Wednesday, September 26, 2007

BookLover, Bibliophile, BookWorm - Links & Reviews

Whatever name I go by, it means the same thing. I'd rather read a good book than (almost) anything else.

If I'm at church, I find the church library; at a party, I find the host's bookshelves; on vacation, look for my face behind the printed book cover. In bed when I was little, I'd hide under the covers with a flashlight so I could read when I was supposed to be sleeping. When we went camping, I didn't worry about bringing snacks, but I'd make sure my flashlight batteries were working - eating was optional, reading was not. It was a compulsion. When I was a kid, I got motion sickness in the car from reading all the billboards and signs as we passed them.

In this Age of the Internet, reading has achieved the distinction of a rare science. Buying books, borrowing them, collecting them or giving them away, loaning, cataloging and reviewing them is facilitated by sophisticated software, available on websites from commercial to community to the free and independent enterprise.

Here - listed alphabetically - is a sampling of delights for book lovers world wide.

Shop at Amazon.com! - If your regular shipping costs from Amazon are over $79 per year, you can save money with free shipping through Amazon Prime. Used books sold by third party vendors don't qualify, but I've bought like new hardbound books for little more than the cost of shipping, typically $3.95 shipping and $1 to $5 for the book. Many of those books originally sold for over $20. (I make a point of pre-ordering the next book by those authors I like the best. Without their royalties, they might not keep writing! Disaster!)
Advantages: fast, huge inventory, free shipping, convenient
Dis-advantages: I think I'm spending too much money on books - ordering is too easy!

BookCrossing has to be one of the wildest ideas I've seen for books (pun intentional). I plan on bringing at least seven or eight books with me to "release in the wild" when we take our trip on Amtrak. I hope some of them will be 'caught' and be logged by their 'catchers'.
Advantages: the fun of sharing my favorite books
Dis-advantages: although many people read books released by BookCrossing members, only about fifteen percent of them log on to BookCrossing to report catching a book, and since the fun of finding out where the book has been is a large part of it.....

BookMooch works for me. I can browse over three and a half million books available to mooch. If I don't find the book I want to mooch, there's a convenient link to purchase it at Amazon. Once I read a book I've mooched, I can keep it for my permanent library or list it in my inventory for other moochers. In 'turn', I ship a book from my inventory to someone who mooched it from me, for less than I'd pay if I went to the used book store. I have received eighteen books since I joined a few months ago, and sent about the same. "Media Mail" postal rates are $2.13 for a book package weighing one pound to go from Portland, Oregon to Washington, D.C. A book package weighing 7 ounces goes first class for two pennies more.
Advantages: books I want to read are delivered conveniently to my home for "free"
Dis-advantages: taking the time to wrap and ship books mooched from me

Internet Public Library, founded by the U. of Michigan and hosted by Drexel U., offers a catalog of digital resources such as Project Gutenberg , World Wide School Library, and Digital Book Index.
Advantages: free access to hundreds of thousands of texts.
Dis-advantages: how many lifetimes do you have to spare?

Library of Congress
, located in Washington, D. C., "serves as the research arm of Congress". It is the largest library in the world. Their Virtual Reference Shelf includes a link to Bartleby, with its links to free digital works such as thirty-seven of Shakespeare's plays. Bookworms are all born asking "Why?". Now, we can get answers. Ask A Librarian, or even Chat With a Librarian, (American Memory Historical Collection - one of six collections where you can chat live with a Librarian).
Advantages: research the world's largest library from your own home. Request books or materials not available at your local library. Find bills in the House or Senate with Thomas, launched in 1995 "to make federal legislative information freely available to the public". Learn with webcasts and other audio-video LoC resources online.
Dis-advantages: it takes some time to locate what you're looking for, whether online or in person. The last time I was in D.C., I spent two days at the Library of Congress - and that was just for the tour and the exhibit halls!

