Archive for the 'books' Category

Loot for Me!

I went on a book-buying spree.

bookloot

I’ll come up for air in a couple of weeks!

Posted on Wednesday, June 17th, 2009 by Jeri
Under: books | 5 Comments »

Five Men in your Life

I am a fan of the hilarious Sweet Potato Queens and aspire to their philosophy of living life like royalty every day.

One interesting piece of advice that author Jill Conner Brown offers is that every woman should have five men in her life at all times. They can sometimes be partially combined into fewer men with more skills, but she believes you’ll never find them all in the same man. Here’s her list:

A man who will take you dancing.

Apparently the Sweet Potato Queens like to go dancing. A lot. And from their stories, it seems that male dancing partners are optional, they’ll dance alone, with each other, or with the guys if the music is good. I admire their zest for life.

Personally, I don’t need this guy. I’m not at all a dancer or club-hopper. I wouldn’t be averse to an occasional slow dance or even a basic ballroom class, but in general I don’t need a dancing buddy.

I could use a fishing buddy, a travel partner, a road trip friend and a movie companion, though my boys fill most of those roles admirably now, while theyr’e still at home.

A man to talk with.

Not only does she recommend a man to talk with, but this man must be unflinchingly supportive and always agreeable. Listening skills are essential; talking skills not so much.

I’m not sure why this particular one needs to be a man, because women are far better companions in verbal analysis. I do have a couple of men friends who are great at this too, but it’s usually not a native skill. Also, if you need someone with great listening skills who will unfailingly agree with you, a dog is lower maintenance than a man. (Murphy even tilts his head at me when I talk to him, as if to say “Tell me more!”)

A man who can fix things.

She likes men who can fix plumbing, cars, carpentry, etc., and feels that having one or more of these in her life is pretty essential.

I’m personally a fan of being able to fix things myself. The ability to do so, learned from my oh-so-capable mother, is a point of pride for me. My youngest son also inherited a fabulous fix-it sense and regularly assembles Ikea furniture blindfolded, without instructions, and with one hand tied behind his back.

Also, fix-it capabilities can be hired from the yellow pages or Craigslist. I’d actually prefer a man who helped with housework and yardwork. (I had one of those, Bryan was a total gem.)

A man who will take care of you.

Apparently a man who will pay for things, who has sugar daddy tendencies and likes to spoil a woman, is high on the author’s list.

Bluntly, the hell with that! I can take care of myself just fine, enjoy providing my own security and prefer my independence, whether I’m married or not. The myth of the knight in shining armor is highly overrated.

I’m not averse to a dinner out, random flowers or shiny gifts, but I can provide those for myself. My awesome UCF friends keep me pretty happy on the flowers and random cheerful stuff front.

A man to sleep with.

Self explanatory.

I’d argue that this can be found on Craigslist or in a specialty electronics store as well. ;)

Seriously, though, what women need is someone who makes them feel adored, respected, beautiful & special, whether in a platonic relationship or a passionate one. Friends and a healthy dose of self respect can provide most of that – and, well, the rest is private.

So, of the “Five Men” that are recommended, I don’t need any of ‘em. And yet, I like men a lot! I adored my husband, I think my sons are made of awesome, I have several wonderful male friends and I enjoy working in a male-dominated industry.

I’ve actually been thinking about this subject a bit lately – what I miss about being married, about having a partner and best friend in the home, and rereading the Sweet Potato Queens gave me a great sense of perspective.

What men – or women – do you need in your life? Or more importantly, what do you want? Please keep it to PG-13 or better. ;)

Posted on Monday, May 18th, 2009 by Jeri
Under: books, humor | 11 Comments »

Modern Bookselling

I am out of new reading material, so wandered by the book rack at my local Fred Meyer – a big box store. They typically have a pretty decent selection of both science fiction/fantasy and mystery, a couple of well stocked racks of both.

I prefer SF/F, but came away with nothing new. Why?

  • 75% of what was on the shelves was series fiction – and most of the books were book 2, 3 or 4 in that series.
     

  • 25% of the books (also mostly series) appeared to be paranormal fiction, many featuring the backside of some butt-kicking heroine who would be fighting vampires, demons, shapeshifters, etc.
     

