Kindle on sale — Black Friday sales all week at Amazon

Haven’t bought an e-reader yet? Well, this is the week to take the plunge — Amazon’s Black Friday Week has Kindles on sale at great prices.

I love reading, whether it’s a paper book or on my Kindle. I know some people think it’s an “either/or”, but imho, the more ways to read and enjoy my favorite books, the better. The Kindle stores hundreds and hundreds of books — more books than I own, alas — and is incredibly portable. I love having my library with me everywhere I go. Speaking of libraries, borrowing e-books from your local library and reading them on your Kindle is a snap.

One last note: I tell everyone I know to buy the Kindle versions with Special Offers. It lowers your price by $30, and it’s completely unobtrusive — advertisements appear on just the screensaver and the very bottom of your home screen. There are NO ads in your books. So why not save a little money?

Black Friday Deals Week: Kindle e-readers

$30 off Kindle —  $49.99 (normally $79.99)

The entry-level Kindle is a great choice and this is the lowest price I’ve ever seen it. Don’t miss this deal!

$20 off Kindle Paperwhite — $99.99 (normally $119.99)

This is the Kindle I currently use. The higher-resolution display and built in adjustable light is terrific for reading anywhere (at night in bed, on planes, etc.)

Offers end November 30 at 11:59pm PT.

mischief managed

all7I recently finished a highly enjoyable reread of the Harry Potter series. At the end, though, just as always, I can’t help but feel a little down. Not because of the sad bits, especially in the last book — though those would be a worthy reason. Really, just because… it’s over.

I came to Harry Potter just before the fourth book came out. All the signs at Barnes & Noble, counting down the days to the book’s release… I felt like there must be something to this. I read the first three books and loved them. Then, on the midnight release night for Goblet Of Fire, I was on my way home, late, and remembered the book was coming out in a few minutes. I walked into the store expecting, I don’t know, a few dozen people. Instead the line filled the store. Two hours later I had my copy, and never looked back.

For later book releases, I knew what to expect. Believe me, by the time the final book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, was released, I was a pro. I spent the day at Barnes & Noble, and was one of the first hundred to receive our books after that midnight countdown…

The thing I remember most, though, was leaving the store a few minutes later, book held high proudly in hand. About a thousand people were in the parking lot (overflow — the store was full to capacity) and they cheered as we came out.

scholasticThat’s the thing about Harry Potter that still gives me chills of happiness, after all these years. Once upon a time, kids waited in line all day for a book. They wore costumes, they debated theories on sites like The Leaky Cauldron and Mugglenet… for a book. They formed tribute bands like Harry & the Potters and released CDs. They made videos, fanart, and wrote fanfiction. They’re still doing those things, years after it’s all over. That night in 2007, people stood outside at midnight and cheered — just to be able to read something. Isn’t that the best thing you’ve ever heard?

After the books were done, it was disappointing knowing there wouldn’t be any more stories of Harry and friends — but we had the movies, at least. An extra one, even, when they split Deathly Hallows in two. So that was something for awhile, but eventually all good things do really come to an end.

I know some people feel Harry Potter doesn’t do anything for them — they read the first book and weren’t hooked. I don’t know exactly what to say about that, other than: for what it’s worth, one of the magical things about the Harry Potter series is that the books age along with Harry. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is written about an eleven-year old, and it’s written for eleven year-olds. That didn’t stop a lot of adults from enjoying it, of course, but the themes, emotions and Harry’s perception of the world around him are childlike. With each passing book, though, Harry grows more perceptive. He experiences more things, he has more complex emotions. He grows up, and the books grow up with him. So if that first book seemed too childish, that might be an explanation.

allendsTruthfully, though, to each their own. I loved every moment of the series, from the first page to the last, from the first on-screen image to the final credits, and can’t fathom missing any of it. I loved the characters, good and bad; I loved Harry’s decisions, right and wrong; his mistakes, his failures, his courage. I loved his friends, more than anything else, really, and I loved living in his world for awhile. For me, just as for so many other people, Harry Potter was a wonderful experience, one I’m always sorry to see end. The beauty of it all, though, is — I can go right back to page one, any time I want, and start all over again.

year in review: 2013

So I’m a sucker for quizzes, surveys, memes, all that stuff. I think these are usually more fun to do than they are to read, though — so you should feel free to just skim my answers and do your own, if you like. If you do read, though, I warn that there may be some snark along the way. That’s my traditional new year’s gift.

Year in Review: A 2013 Survey

1. What did you do in 2013 that you’d never done before?

Well, I got married, which I definitely have not done before, to the best of my knowledge.

