Armchair BEA Introduction

Today’s post comes from a prompt provided by Armchair BEA. Armchair BEA runs concurrently with Book Expo America (BEA) and the BEA Bloggers Conference from May 28 to June 2. Armchair BEA is composed of volunteers and created for book bloggers who are unable to attend BEA in New York but would still like to connect with other book bloggers and publishers from the comfort of their own home.

Design credit: Nina of Nina Reads

I’m a few days late because I didn’t discover this wonderful event until yesterday but I still wanted to participate. What better way to get started than with the introduction prompt? Check out the Q & A on the following page!

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A Brief Update

Hi thinkers!

I thought you would be interested to know that I have been asked to contribute to another blog! It belongs to the book club I’m a member of on Goodreads. It’s called Classics Without All the Class — the blog is dedicated to making reading more accessible to everyone as well as sharing our love of books. They’ve asked me to share my thoughts on graphic novels. I’m also providing them with a roundup of fun, book-related events each week. This is the first time I’ve ever been asked to contribute to another blog and I couldn’t be more excited! Please check out some of the links below to learn more about the book club and my involvement.

Do not fear! I will still be updating here regularly. You didn’t think I would leave you hanging, did you?

Thanks for reading!

Links:

LTTP: The Walking Dead Edition

Remember the zombie phase everyone was going through a while back? The phase that created Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and World War Z and The Walking Dead (along with a slew of zombie-related movie remakes)? And it was so popular that the Center for Disease Control and Prevention created a bunch of materials on how to deal with a potential zombie apocalypse?

Truth be told, I didn’t hop on the bandwagon. I don’t know what for or why not but it just didn’t interest me in the way that the vampire phase did. (In a roundabout way, it led me from The Twilight Saga to Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel — how bad could that be?)

Apparently, it was popular enough that the company mentioned in the previous post used it as a serious question during job interviews. I was asked what I would do in the event of a zombie apocalypse. My disinterest in the topic put me at a disadvantage –my answer wasn’t as funny or clever as they were hoping for and I didn’t get the job.

Fast forward to earlier this month when I came across the first issue of The Walking Dead (comic) on my husband’s iPad. (You can read the first issue for free inside via ComiXology). Although I was hesitant, I was more curious and read it anyway. I enjoyed it so much, I went to the local comic book store and picked up a copy of The Walking Dead, Volume 1: Days Gone Bye. The intro by Robert Kirkman is enough to convert even the biggest of zombies skeptics — people like me — into a drooling, adoring horde. Kirkman promises less of a zombie comic and more of a character driven story about a former sheriff’s deputy who awakens from his hospital bed in a world that is so changed and horrific, he doesn’t believe it’s real. The Walking Dead is about Rick’s transformation as he spends more time in the hellish, lawless, zombie-infested world that he was thrust into; a place that challenges and changes the meaning of humanity.

The Walking Dead is a must-own for any zombie enthusiast. But I would highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good, character-driven story that keeps you on the edge of your seat regardless of whether or not you’re a fan of zombies or comic books.

While I’ve only just finished Volume 1, I’m looking forward to reading the others. In the  meantime, I have been watching The Walking Dead on AMC (the first two seasons are available for streaming via Netflix). So far, so good.

What do you think about walkers or the possibility of a future zombie apocalypse?

[Thank you to ~RamaelK for making the above image available for reuse.]

Link

Like most of you, I’ve known about Kickstarter for some time. For those of you that might not be familiar with the site, it is dedicated to funding projects through crowdsourcing. If you’re curious about the details of Kickstarter and how it words, check out their FAQs.

I hadn’t backed a project until last week when I discovered that someone was trying to get funding to publish an annotated version of Moby Dick. While the novel itself can be found for free on the Internet, the annotations have already been written and are available on online through Power Moby Dick, the project came about when the creator decided to combine both into a printed book. As a bibliophile and lover of squeezing every ounce of knowledge from anything I read, finding this was a dream come true. Unfortunately, it fell just short of raising enough money in the 30 day time period. I’m holding out hope that someone, somewhere, someday soon, will pick up where the creator left off and achieve successful funding.

A few days after discovering A Beautiful Annotated Edition of Moby Dick, I received an email from a friend about the Kickstarter she created from her work connecting startups to capital. Anna is trying to get funding in order to publish a book from the infographics she has created on business and technology. The book is called Becoming an Entrepreneur and I really hope it is successful. I really believe a lot of people would benefit from the knowledge shared in this book.

And as one novel begets another, I found Beetle Days: A Novel. The book explores human behavior through the life of a dung beetle. The author is looking for funding in order to have the novel proofread and to purchase the appropriate licenses to publish it. It’s interesting and quirky and I’m looking forward to it succeeding.