LibraryThing is the place to catalog your books, find recommendations and reviews for books, chat with people who like to read what you like to read (or want to read), and so on. You can purchase CueCat at LibraryThing for $15. Mine arrived today, so now I can scan the ISBN number for my books, and speedily load them into my library at LibraryThing. I think it will work for my inventory at Bookmooch too. It doesn't require any software, and works through your computer's USB port. CueCat would make a great stocking stuffer for the bookworms on your Christmas or Hanukkah list.
Advantages: bookworm heaven.
Dis-advantages: so many books, so little time.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Mothers and Daughters

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My mother knew I loved her - loved her when I was little kid, hugging her; loved her when I was the new mother of a baby girl, grinning at her as she held my daughter in her arms; loved her when she was dying of cancer, and I tucked her into bed and held her hand until she fell asleep.

I knew she loved me too - loved me when I kept her up all night with colic; loved me when I was a bratty teen; loved me when I began my first professional career.

It's been nine months, one week and three days since she died. She would have been eighty-four this month. I think I'm beginning to accept that she is gone, and find comfort in the good memories, in the knowledge we loved each other, and showed it.

In honor of her birthday, here is a picture of one of the good times, and reminder: have you had your mammogram this year?

Friday, September 21, 2007

Good News From Talyn's universe, Updates and Amtrak

I think "Talyn", published August 2005 by Tor, is Holly Lisle's most powerful, profound and captivating book ever. Now comes the next happy news: Tor is bringing out "Hawkspar", Holly's next book in Talyn's universe, in one volume, uncut. I'll be posting the date as soon as I find out (and putting it on my calendar in red letters).

Update on Affiliate website: Holly is working on smoothing out some technical issues with her Affiliate site, so it may not be responsive for the next couple of days. The software for the Affiliate program is new, needed adjustments. It will be working again soon.

Update on what Pandababy eats: still munching away on yummy, filling, nutritious, organic, vegetarian whole foods. Fingernails still grown, IBS still in abeyance most of the time. Sleep patterns disrupted again sometimes, but still sleeping better. Lost pounds are still gone and pants are baggy, very baggy - hah.

Update on CC&R committee: houses and grounds looking good on my first 'rounds' as committee member, but there's some dead bushes and trees on the community greenways that need to be replaced!

We're planning on taking Amtrak for our next trip to visit our daughter, going from Union Station in Portland to Union Station in Washington D.C. That's right - both cities named their train depot "Union Station". It will be a four day trip, coast to coast, and four days back home, our first trip on Amtrak. A direct flight takes about six hours, but I'm very glad we're going by rail. I took my first airplane trip in 1956 - Portland to Chicago. I was airsick and hated it, and still hate flying commercial airliners. (Small private planes are a different story - pure fun.)

Today is the last day for weather expected to be sunny and in the 70's here for some time - we're heading into fall. I'm going to go outside and enjoy some radiation while I can still get it.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

News! I'm a Holly Lisle Affiliate Now

Holly Lisle, author of many of my favorite novels, has made changes in her Affiliate program, including new software, and changes in the referral fee structure.

I like the changes so much I have signed up to be an Affiliate. I have been telling people what a great writer Holly is ever since I read "Hunting the Corrigan's Blood" (a great vampire story and terrific Science Fiction, available as an eBook and now available in print too).

Holly has a growing collection of books by other terrific writers, as well as her own prolific creations, on her website at Shop Holly Lisle.com.

If you click on "Pandababy's Favorite Bookstore" in the right-hand column, it will take you to Holly's shop. The prices will be the same as if you found it any other way, and I will earn a small referral fee. If you follow the link, and sign up for the Affiliate program yourself, you will be able to start earning referral payments also. Holly is paying a $10 bonus to everyone who becomes an Affiliate (payable when they earn $10 in referrals - see details on her website).

Why am I inviting "competition"?