2. Did you keep your New Year’s Resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

Yes, and no. I made a resolution to stick to a particular diet plan and I did stick to it; it wasn’t successful, but that’s not the fault of my willpower. I don’t think I’m going to make any for 2014. Lower expectations, greater rewards, and all that.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

Not yet, and probably not by the end of the year, but soon. 🙂

4. Did anyone close to you die?

Not really. My grandmother died this year, but in truth we were not close. I am sorry for the family members who were close to her, though.

5. What places did you visit?

The Finger Lakes, Niagara Falls, and, of course, Long Island, a lot. Though it doesn’t count as visiting anymore.

6. What would you like to have in 2014 that you lacked in 2013?

Nothing. I just want to keep everything I have now.

7. What dates from 2013 will remain etched in your memory, and why?

I think I’ll remember our wedding date, November 9, pretty much forever.  But there’s also October 26, which is the day Dave came to Buffalo and we stopped being apart. That was the best day of all, really.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Making it to October 26.

9. What was your biggest failure?

Weight loss. I tried a new method and it didn’t work for me. I’m disappointed to have not made any real progress this year. I’ll keep trying some other way, but I had high hopes for this.

10: Did you suffer illness or injury?

Unfortunately, as has been the case the past couple of years, I still struggle with my back. Recovering from surgery was long and hard, and only partially successful. Not to sound corny, but if you have good health, value it. I feel I didn’t do that enough, before.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

Last month I bought an iPad mini (and sold the 1st-gen iPad I bought way back in the day in 2010) and I’m really thrilled with it. Steve Jobs was thoroughly opposed to a smaller iPad; in general I think he was a true genius and Apple will never innovate as it did under his direction again, but I think he might have been wrong about this one. The mid-size between an iPhone and a full iPad is perfect, at least for me.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?

My niece Rebecca makes both Dave and I incredibly proud just to be related to her. She’s awesome.

13. Whose behavior was not so exemplary?

Georgie is a bad, bad kitty, and he knocks things over all the time for no reason at all. I still love him, though.

14. Where did most of your money go?

FredCo’s offshore accounts. Also, rent and moving. And a wedding.

15. What did you get really excited about?

Well, the wedding. Also, in no particular order, bingo, marriage equality, Catching Fire, and spaghetti parm.

16. What song will always remind you of 2013?

Probably Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines”.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
a. happier or sadder? Happier.
b. thinner or fatter? I think almost exactly the same.
c. richer or poorer? Well, I’m unemployed now.

18. How did you spend Christmas?

At home, with the kitties, our tree, and cheeseburgers.

19. Did you fall in love in 2013?

From now on, I fall in love every year.

20. What was your favorite TV program?

How I Met Your Mother. But we also love Modern Family. In a surprise move, I’ve also gone back to both Glee and Top Chef.

21. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate at this time last year?

I hate all the same people I did before, plus our downstairs neighbor, who once complained about the noise we were making when we were out of town.

22. What was the best book you read?

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson. I didn’t read a ton this year, though I started a lot of books I never finished.

23. What did you want and get?

A husband. Also, a Supreme Court ruling (two of them actually).

24. What did you want and not get?

Marriage equality everywhere. A cure for AIDS. A totally non-broken back.

25. What was your favorite film of this year?

Catching Fire

26. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

Dave says I was 41 this year (I never remember). We were in the Finger Lakes at our favorite bed and breakfast, The Hayward House.

27. Which celebrity/public figure did you admire the most?

I don’t think about celebrities much. But I like Sir Patrick Stewart, and not just for his ability to moo with different accents.

28. Whom did you miss?

I missed Mom a lot this year.

29. Who was the best new person you met?

Michael & Mindy Shedler, Dave’s former and sometimes boss and his wife, who came to our wedding as well. Also Uncle Norman and Aunt Jane, and a lot of other new relatives.

30. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year:

From the Goo Goo Dolls, “Come to Me”

Today’s the day I’ll make you mine
So get me to the church on time
Take my hand in this empty room
You’re my girl, and I’m your groom

Come to me my sweetest friend
Can you feel my heart again
Take you back where you belong
This will be our favorite song
Come to me with secrets bare
I’ll love you more so don’t be scared
When we’re old and near the end
We’ll go home and start again

rereading anna karenina

786716Last year I read 54 new books, from start to finish. Some were shorter than others, but some were hugely long, so on the whole it was a record I was proud of. And I definitely enjoyed myself, finding new authors, a new series or two, reading all the big titles that came out in the past year or so. It meant I always had something to say about whatever anyone was reading, and it was fun zooming past my goal of 52-books-in-a-year. This year, though, I’ve read a fraction of that. And this summer, I’m being really lazy and rereading. I love to reread my favorite books. Some are comfortable old favorites from teen years, or fantasy novels that take me away from everyday humdrum. My favorite reread of all, though, is Anna Karenina.