Today I discovered the Kickstarter I wished I would have known about sooner: To Be or Not To Be, That is the Adventure. The creator is Ryan North, a comic book writer. Holy beans is this project was amazing! North has combined the fun of a choose-your-own-adventure book with awesomeness of Hamlet. Take away the Shakespearean language, add in North’s funny-filled writing, add splashes of art from well-known artists, and you have this book! This project was one of the most successful the site has ever had with almost 3,000% of the original amount funded. The good news for non-backers like myself interested in To Be or Not To Be, is that North is planning on printing copies of the book and they will be distributed and sold through the regular literary channels.

Now, I just have to keep myself away from Kickstarter’s Publishing page …

Last, but by no means least, the Kickstarter I’m looking forward to will be coming from    Wrought Iron Games in their quest to fund Edgar: an alternate history game involving Victorian England, Edgar Allen Poe, Jack the Ripper, and others. It was just last weekend that my husband and I were brainstorming the number of videogames that are rooted in literature or lit-themed. We could come up with only three. It was the very next day that I discovered Edgar. Their site says that they will be creating a Kickstarter to fund the game when they are finished with the majority of the game. Until then, I will be keeping an eye out!

Which projects are you backing?

Kickstarters mentioned in this post:

The Importance of Community and a Book Review

I want to start by saying thank you for your patience and for sticking with me. I was on brief hiatus, but now I’m back to blogging!

I consider myself in a lucky living situation: nice apartment, dog-friendly, safe neighborhood, ocean view, and having good neighbors. I live in a big city where having one of those qualities is considered grounds for celebration. But the quality that is most easily taken for granted is having nice neighbors — the kind that turn your neighborhood into a community.

In my last neighborhood, we lived on a small street tucked between a popular (but rather unsafe) neighborhood and a quieter, more family oriented one. The weather was warm nearly year-round, public transit was within walking distance, and restaurants were king. One of the major disadvantages was one that is typical of living in a big city: anonymity. While some people move to big cities for that very reason, I found it lonely and unsafe. I think the only neighbors on our street that actually spoke to each other were related. There was no real sense of community. Coming from a small town, this kind of behavior wasn’t only disappointing, but foreign.

Things changed dramatically when I moved into the apartment I live in now. I attribute that partly to my neighbors. There are two in particular that have been friendly, kind, and generous. My upstairs neighbor in particular has gone out of her way, more times than I can count, to be friendly. And it’s because of her that I ended up with a copy of The Last Resort: A Memoir of Mischief and Mayhem on a Family Farm in Africa in my hands.

I had never heard of the book before, I had never been to Africa, and I know very little about farming. But when someone lends me a book, I read it. Not always right away, but I read it.

The Last Resort is hard to put down. It’s exactly as the title suggests: a story of a family, their farm in Africa, and the crazy journey they embark on to keep it. The story is written by the son of the couple that runs the farm, Douglas Rogers, who happens to also be a travel writer. He chronicles the struggle his family faces as the country plunges deeper into political unrest after Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe orders the “reclamation” of  white-owned farms. This puts a target directly on Drifters, the travel lodge that Rogers’ parents own and operate.

The Last Resort book cover

One of the few book covers that is explained by the text.

What makes The Last Resort engaging are the interwoven stories of Drifters, the Rogers family, and the cast of characters Douglas knows (and meets) along the way. Their stories seem unreal times, with their celebrity, secrecy, and tales of the past, but they help to tell a larger narrative: the people’s history of Zimbabwe. It is inspiring the way that the Rogers family, and Zimbabweans alike, manage to survive, rather than simply suffer, each challenge thrown their way. They seem to have a never-ending ability to roll with the punches rather than get bogged down by a world of constant upheaval and uncertainty.

So what does The Last Resort have to do with the earlier discussion of my living situation? It was the community the Rogers family is part of during the book prompted this entry. While neighbors came and went over the course of the story, there is much emphasis placed on the connections between people and one’s hope for stability. What I mean is, it was the connections between friends, and other times strangers, that seemed to help the Rogers. Whether it was exchanging currency or maintaining the lodge, those connections were crucial for their survival and continued hope. Without a good community, life can seem lonely and bleak, making the simple task of putting one foot in front of the other, monumental.

The Last Resort is a great book and definitely worth a read especially if you’re interested in politics, Africa, and/or travel. But I’m warning you — you will turn the last page with a lingering curiosity. I finished the book with an additional item tacked on to my list of life’s to-dos: visit Zimbabwe and stay at Drifters. And I know I’m not alone! Until then, there are other ways to connect with the book and the author which I have listed below.

Ways to connect with the book:

  • Purchase it from your favorite book seller or borrow a copy from your local library.
  • Check out the group on Facebook. Mr. Rogers participates and responds to comments.
  • Watch a promo for the documentary and donate if you’d like.
  • Visit Mr. Rogers’ website to learn more about him and the book.
  • Stay up-to-date with the author on his blog.