Because I will get paid (an even smaller) referral fee for everything that you get paid on. It stops with you, though, so anyone who signs up to be an Affiliate using your links does not create any revenue for me - only for themselves and for you. Holly's Affiliate program does not meet the criteria for a pyramid program with her new and revised guidelines. This makes her much happier, and it motivated me to sign up.

Other reasons I'd like for you to sign up and 'compete' with me: I love to read Holly's books. The more people buy her books, the more likely it is she'll write more books, and I'll get to read them. My motives are purely selfish!

As soon as I figure out how to add the lovely graphic designs with links, there will be more links to Holly's Shop here at Pandababy's Blog.

Meanwhile - sign up and beat me to it. Go ahead, I double dare you!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Handle with flame-proof gloves!

The best of Lynn Viehl's Darkyn novels is the fifth and latest - "Evermore" to be published January 2008. Everything I loved about the previous four books is present in "Evermore": it is full of action, tender romance, suspense, daring plot twists, adorable characters, and a perfectly satisfying conclusion.

Oh - and wear your oven-mitts to hold the book, because it is hot, Hot, HOT! In fact, if you are offended by sexy scenes, just don't read it. This is a book for adults only, no kidding - scenes that are raw, scenes that are erotic and yet sensitive, and delicate scenes that touch an enchanted zone that is more compelling and more seductive than outright explicit sex.

I read and savored all four of the Darkyn stories that came before "Evermore", each one of them unique and unforgettable. "Evermore" sets a new high mark, though, for sensuality, for characters that will get under your skin, for sustained interest.

I'll be posting some more about "Evermore" later, as I take time to mull over the elements I enjoyed and consider ways to blog about them without spoiling the plot. I will say this one thing now with certainty - if you don't want to end up waiting too long to read your own copy, pre-order it while you can still get a first printing. This one is going to set records flying off the shelves.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Screamin' an' Jumpin'

Yes! Screamin' an' jumpin' - that's what I started doing when my husband brought in the mail this morning, and I saw the package from Lynn Viehl.

It was a large package - "Author's Galley Copy" of her latest novel, "Evermore", to be released in January of 2008. She included a letter with a story and picture of the person in her life who inspired the character in her novel - and Lynn - please! put that in the book, inside cover or somewhere. What a fantastic story, and I haven't even opened the galley case yet.

Oh my gosh, I think I must be babbling I 'm so excited. What a privilege, to be able to read "Evermore" NOW!

I promise to faithfully report for all you who may be interested (Jaye, I know you are on the edge of your chair right now), my thoughts on Lynn's fifth Darkyn series novel, just as soon as I've had time to read and digest it, and no plot spoilers.

Sorry, gotta go. Have a lovely, page by page, unbound (galley) copy to read, inhale, savor and mull.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Bookworm Heaven

I finished Peter F. Hamilton's "Mindstar Rising" tonight, and just realized I've hit bookworm heaven -- discovered two fabulous and prolific Science Fiction authors this month (the other is David Weber - see my "techno-babble" blog) -- and that makes about fifty books I can anticipate enjoying. It's like Christmas in September.

I don't have any other books in my library that have been described as cyber-punk, and I'm not sure I want to, but for Hamilton's incredible mind, I'll happily make the exception. The setting of "Mindstar Rising" reminds me somewhat of the television series "Dark Angel" - only in Britain instead of Seattle. The tension ranges between high, higher and highest - it made me think of Robert Ludlum's suspense thrillers. The characters are so strong, the action so well-choreographed, that I was sure the book would already be a movie, but sadly it isn't.

And this was his first book! I favor stories with a strong woman as the main character, so it took me until page 100 to warm to the male MC, a former soldier and assassin who uses his psi talent to promote a sexual relationship with a young woman whose outstanding attributes include a long legs and a large breasts. I came very close to quitting the book before discovering the charm and depth of the MC, and the complexity of the writer's characters.