  • 10% of shelf space was media tie-in books – Star Trek, Star Wars, Forgotten Realms, etc.
     

  • 3 or 4 books were vintage SF – a Charles Gibson, Timothy Zahn, Gregory Benford. Excellent books, but I’ve read them.
     

  • Of the several books remaining, most were by known authors I dislike (William Dietz, David Weber)

I can understand why publishers might want to publish series – they get stickiness, a set of readers that stay with the author through the series of books. I’d suggest, though, that serial works see a diminishing level of return, depending on book quality, publishing frequency and author prominence.

On the flip side, you get readers like me, who would love to browse a bookshelf and pick up a standalone book, but who are not interested in a middle book in a series (which is often all that’s available) nor a long term commitment to a given author.

I’d suggest that the sales lost in the latter case exceed the potential market retained through the life of most series, with rare exceptions.

Come on, booksellers, publishers – how about more standalone books? I can’t remember the last time I saw a one-off fantasy book. And while we’re at it, could we try to put out a little more space opera/hard SF and a little less vampire romance?

Posted on Wednesday, January 14th, 2009 by Jeri
Under: books, reading | 4 Comments »

The Corner Bookseller

Via io9.com, faltering bookseller Borders is stocking fewer SF/Fantasy books from midlist authors.

For new entrants into the field, even a compelling debut may not be enough to get the follow-up reshelved, and proportionally less writers are getting enough exposure in magazines to build word-of-mouth for that successful debut. As [author Tobias] Buckell says, the cutbacks appear to come from on high, not in individual stores.

While Pat Cadigan and others have played with the notion of boycotting the slumping Borders chain, it’s hard to see how that’s going to get the second largest bookseller in the U.S. to order in larger quantities.

This impacts many well known, consistently selling authors, and even more so new authors with no previous track record of sales. On the site Wild River Review, fantasy author Greg Frost suggests:

My solution is no different than all the writers who’ve shouted from the battlements before me: Buy your books from independent bookstores; the ones that have survived the onslaught, the ones that we hope will arise to fill the gap.

If you’re in the U.S. and you don’t know where such stores are, go to www.indiebound.org and look them up. If you want to shop independent booksellers online, go to Powells or Elliot Bay Books. But if you love the tactility of the book, then buy locally from the small shops that are struggling to maintain your right to pick up an assortment of good books and flip through the pages.

The shrinking market bothers me on two fronts. First and foremost, I am a science fiction and fantasy fan. I like choice, I like variety, I enjoy good writing. I love the experience of finding a new, fabulous author and spending several evenings curled up lost that new world. Under the current publishing and bookselling system, that experience is going to become rarer and harder to find.

Second, I am an aspiring writer. I don’t have a lot of time to write, so it’s going to be some time before I even attempt to have something published. Will the system even be accessible to new authors at that point? In today’s age of splintering small presses, electronic media and self-hosting, what will the bookselling world look like in ten years?

Posted on Tuesday, October 21st, 2008 by Jeri
Under: books | 9 Comments »

Celebrate your Freedom to Read

Noted philosopher Albert Camus said, “Fiction is the lie through which we tell the truth.”

That perspective is important to remember this week, Banned Books Week. I fully support this event, and I read banned books!

Rather than stumble through my thoughts on free access to books and other materials, let me point you to a thoughtful letter from a librarian, via Janiece, who explains it more eloquently than I ever could.

Of the top 100 books on the list of most frequently challenged books, below, I’ve read only 27, noted in bold – not a particularly noteworthy percentage.