Link

A friend asked me the other day what I wanted for Christmas. At the time, I really couldn’t think of anything. Well, nothing that could be gifted to me anyway. Like a house, or getting into the law school of my choice.

But then I heard about Out of Print from the Classics Without All the Class podcast. And then I drooled a bit on the keyboard. And then I read their mission and really fell in love:

In addition to spreading the joy of reading through our tees and accessories, we acknowledge that many parts of the world don’t have access to books at all. We are working to change that. For each product sold, one book is donated to a community in need through our partner Books For Africa.

Buying book-related things and donating books to people in need? Count me in!

And in case you were curious, here are a few things on my wish list:

The Master and the Margarita T-Shirt

The Very Hungry Caterpillar Tote

Great books coaster set

Too great to pass up, right?

Thanks in advance, Santa!

Love,

Me

Book Club for the Bibliophile

 

What does a bibliophile get excited about other than getting new books?

Joining a book club.

Nerdy, right?

Up until college, the only thing I remember enjoying in school was reading. Not textbooks, but books. Novels that transported me from the time I saw the title and picture on the cover. I didn’t just read for homework — I read for fun. One of my neighbors was a girl who loved to read too, and we used to climb trees and read books silently as we sat on different branches.

Each time I finished a novel, I had the sudden urge to talk about it. I wanted to discuss every detail and ask a thousand questions that bubbled up during the course of reading. I still have the urge to this day — a Book Emergency I’ll call it (a term adapted from the brittawrites post on Movie Emergencies). College was a great place for that. I once took an 8am class my senior year (I know, unbelievable right? It’s true. It was only offered once a year and at 8am. I felt like I didn’t have a choice!) called American Politics Through American Literature taught by Professor Emeritus Jack Schaar. The required reading included ten novels, which quickly morphed into some of my all-time favorites. Professor Schaar was deeply insightful, quick-witted, and directed the discussions in a meaningful manner that made getting up early well worth it. I didn’t miss a single class.

Fast forward to present day where I have a hankering for reading the classics and am armed with the Internet! That’s how I found the Classics Without All the Class group on Goodreads. It’s a great way to get your foot in the door to reading the classics in a fun and simple way while offering a chance to engage in discussion with other readers via the forums. December’s book is Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. I can’t wait to start reading — and chatting! It’s the perfect book to get in the mood for the holidays.

Want to join the group? Click this link and join with your Goodreads account. Don’t have one? You can sign in with Facebook.

<Thanks to ali edwards for making her photo of books available for reuse.>

Book Club Book Mania

After finishing The Devil in the White City for Book Club,  I was eager to find a fun, quick summer read. That’s when I stumbled across The Goodreads Bookclub Challenge: A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan. The challenge consists of five parts:
  1. Like a quote
  2. Read the book
  3. Vote in the poll
  4. Take the quiz
  5. RSVP to the live chat with the author, Jennifer Egan
Joining the Goodreads Bookclub gave me an excuse to read a new book and participate online with other book clubbers. But what really drew me in was the opportunity to hear the author talk about her book. I find it fascinating to hear authors discuss their thought process and vision for a book and how that is similar or different from the one that I have experienced or imagined while reading it. (Also, checking off each item on the challenge list was highly satisfying.)
I hadn’t heard a single world about the novel prior to discovering the Bookclub Challenge on Goodreads. First, I looked for it at my local public library but no such luck. Every single copy was checked out and had at least 50 holds on each one! It would be the end of the universe before I would get a copy. Then I hopped over to Amazon to see if they had it available at a reasonable price. Sure enough, they did! A few clicks and a day later I had my very own copy!

I didn’t have any expectations about the book as I turned to the first page. I was just hoping it would be interesting. And it was.

A Visit from the Goon Squad was unexpected. Each chapter was in the voice of a different narrator – their life and their perspective on the events around them. Finishing one chapter and jumping into the next was like driving on a straight highway for miles and then taking a sharp left turn. Initially I felt like I didn’t know where the story was going, but by the end of the chapter Egan had left some breadcrumbs that linked one chapter and character to another. She expertly interwove the stories of many characters throughout the book into one beautiful, jagged picture.

The short summary on the cover doesn’t do the complexity of the story(ies) any justice. Yes it’s about Bennie and Sasha – they’re the anchors in the novel. But it really about so much more.

Read it: if you like off-beat, alternative books; you really enjoy music, especially old-school punk; if you’re looking for a quick read.

Skip it: if you’re looking for a challenging read, or if you are looking for a straight-laced book – this just isn’t it.

[The picture can be found over at twitpic here.]

