How’s your year going?

Last year I was a little late to the party. This year? READY.

Last year I got back on GoodReads.com after a prolonged absence. I started reviewing books again, and tracking my reading progress. It also helps me keep track of books  I want to read, or have read with my brother as part of our two person book club.

In any event, I set myself the lofty goal of reading 79 books by the end of this year. Since I got such a late start last year I only projected 9, but wound up reading 59 since I count graphic novels as well. So far I’m off to a good start. As of right now, I’m at 15/79 books. They range from authors I just discovered to authors that I’ve been reading for years. There are graphic novels as well as regular novels represented. I’m sure that I’ll also be adding in some young adult reads, since Phoebe likes when I read books that she’s read. She’s super into Superhero Girls and Disney’s Descendants, so I know those will be among my titles for this year. (Speaking of which, I need to catch up on Descendants! I think I’m about 2 books and a movie behind.)

Honestly, the young adult books are really good. I read a Descendants book last year (Wicked World Wish Granted). It wasn’t bad – there’s many lessons to be learned about friendship, identity, and the consequences of your decisions. It was in graphic novel format, but there are several tie-in books that are in the series too.

I’d also like to get back to Jonathan Maberry‘s Rot and Ruin series. I’m anxious to see what’s happened with Benny Imura and his longtime crush Nix Riley. I also want to get back to Alessia Giacomi‘s Zombie Girl Saga, because the last Eve Brenner book I read left a really interesting cliffhanger. There are other book series that I want to work on, too many to list, in fact! Not to mention, I am woefully under-read in the world of comics. My plan is to change this up this year. I don’t want to be a superhero fan only based on movies. I’m ready to go full nerd.

If you’re on GoodReads.com too look me up! Let’s be friends! (Feel free to send recommendations my way, either books you’ve liked, or books that you’ve written.)

 

 

 

Powering Through

Several friends have recommended Christopher Moore‘s books to me over the years. I picked up a few of his books, A Dirty Job, Bite Me: A Love Story, and Lamb. The Serpent of Venice is on the list of Dipper and my books to read. I wasn’t sure where to start, so a friend suggested I begin with A Dirty Job, since I’m a fan of stories that feature the personification of death.

The story centers around Charlie Asher, a goyim who is married to Rachel, the love of his life. Moore immediately establishes a few truths about our main character. He’s a beta male. He’s got anxiety. He’s the proprietor of Asher’s Secondhand. And he’s a complete nebbish. His wife dies while giving birth, and shortly after, a man in a mint green silk suit comes into the hospital room and steals Rachel’s Sarah McLachlan CD. Little does Charlie realize this is only the beginning.

What seemed like a random and senseless robbery turns out to be a definitive moment for Charlie. It’s revealed that the man who took the CD is Minty Fresh, and he’s a Death Merchant, which is not exactly as it sounds. Death Merchants have a special date book that names and numbers appear inside. The name is the person who will die, and the number is the amount of days the Death Merchant has to retrieve the soul vessel. Soul vessels pulse red, and basically the job of the Death Merchant is to get the soul into the hands of the next person it’s supposed to belong to.

If the Death Merchant does not get the soul vessel, sometimes the Morrigan and Orcus lay claim to it. Orcus and The Morrigan dwell in the underworld, and they need to consume the souls so they can travel Above, and eventually claim rule over the world. Eventually the tension between the Morrigan and the Death Merchants will come to a head, when the Luminatus, or Death appears.

While Charlie is trying to get used to his new responsibilities, he is also trying to raise Sophie. However, not even that part of his life is carefree, because strange things keep happening. Not the least of which is when two hellhounds show up and watch over Sophie. Charlie has no idea how they got there, or who they’re from, but as the story progresses and the stakes get higher, he’s glad the hounds are there.

I hate to admit it, but it took just shy of forever to get into this book. Charlie is such a nebbish that a good deal of the book is hard to get into. The graph on the right shows my reading progress for this book, as logged on GoodReads.com. The saving grace are the supporting characters. Ray, a retired cop who works for Charlie and suspects everyone of being a serial killer, Lily the goth who also works for Charlie but is studying to be a chef, and Mrs. Ling and Mrs. Korjev. The latter two women live in Charlie’s appartment complex and take turns sitting Sophie. More often than not they offer comic relief. There’s also Charlie’s homeless friend, The Emperor, who thinks he’s the emperor of San Francisco. His faithful canines Lazarus, a golden retriever, and Bummer, a Boston terrier, constitute his soldiers.

Once the story gets going, however, it really takes off! Once the darkness starts rising and the Morrigan and squirrel people get more prominent, the book becomes nearly impossible to put down. As a matter of personal bias, it definitely helped that little Bummer, the 7 pound Boston terrier, sees action against the Morrigan and winds up having a huge impact on the story’s outcome.

I would recommend reading this book, and sticking with it. There is a follow-up called Secondhand Souls, which focuses on Sophie and the coming battle for the soul of humanity. This book certainly has my buy-in because many of the characters I came to really love appear in the second book. (I’m not going to spoil it, except for to say that Bummer is back in action…and a book with a Boston terrier certainly has my vote!)

Since I haven’t read anything else by Christopher Moore yet, I can’t really say if this is a better introductory novel or not. I think it really depends on what kind of story the reader is looking for, and what degree of patience the reader has in terms of waiting. Overall, I’m really glad that I took the time to finish A Dirty Job. It turned out to be the book I was looking for, even though I didn’t realize it.