1 Harry Potter J.K. Rowling
2 Alice series Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
3 The Chocolate War Robert Cormier
4 Of Mice and Men John Steinbeck
5 I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings Maya Angelou
6 Scary Stories Alvin Schwartz
7 Fallen Angels Walter Dean Myers
8 It’s Perfectly Normal Robie Harris
9 And Tango Makes Three Justin Richardson/Peter Parnell
10 Captain Underpants Dav Pilkey
11 The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Mark Twain
12 The Bluest Eye Toni Morrison
13 Forever Judy Blume
14 The Color Purple Alice Walker
15 The Perks of Being A Wallflower Stephen Chbosky
16 Killing Mr. Griffin Lois Duncan
17 Go Ask Alice Anonymous
18 King and King Linda de Haan
19 Catcher in the Rye J.D. Salinger
20 Bridge to Terabithia Katherine Paterson
21 The Giver Lois Lowry
22 We All Fall Down Robert Cormier
23 To Kill A Mockingbird Harper Lee
24 Beloved Toni Morrison
25 The Face on the Milk Carton Caroline Cooney
26 Snow Falling on Cedars David Guterson
27 My Brother Sam Is Dead James Lincoln Collier
28 In the Night Kitchen Maurice Sendak
29 His Dark Materials series Philip Pullman
30 Gossip Girl series Cecily von Ziegesar
31 What My Mother Doesn’t Know Sonya Sones
32 Angus, Thongs, and Full Frontal Snogging Louise Rennison
33 It’s So Amazing Robie Harris
34 Arming America Michael Bellasiles
35 Kaffir Boy Mark Mathabane
36 Blubber Judy Blume
37 Brave New World Aldous Huxley
38 Athletic Shorts Chris Crutcher
39 Bless Me, Ultima Rudolfo Anaya
40 Life is Funny E.R. Frank
41 Daughters of Eve Lois Duncan
42 Crazy Lady Jane Leslie Conly
43 The Great Gilly Hopkins Katherine Paterson
44 You Hear Me Betsy Franco
45 Slaughterhouse Five Kurt Vonnegut
46 Whale Talk Chris Crutcher
47 The Adventures of Super Diaper Baby Dav Pilkey
48 The Facts Speak for Themselves Brock Cole
49 The Terrorist Caroline Cooney
50 Mick Harte Was Here Barbara Park
51 Summer of My German Soldier Bette Green
52 The Upstairs Room Johanna Reiss
53 When Dad Killed Mom Julius Lester
54 Blood and Chocolate Annette Curtis Klause
55 The Fighting Ground Avi
56 The Things They Carried Tim O’Brien
57 Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry Mildred Taylor
58 Fat Kid Rules the World K.L. Going
59 The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things Carolyn Mackler
60 A Time To Kill John Grisham
61 Rainbow Boys Alex Sanchez
62 Olive’s Ocean Kevin Henkes
63 One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest Ken Kesey
64 A Day No Pigs Would Die Robert Newton Peck
65 Speak Laurie Halse Anderson
66 Always Running Luis Rodriguez
67 Black Boy Richard Wright
68 Julie of the Wolves Jean Craighead George
69 Deal With It! Esther Drill
70 Detour for Emmy Marilyn Reynolds
71 Draw Me A Star Eric Carle
72 Fahrenheit 451 Ray Bradbury
73 Harris and Me Gary Paulsen
74 Junie B. Jones series Barbara Park
75 So Far From the Bamboo Grove Yoko Watkins
76 Song of Solomon Toni Morrison
77 Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes Chris Crutcher
78 What’s Happening to My Body Book Lynda Madaras
79 The Boy Who Lost His Face Louis Sachar
80 The Lovely Bones Alice Sebold
81 Anastasia Again! Lois Lowry
82 Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret Judy Blume
83 Bumps In the Night Harry Allard
84 Goosebumps series R.L. Stine
85 Shade’s Children Garth Nix
86 Cut Patricia McCormick
87 Grendel John Gardner
88 The House of Spirits Isabel Allende
89 I Saw Esau Iona Opte
90 Ironman Chris Crutcher
91 The Stupids series Harry Allard
92 Taming the Star Runner S.E. Hinton
93 Then Again, Maybe I Won’t Judy Blume
94 Tiger Eyes Judy Blume
95 Like Water for Chocolate Laura Esquivel
96 Nathan’s Run John Gilstrap
97 Pinkerton, Behave! Steven Kellog
98 Freaky Friday Mary Rodgers
99 Halloween ABC Eve Merriam
100 Heather Has Two Mommies Leslea Newman

Those of you who support ALA’s Banned Books Week — please join me in finding a few new books on this list that interest you, check them out from your public library, read them and talk about the ideas contained within.

Celebrate your freedom to read!

Posted on Sunday, September 28th, 2008 by Jeri
Under: books, inspiration, reading | 2 Comments »