So, you've been warned. Do not dismiss this book (despite the first chapter), as just another formula "male fantasy" novel with a misanthropic, emotionally unavailable anti-hero. It's as far from that as you can get. I can't wait to read the next story in Peter's trilogy: "A Quantum Murder".

Friday, September 14, 2007

To Sleep, To Dream, Perchance to Write Fan-Fic

I woke up today with my busy ADHAD brain writing a fan-fic spin-off of "Mindstar Rising" by Peter F. Hamilton - and I don't even like fan-fic. I don't even know if I like Peter F. Hamilton; I'm only on page 65 of his first book, "Mindstar Rising", published in 1993. If I want to keep reading, I'll have at least thirteen additional novels of his to explore, and all of them highly rated on Amazon.com.

My dream fan-fic had something to do with designing a trail-ride for horses in front of a mansion, there was swimming pool, and a smart, semi-tame badger I set loose that was making holes in the lawn (dangerous to the horses, you know - might break a leg). You'd have to read the book to see any connection at all, and I'm sure an interpretation of my dream would be nearly x-rated, so please don't go there!

For now, I'm planning to read this trilogy, in which a modified human detective, Greg Mandel, fights crime on earth and in space using talents he developed in the military, including his enhanced psi abilities. Hamilton's future earth is a result of global warming and the resultant social upheavals. England is a tropical island where suntans are free and palm trees grow readily. Peter's characters are complex and drawn with a sharp pen. His futuristic society is many-layered and robust. His prose has a bite instead of a drawl.

One of his intriguing inventions, on page 64, is a passenger blimp powered by"hydrogen electrolyzed from sea-water by the thermal-exchange generators". There are hints earlier in the book of Turkey (and presumably the other oil-rich desert lands) going into 'that black night', and no one uses oil for power. My non-fic TBR book-shelf includes "The End of Oil" by Paul Roberts, "Natural Capitalism" by Hawken, Lovins and Lovins, "Beyond Oil" by Kenneth S. Deffeys (signed by the author!), and "Plan B 2.0" by Lester R. Brown. One item all those books have in common is an exploration of alternate power sources. Interesting how power (political, financial and physical) is so often at the crux of writing, whether fiction or non-fiction.

After reading so much space opera with female MCs, Greg Mandel's POV feels nearly alien to my mind - not bad, just very different. Hamilton's fecund mind presents a luscious variety of novum to ponder, all of it well-integrated into the 'past' of an earth we're currently living. Indeed, he creates so much food for thought, my brain was still chewing on the details in my sleep.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

techno-babble

I know there are those of you who think this sort of dialog is just yummy - you know who you are and so do I - when I was in high school, you were the guys with slide rules sticking out of your pockets!

(from "The Short Victorious War" page 90)
"Am I right in assuming a complete replacement here?"
"I'm afraid so, Ma'am. Oh, I could try a weld, but we're talking a bead a good twenty meters long just across the outer face. This stuff's not supposed to break in the first place, and according to The Book, patching should only be considered as a last resort. The fracture cuts right through two of the central load-bearing brackets and the number hydrogen feed channel, too, I'm afraid."

And so on, for another two pages before Admiral Harrington is assured her ship will be " back up as quickly as possible."

Now, I admit I have a weakness for geeks and their techno-babble -- my father was one, my brother is one, my husband is one, and (of course) our son is one. But I'm not! I have a limit to my tolerance for descriptions and details of engineering, after which my eyes glaze over, my ears start receiving nothing but static, and my brain starts filtering for a change of subject.