 

 

Navigating the Kindle Paperwhite

I was thrilled to receive my Kindle Paperwhite in the mail yesterday. I took it out, synced it with GoodReads.com, and started trying to figure it out. I can say right off the bat that I love it’s sleek new design and touch screen. I’m also in love with the cover that I picked out for it, even though I’m not usually a fan of pastels.

When I bought the Paperwhite, it was supposed to be intuitive. For the most part that’s been true, except for a few features that were harder to figure out than I had hoped (or expected). I consider myself a capable technology user, as I work as a computer professional. However, there were a few instances I went online for answers to questions I couldn’t figure out. I as also dismayed that there wasn’t really a catch-all webpage or help link that answered everything. I searched by several criteria, just to make sure that the problem with the search results wasn’t me. (This also surprised Tkout, because normally I prefer to ask him for technology help, rather than head into the vastness of the Internet.) As you can see from the picture on the left, it’s a very hot item in this house! Both Zelda and Chloe want to get their paws on my Kindle Paperwhite!

Below are some of the features I struggled with, and how to overcome them. If you haven’t purchased the Kindle Paperwhite yet, I highly recommend it. It’s a great investment, even if it takes you a little bit to get used to it.

  • Collections. Managing my collections had my absolutely shouting obscenities, but I’m going to own up to it and say that it’s totally my fault. There are a couple of ways to manage your collections, but so far, I’ve only dealt with books I’ve purchased via Amazon. (There are ways to include books purchased elsewhere, but I haven’t tinkered with that yet.)
    • The Hard Way: You can manually add books to collections by holding your finger down on the title and waiting for the dialog box. However, this can add to mistakes such as opening the book, removing it from the device, and other missteps.
    • The Easy Way: Let Amazon.com do the work for you! Follow these steps:
      • Open amazon.com (or smile.amazon.com, if you’re donating to a charity)
      • On the right, hover over Accounts & Lists, which will open up another menu
      • Under Your Account, go to Manage Your Content and Devices

In this menu, you’ll see all of the books that you’ve purchased, or are shared with you if you share an Amazon account within a household. From there, you can add books to collections in batches of 10, you can delete books, or send them to other registered devices. You can also register and deregister devices on the account. That’s where I deregistered my old Kindle, registered my new Kindle, and changed the device’s name. If you have your kindle open while you’re making the changes, you can see it happen with only a few second delay. (However, to show the new device name, I had to reboot my Kindle. Not a big deal, but just mentioning it.)

  • Backing out of a book. I was able to open books to read them, but I didn’t know how to get back to the home screen. Since I was a dedicated Apple user for years, I automatically looked for the home button. As it turns out, when you’re reading, the menu containing the home button and other options is hidden. If you lightly tap the top of the screen, the menu drops down. You can go to the store, bookmark your place, go home, back out of the book and go to the collection, etc. Neither hard, nor an inconvenience. Once you know what you’re doing. If you decide you don’t want to do anything in the menu, gently tap once anywhere on the book and the menu will close.

I realize that struggling with two features isn’t the end of the world, but they are, in my humble opinion, two of the most important features of the Kindle. Most people like to organize their books, and certainly it’s important to be able to get out of a book and go back to the home screen.

While trying to overcome my obstacles, I stumbled on some features that I really enjoy. Such as the ability to change the font of the book. At first, I thought that was just kitschy and neat. I didn’t realize how much easier it would make the books to read. You can also choose whether or not your progress will be measured in page numbers or as a %. You can also choose to have your GoodReads.com lists display on your home screen.

I can’t say enough about how much I love my Kindle Paperwhite. I can’t believe that it took me so long to catch on to the electronic book craze, but here I am. What format do you prefer? Do you have a Kindle or other e-reader? Let me know in the comments!

2016 Year on Goodreads.com

A few months ago, I became active again on Goodreads.com. If you’re unfamiliar with the site, I highly recommend checking it out. You can log books that you are reading, want to read, and have read. You can also write reviews for books. You can create digital bookshelves to organize your books, as well as recommend books to others. Many authors are on Goodreads.com as well, which is pretty cool considering you can interface with them, see what they’re reading, and see what books of theirs you’re missing. (If you want to connect with me, I am searchable on the site. My name is listed as Holly Ann, and the email address is deadaeris@gmail.com.)

I also participated (albeit late) in a reading challenge. I figured why not, since I enjoy posting my reading progress on the site, which it then uploads to Facebook as well. This year, I made my goal 79, which I’m sure I’ll surpass, since I’m allowing graphic novels and young adult fiction to be counted as well.

The site also does a round-up at year’s end, giving you stats about what you read. Here’s a screenshot of my 2016 year. (I declined to screenshot the section showing the covers of the books I’ve read. I’m just including my stats.)

goodreads2016

Prior to this challenge, I didn’t realize just how many books I read each year. I’m sure this year was a little heavier, because I was borrowing so many graphic novels from Dipper. However, it gives me a real sense of pride at my literary accomplishment. Especially considering 2016 was my own private hell in terms of personal (and family) illnesses.

I’m looking forward to seeing what this new year brings, both in terms of expanding my literary tastes, and also in terms of what new friends I might meet. And if you happen to see me on Goodreads.com, add me and let’s be friends!