I first read it towards the end of high school, many moons ago. I also don’t know how often I’ve reread it since. If I had to count, I’d put it close to double digits, and since it’s a pretty long book, that’s saying something. Why do I keep going back to it? The language is lovely, and the descriptions are beautiful. The story is compelling and tragic. Anna, though, has never been very sympathetic to me, and Vronsky less so. Watching their doomed trajectory is fascinating, but it’s Levin I love, and through him, Kitty. Without a doubt my favorite literary passage, anywhere, is the scene where Levin harvests the grass and hay with the peasants who work his farm, every minuscule detail of it. It’s not the tragedy but the everyday simplicity that I keep coming back for.

Maybe that’s why I’m rereading Anna Karenina this summer. True, it starts with disappointment and indecision for Levin, but in the end, it’s nothing but love and contentment. That’s what I want. The ugly, impassioned, hurtful way Anna and Vronsky crash through the lives of everyone around them is the kind of drama I never could see the value of, in literature or out of it. Give me a sweet couple who hurts no one at all by being wonderfully in love any day.

Burned out

It’s been too long.

I haven’t posted here on “Librarians do it Between the Covers” in a long time, for two reasons, one bad, and one less bad. The first being, I’m not a librarian anymore and haven’t been since the end of 2010, and I feel a bit of a fraud. Of course, once a librarian, always a librarian, as they say (don’t they?) so that’s the bad reason, since it’s not a very plausible one.

The slightly-better-in-a-roundabout-way reason is that I’m a bit burned out. In 2012 I set a personal goal for myself to read 52 books, one a week. I did it, in fact I got to 54… and now I’m tired. Burned out. I read everything I had any interest in reading, and now I need a break, and for people to write some more books I give a fig about reading.

Of course some people would say there isn’t enough time in the world to read everything they want to, but I’m not one of those people. I’m picky. Mind you, I’ve read a lot of books over the years, so it’s not like I haven’t already covered the basics. But I know what I like and what I don’t like, and that ends up ruling out a lot. And besides, my brain is tired. I worked my way through my always-wanted-to-get-to list this past year and now I’m done. I want a break from being challenged. I’m going to lie around and reread one of the Dragonriders of Pern books for the umpteenth time. Not even one of the better ones, just one of the random ones like Nerilka’s Story or something, and I’ll just crack it open somewhere in the middle and start there. Because I’ve read it so often it’s like a worn blanket and it won’t make me think, not hardly at all.

When I can rub two brain cells together again, I’ll tell you about my year of reading, but until then, I’m going to fly back to Pern.

Bread and Jam for Frances – Russell Hoban Dies at 86

Russell Hoban, ‘Frances’ Author, Dies at 86 –

“Hoban began writing children’s books in the late 1950s. His first, “What Does It Do and How Does It Work?,” featured Mr. Hoban’s own drawings of dump trucks, steam shovels and other heavy machinery. But he didn’t care for illustrating his own books, and his second title, “Bedtime for Frances,” a gentle tale about the delaying tactics of a child being sent off to bed, was illustrated by Garth Williams, with Frances as a furry little badger.

In the six Frances books that followed, including “A Baby Sister for Frances,” “A Birthday for Frances” and a poetry collection, “Egg Thoughts and Other Frances Songs,” the illustrator was Mr. Hoban’s wife, Lillian.”

Bread and Jam for Frances was a cherished book of my childhood, but I’m sorry to say I never took that book-love further to find out anything about the author. (Nor did I realize the illustrator, Garth Williams, was the same man who did the Little House books, and Charlotte’s Web.) But Frances remains with me to this day.

Am I the Only Person Who Didn’t Like This Book?

Ever have that experience where EVERYONE YOU KNOW seems to love a book, and you figure, okay, it’s got to be decent at least, I’ll give it a read. And then you just… really don’t like it?

I read two memoirs recently, memoirs that were rather highly acclaimed aroundabouts, and both times, I was pretty darned disappointed. I’ve never had a particular affinity for memoirs, one way or another, but awhile back I read, and loved to pieces, the wonderful Queen of the Road by the amazing Doreen Orion. So I thought, hey, maybe it’s not just a fluke, and memoirs/personal accounts are great reads in general. But that hasn’t been my experience since.

Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. Everyone read it. Everyone loved it. Julia Roberts made a movie, which some people loved and some people hated, but that always happens with a book-to-movie transfer. I expected to at least enjoy the book to some degree, but I can’t say that I did. The eating part was okay, but too cluttered with waaayyyy depressing divorce stuff. The praying part was not, shall we say, my cup of tea. And the love? Too short. Too undetailed. I mean, after all that traumatic, depressing eating (if you’re going to binge eat, for crying out loud, enjoy it a little more, and please describe the cheesy goodness so I can experience it vicariously) and then the tedious praying, I felt like I deserved some more specifics on the hookups.

