarinet and spends her time tucked safely and happily in the shadow of her fiery older sister, Bailey. But when Bailey dies abruptly, Lennie is catapulted to center stage of her own life—and, despite her nonexistent history with boys, suddenly finds herself struggling to balance two. Toby was Bailey's boyfriend; his grief mirrors Lennie's own. [...]
  • Exhibit D: Between Here and Forever, Elizabeth Scott; Plot (as summarized by Goodreads): Abby accepted that she can’t measure up to her beautiful, magnetic sister Tess a long time ago, and knows exactly what she is: Second best. Invisible. Until the accident. Now Tess is in a coma, and Abby’s life is on hold. It may have been hard living with Tess, but it's nothing compared to living without her. She's got a plan to bring Tess back though, involving the gorgeous and mysterious Eli, but then Abby learns something about Tess, something that was always there, but that she’d never seen. Abby is about to find out that truth isn't always what you think it is, and that life holds more than she ever thought it could...
Exhibits A, B and C are almost identical to each other, down to the bizarre name choices for the sisters' names. I mean, seriously, with the exception of Margaret, none of these names are common for girls (Zoe is marginally acceptable but still fairly unbelievable). Get real. Furthermore, the plots of all four closely follow the same formula: meek little sister steps into the glamorous older sister's shoes following death/horrible accident.

For some odd reason, this storyline seems to be incredibly popular among writers. Please let me know if you come across any other examples so that I may shun those titles for completing spitting in the face of originality. Thank you.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Desert, dessert or deserted?

If there's a question I've always hated, it's "What books would take you with you to a desert island?". Particularly since I've always been certain that the meaning of "desert" in that sentence meant hot sand, the occasional oasis and guaranteed sunburns.

Here's the question: would the answer be different? Would I bring different books to a desert island as opposed to one that's simply deserted? I mean, if I'm on a deserted island, I'd probably want a really fat, fascinating book with lots of stories, characters and situations. Something dense and epic. On a desert island, I'd kind of want a survival guide. You know. Something that teaches me how to keep myself well-hydrated, how to avoid getting sand in my eyes, etc. Or Dune.

As for a dessert island book... I'd probably want a weight-loss guide.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Worst. Book title. Ever.

Okay. I haven't read this book, I don't know what it's about, and I really, really, really don't care to read it based on the title:
The Truth-Teller's Lie
Ahh. I swear, no book title has ever been more insipidly bland and completely formulaic-without-revealing-anything-about-the-book! Seriously? Say this one out loud a few times. Does it mean anything? Is it referencing anything? It doesn't even sound right, it sounds completely idiotic.

To make matters worse... it was once published under a different title. "Hurting Distance" isn't the greatest book title ever, but it's 10x10^100 times better than, well... "The Truth-Teller's Lie".

I think I need to go dunk my head in a bucket of ice-cold water...

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Homemade eCovers

Long story short: my operating system can no longer use Sony's eReader library program (and good riddance, too...), leading me inevitably to Calibre. By resetting my entire Reader to Calibre's way more convenient standards, I've been finding myself having a jolly good time with the new order. One aspect of this is finding covers for all my eBooks.

The problem is that almost all of the freely available fiction on the web (my only source for eBooks) is extremely old (thus the copyright has expired). A lot of these books don't have normal covers. Same for various free short stories and self-published stuff. This is where it gets fun. Books need covers. So what if there are no good options? Let me have a crack at it!

I don't have much (any) artistic talent. I don't have particularly complex picture editing programs. But here's a glimpse of some of the covers I've made the last couple of weeks, for your entertainment:
Sci-fi/fantasy/other collection

Favorite to make - short stories
Mythology/folklore collection
My favorite homemade cover (original photo here):

And these two, that actually look a little like textbooks I've had in the past. It begs the question though, why I ever downloaded these books from Gutenberg... Picking out these pictures was cool, though (physics and chemistry), and it was plenty nice trying to decide exactly which color shade and font (sadly limited with the new operating system...) fit the book best.

This is fun.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Up and down

Some unrelated, stupid thoughts on North and South from the first couple of chapters:
  1. I don't remember the last time a book had a declaration of love quite so early on. And so randomly. And so not related to the actual plot of the book...? Still too early to tell.
  2. Margaret's dad is kind of despicable. I know I'm not supposed to dislike him, but it's rare for me to want to slap a character in a book. I want to slap Mr. Hale. Really, really hard.
  3. This book is kind of slow, but my interest is piqued. Let's hope it stays that way.
I'm having a weird reading experience with this one. I'm reading it quite sporadically and it feels just a little like reading used to feel, back a few years ago during my classics faze. It's nice, going back to 19th century England. It's been a while since I've visited here.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Amazon review of the week

This one is entertaining with no additional comment. Reviewer "Mao Ze Dong" writes a review for "The Amulet of Samarkand":

London needs more communism in that book. In other words, the book really sucked.