I'm reading book three of Weber's 'Honor' series, though, because his space battle descriptions leave me breathless on the edge of my seat, and he's made me care deeply about Honor and her treecat.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

My TBR Shelf

TBR - To Be Read (next)

"The Short Victorious War" and "Field of Dishonor" - books #3 and #4 in the Honor Harrington series by David Weber;

"The Third Eagle" and "The Book of Kells" by R. A. MacAvoy - she had me hooked with "Tea With the Black Dragon" and "The Grey Horse";

"Beggers and Choosers" and "Beggars Ride" by Nancy Kress - finishing up her Beggars trilogy I began reading with "Beggars in Spain";

"Mindstar Rising", "A Quantum Murder" and "The Nano Flower" by Peter F. Hamilton;

"Red Mars", "Blue Mars" and "Green Mars" by Kim Stanley Robinson;

"Lady of the Light" by Donna Gilespie - sequel to "The Light Bearer";

"The Silmarillion" by Tolkien;

"Start Late, Finish Rich" by David Bach;

"Woman - An Intimate Geography" by Natalie Angier;

"The New Feminine Brain - Developing Your Intuitive Genius" by Mona Lisa Shulz, M.D.;

"The Flavors of Olive Oil - A Tasting Guide and Cookbook" by Deborah Krasner

From this information dump, you may conclude that I'm fond of reading Science Fiction and Fantasy; I didn't plan well for my retirement; I'm learning to enjoy being female; and I now have a very good recipe for tomato, basil, mozzarella and olive oil on a baguette.

Update: Today was my first CC&R committee meeting. Ve-rry In-teresting. I have been assigned a section of the neighborhood to peruse and report on: exceptionally well maintained properties get a thank you letter, and properties with violations of the covenants and restrictions get a courtesy warning. Amazing what some people will choose to dispute. One of the restrictions is that garbage cans must be out of sight (behind a fence or in the garage) - except on garbage day. Why would anyone want to defend their view of garbage cans?! Serving on this committee drives home the thought that human beings are quirky and unpredictable, whimsical, amazing and amusing.

Monday, September 10, 2007

I want a treecat!

I'm reading "The Honor of the Queen" (book two) in David Weber's Honor Harrington Series, and fifteen more "Honor" books to go, counting "At All Costs" to be released next month. I'm not reading at my usual speed, so this is going to take awhile.

The main reason I'm going slow is the amount of technical and scientific information embedded in the story. People comfortable with math, astronomy and physics might find these details easy and simple, but that isn't my comfort zone. I read "Science Fiction" in spite of the "Science" details, not because of them. That is because "novum" - a new concept or development of science or society intrigues and fascinates me, makes Science Fiction irresistible to me, while I find detailed scientific or military explanations difficult to envision.

Weber clearly enjoys writing paragraphs describing his faster-than-the-speed-of-light drive, including the history of its development, the differences of how it works on civilian craft versus military modifications, and other inventions. I forgive him his preoccupation with science, because he has created a magnificent heroine in Honor Harrington. Her persona resonates with other female military MCs in my mind, such as Elizabeth Moon's Haris Serrano or her Ky Vatta; and my personal favorite, Shan Frankland from the Wes'har War series by Karen Traviss.

Honor lives up to her name with a vengeance. She would rather die than betray her queen, her country or her command. She is not eager to die, though, and uses all of her training, knowledge and creativity to stay alive and keep her shipmates alive also.

Honor is not all protocol and manners - she has a treecat for a pet (or perhaps the treecat has her for a pet). The empathic feline gives Admiral Harrington a decidedly original presence, perched on her shoulder using the especially padded grips on Harrington's uniform. Treecats are not only rare, they can be deadly to anyone who is a threat to their chosen people. Honor is a highly self-controlled officer in the queen's space navy, and her treecat's preference for serenity adds to her well-developed restraint.

It has been fourteen years since David Weber wrote "On Basilik Station", first in his "Honor" series, and I'm happily anticipating the enjoyment of seeing a writer develop more and more skill, as I read forward through his list. It will be a nice reversal of my usual order - finding a terrific recent novel and then going through the author's backlist.

Coming up soon: a review of "Evermore", the latest (and not yet released) Darkyn novel by Lynn Viehl.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Bloomed

Among the roses planted in memory of my mother, the Iceberg is the first to bloom.
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