For some reason, I then  continued my foray into this genre with Mennonite in a Little Black Dress, by Rhoda Janzen. I know all about Mennonites, because of the genealogy work I did in my last job. My volunteer Barb transcribed a set of Mennonite letters for me, over the course of several months; by the end she was threatening to reach back through time and shake the living daylights out of some Mennonites, or at least kidnap them and get them drunk on tequila. But that’s a different story, and a more interesting one than Ms. Janzen told, to be frank. Also written post-messy divorce (I sense a memoir theme), there was a little about Mennonite food (grossy sounding), some funny bits about her mother, dating highlights, and very little point to a rather rambling account of… well, nothing, really, other than a newly-divorced woman staying with her parents for a bit. Pointless.

Shrug. I’ll probably skip memoirs for a bit, no matter how highly recommended.

What about you? Any highly recommended yet big disappointments in your recent reading history?

Amazon unveils Best Books of 2011

Yesterday, Amazon announced its Best Books of 2011. From their web site: “So many books. So many choices. It’s not easy putting together a list of the year’s best books, but we’ve held many meetings and votes, we’ve pored over the books and occasionally poured our hearts out to get you this final Top 100. For every book on the list, there has been an impassioned plea and an argument made–so don’t just look at the Top 10 or 20. There are great books all up and down the Top 100 list.”

Here’s the “Best of” list, but there are category break-downs as well (Mystery & Thrillers, Nonfiction, Quirky & Strange, etc. — actually, there are bound to be some great finds in there!).

1. The Art of Fielding” by Chad Harbach: “The Art of Fielding” is the veritable baseball book that’s actually about much more than baseball, and it’s on par with the work of Bernard Malamud and David James Duncan. It’s rare to see a debut so confident, intimate, unpredictable and wholly memorable.

2. 1Q84” by Haruki Murakami: Murakami has created a sensation: a nearly 950-page novel that is ordered and scrupulous, and reads like a meditation. “1Q84” is the story of two people living in parallel, who we know must meet each other eventually, and their twisting arcs drive this magnum opus by one of the world’s finest novelists.

3. What It Is Like to Go to War” by Karl Marlantes: The veteran marine and best-selling author of “Matterhorn” draws on his brutal experiences in foreign jungles to look at the nature of combat with unflinching honesty. Balancing novelistic descriptions of fear, power games and courage with a thoughtful prescription for our soldiers’ well being, Marlantes lifts the bar for understanding the experience of war.

4. In the Garden of Beasts” by Erik Larsen: Master storyteller Larsen describes the life of America’s first and only ambassador to Nazi Germany, along with the scandalous adventures of the ambassador’s carefree daughter. “In the Garden of the Beasts” is an historical portrait that is as entertaining as it is important, and it reads like the best of political thrillers.

5. The Marriage Plot” by Jeffrey Eugenides: Eugenides’ third novel, and his first after the Pulitzer Prize-winning “Middlesex,” describes the lives of three college seniors at Brown in the early 1980s. It is a thoughtful, and at times disarming, novel about life, love and discovery, set during a time when so much of life seemed filled with deep portent.

6. Daughter of Smoke and Bone” by Laini Taylor: With this young adult novel, National Book Award finalist Taylor has created a magical world that will sweep up even the most jaded of readers. The story of 17-year-old Kalou is an enchanting tale of magic, star-crossed love and difficult choices with heartbreaking repercussions that could make it the next hot YA sensation.

7. Before I Go to Sleep” by S.J. Watson: Suspenseful from start to finish, Watson’s ”Before I Go to Sleep” — the story of Christine, who wakes up every day not knowing who she is — presents profound questions about identity and is one of the best literary thrillers of the past few years. Compelling, immersive and chilling.

8. Steve Jobs” by Walter Isaacson: Few in history have transformed their time like Steve Jobs has. In this timely book, Isaacson paints a vivid, compelling portrait that pulls no punches — the end result is satisfying, complete, and gives insight into a man who managed to turn his contradictions into potent strengths.

9. Lost in Shangri-La” by Michael Zuckoff: A riveting story of survival and deliverance from a notorious valley in the New Guinea jungle, Zuckoff’s ”Lost in Shangri-La” deserves its place among the great survival stories of World War II.

10. The Tiger’s Wife” by Téa Obreht: Croatian native Obreht tells the story of a young doctor seeking answers around her grandfather’s death, delving into a land of storytelling, mythology, and conflict in her extraordinary debut.