The Rogue Chef and the Book that Propelled Him to Fame

I purchased Anthony Bourdain’s book, No Reservations, for my husband a few years back. We have watched our fair share of his television show on the Travel Channel and enjoy his snarky comments, constant criticism, and ability to enjoy food no matter where in the world he lands.

A few months ago I had just finished a book and was eager to start a new one but was in that horrible library hold purgatory with nothing to read. Desperate for a quick, fun book, I grabbed Bourdain’s No Reservations from his bookshelf. I knew that this was the book that had thrust him into the celebrity chef spotlight – the exact place that he renounced time and time again in his book. I have a feeling that the irony wasn’t lost on him.
No Reservations is a quick and easy read. Bourdain’s writing is identical to his speaking voice. His cadence easily drifts in to your mind as you turn the pages. This book is a no-holds-barred look at the dirty underbelly of the restaurant business and those who work in it. It was a book written for, and written by, a veteran of the industry. And damn is it good.
Yes, some of you will find that some of the details will make your stomach turn. But if you really love food, you will appreciate the advice that Bourdain imparts.

No Reservations is also a peek into Anthony’s life and times. And while it isn’t always pretty, it certainly is honest.

Read it: if you’re a foodie, you like beatnik poetry, you’re already a fan of Bourdain, you like gritty, raw writing.

Leave it: if you’re squeamish, you dislike knowing what you eat, if you’re not a fan of hearing about the gory details.

Want to read more from Anthony Bourdain? Check out his blog over at the Travel Channel.

[Thank you to webzer for making the image available for reuse.]

The Most Evil Woman in America: Her Magnum Opus

Back when I was studying at “the Most Stoned Campus on Earth” (according to Rolling Stone), I would sometimes have to buy my books at a local bookstore instead of the one on campus. One day I happened to notice Atlas Shrugged in the bargain bin of the local bookstore and couldn’t resist the urge to buy it. I had heard so many people argue about it, I just couldn’t help myself. I really wanted to see what all the fuss was about and $5 seemed an acceptable price to pay for that discovery. (I have to point out that my reading this book was in no way connected to the Tea Party movement or the “Going Galt” movement here in the United States.)
Flash forward to post-graduation from said college and current life in the big City. And lots of commute time. I figured that there wasn’t a better time for me get through the monster that is Atlas Shrugged.

While I understand that this book was Ayn Rand’s magnum opus and the “blossoming” of her philosophy, Objectivism, it still reads as a novel. Yes, it is clear that the author strongly believes in capitalism in a very pure form (and one that exists in a vacuum), there is something else, something more real that I found while reading the book.

Atlas Shrugged takes place in the United States during a time when the government becomes more and more corrupt, when people become mindless, lazy automatons that are reliant on a few highly effective, hard working, and innovative people as they are simultaneously being condemned by the majority relies upon them for basic necessities – Rand’s idea of the apocalypse. Dagny Taggart is the transcontinental railroad mogul (read: VP of Operations) working with her incompetent brother, who not only represents the majority of the world at that time, but also runs the company. Her friend from childhood and long time lover, Francisco d’Anconia, is the owner and operator of the world’s largest copper mine and fortune. She meets Henry Reardan, a self-made man/pulled-himself-up-by-his-bootstraps gentleman via his successful steel company in the country. Reardan is trapped in a loveless, lifeless marriage. Dagny and Reardan begin an affair during their work together on the John Galt Line – the railroad line Dagny creates by using Rearden Metal (one that Hank created that is stronger and cheaper than steel).
During this time, the brightest, most successful people in America are disappearing. Dagny begins looking for these great men and trying to find the answer to oft-repeated question, “Who is John Galt?”
What I enjoyed about this novel was the spirit I saw at the center of it: the beauty of hard work, ingenuity, creativity, and the connection of a person to his or her life’s work. The physical creation of something great, something meaningful, something revolutionary, something tangible. I think that our world has fundamentally changed with the Digital Revolution. It has definitely changed for the better, but the type of work we do is different – I sit at a computer updating reports while my father creates and welds pieces for commercial use. I definitely feel like something, or somethings, are becoming lost art forms as we continue to move into the future and toward a more digitized world.
Atlas Shrugged is now one of my favorite books. Not for the politics, not for the philosophy, but for the fact that I found it to be a good, engrossing novel. And more importantly, an inspiring one.
Read it: if you are interested in the 20’s – 40’s in America, railroads, long novels, philosophy, politics, Capitalism.
Leave it: if you dislike long novels, characters who pontificate about their philosophies and politics, complicated plot lines.
Additional notes:
You can find an introduction on Objectivism here, at The Ayn Rand Institute website, and a good reading guide over at SparkNotes.
[Thanks to Francisco Diez for making the Atlas image available for reuse. And thank you to FreeFoto.com for making the railroad image available for reuse. And to SandiaLabs for making the building photo available for reuse.]