Long Overdue Weekly Round-up: April 15-23

Sorry about the overdue blog post, everyone! I’ve had an extremely busy time the last little while with job hunting, interviews, and other life-things that are interfering with things I actually want to do. Pesky life.

There’s some great titles coming out this year — which books are you most excited for? Check out what other people are raving about here!

Did a book create a spark of inspiration? We have some amazing stories to share!

Do you remember the first book you ever read?

Did you also know that Neil Gaiman is everywhere?

Sometimes we often find books we love and sometimes…we don’t.

If you’re all caught up with our monthly reads, be sure to speak up! This is the latest for Fool. And we can’t forget about Dune!

Since we’re also nearing the end of the month, it’s time to choose our reads for next month! Let’s pick our May book! Our support group is also looking at Shakespeare for May!

Play safe, keep reading!

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American Gods, Anansi Boys – Awesome.

Sometime last year I read American Gods by the suggestion of a friend of mine. At the time, I didn’t even know Goodreads existed and was gathering suggestions from my Facebook and Twitter feed. I have read Sandman before and enjoyed it quite a lot but didn’t even realize that Gaiman wrote incredible novels as well.

Anwyays, last year I read American Gods and as of today, I finished reading Anansi Boys. Both stories were excellent stories and I quite enjoyed how you really didn’t need to read American Gods to understand Anansi Boys at all — though the former definitely helped excite you through the latter’s storyline. I don’t think I’ve ever read anything from Gaiman that I was disappointed in, ever and this was no exception.

Murder, thriller, mystery, fantasy, romance – This pair of stories really has it all. I loved the characters and how they developed. I adored the mystified world that we’re placed into when you read the book. I love the distinctions between reality and reality. Honestly, I wish I was as good as a writer as Gaiman is so I would know how to write this stupid blog-review-thing more eloquently.

Ever read American Gods? Read it. Then read Anansi Boys. Then read everything Neil Gaiman has ever written. Do it right now. Why are you still reading this? Stop it and go read these books!

Corporate Conglomerate vs. Small Business Independence

In February, I left my job at a coffee shop due to the management border lining on employee abuse. I’ve been looking for work every since and very recently, I had an interview.

I discussed in my post about eReaders vs. print about supporting small business, however, I applied for a position with a large book retailer and was asked to participate in a group interview, and I’m hoping, despite the fact that I encourage local business, that I get the position. Call me a hypocrite but not only is a job a job, but I’d like to take a look at a bigger picture too.

I want to first and foremost, point out something that I’m sure everyone can agree on: reading is damn important. Unfortunately, not everyone is healthily as literate as they should be including most working adults.

I was really fortunate growing up that my parents bought my sister, brother and I books. Even more so, I spent a lot of time in the library thanks to them. Every weekend involved a library trip since my brother had his tutor there which meant surrounding myself in lots of books. My school encouraged reading and yes, that helped, but the big, huge thing is that my parents encouraged me and tried to help despite being limited with the English language. Not everyone has this privilege and it’s a damn shame.

Whether a large company, or a small independent business, we can all agree that neither businesses will thrive unless there are people who will buy. In the case of books, it will be relevant so long as there are readers. I’m not saying literacy is a dying art by any means. It will remain within lifetimes, but the rate of literacy is decreasing. Educating younger generations to be capable of reading is important for political, economical reasons and without it, the relevancy of say, the internet, also decrease. How are you going to read this blog post otherwise?

So why do I want to join a large book retailer? Particularly to encourage reading, recommend some of the most relevant pieces of literature and because a larger corporation, with it’s own charity for donating books to less fortunate schools is important to me. That isn’t to say the relevancy of a smaller business isn’t important either. Even if I work for a large retailer, I’ll still be buying used books particularly because no matter what benefits are offered, sometimes I’ll come across a great price, a rare find or a book I know was well-loved. Not to mention that by encouraging a smaller business, you’re greatly helping the economy by creating competition. Better yet, many smaller book stores are in fact, growing and expanding and not all of them are the “underdogs.”

What’s really important to take away from this really long blathering is that personally, I don’t care where you get your books from in the long run. I really care that you read and that you encourage readers and more so, a young generation of readers. I don’t care what format you buy your books in, digital or paper print, or even what kind of books you read (but there is a special place in literary Hell for you 50 Shades of Grey readers…) the important thing is that you just read.

Weekly Round-Up: March 31 – April 6

Ding ding! It’s time for a new weekly round-up!

Have you been following our group reads? Head on over! Fool is a fast book and we’re already on the second discussion! On that note, there’s lots of discussion going on with Dune!

We have lots of fiction favourites, but what about those who want to read a bit more about reality? There’s a topic discussing your favourite non-fiction reads!

This week’s challenge is simple; share a story!

Or perhaps riddles are more your cup of tea?

The forum is slowing down a bit, but don’t hesitate to post – ever! Engage topics, create new ones and have fun! 🙂

Iain Menzies Banks

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You must’ve heard the news. Scottish author Iain Banks has been diagnosed with late stage gall bladder cancer, and he has informed everyone that he may be taken from us in a matter of months. This announcement came to me a few hours after I knew of a dear friend’s passing – Mommy Sylvia has gone into the good night last week, also from cancer. The pain that cancer brings hits very close to home. The grief of knowing the impending loss of someone you love is very real to me, and this early grief can sometimes be more terrifying and disabling than the pain of finally losing your beloved.

I am gutted to hear about Mr. Banks’s diagnosis to an almost embarrassing degree. It’s odd to be so distressed over a stranger’s health but Iain’s works have been a great consolation to me on my darkest days. I picked up my first Banks novel (The Crow Road) while I was beside my mother’s hospital bed. There are still many things I do not understand about death, but Prentice McHoan taught me the universality of loss – that there is nothing unfair about death, and people dying is merely part of how the universe works. The great side effect of growing old is outliving people, and I was glad to have Iain’s Prentice teach me about things I couldn’t, or refuse to understand while my brain was muddled with angst and anxiety.  

The Crow Road‘s darkly comedic take on heart-rending grief was the first book last year that really, truly healed me. Under wonderfully woven words is a writer who looks through you and understands you. He sees the world and brings it to you with his works.

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Right after The Crow Road, I picked up The Wasp Factory which is a novel of a different and darker caliber. This man has a way with words that will have lasting effect on you. I was making my way to some of this other mainstream novels (I have Complicity and The Steep Approach to Garbadale on my shelves), and finally on his works as Iain M. Banks (novels I have not read but have placed on pedestals), when this happens.

But Iain Banks also taught me that there really is no finality in death. There is no final page. The characters he has brought to life will stay with me for a long, long time and his legacy of outstanding literature will outlive every one of us.

Thank you so much for the stories, Iain. I will try to do you some of the honor you deserve by retelling them.

We continue in our children, and in our works and in the memories of others; we continue in our dust and ash. Death was change; it led to new chances, new vacancies, new niches and opportunities; it was not all loss.

Banksophilia: Friends of Iain Banks for updates and best wishes.

A Tale of Two Cities

A (sadly) abridged Puffin Classics edition, and a Charles Dickens portrait nicked off the web and printed as bookmark.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair…

The first lines of A Tale of Two Cities set up high expectations. It’s a beautiful and powerfully-worded opening – one that introduces us to the “two cities” of London and Paris, and presented to us dualities that will prove to be prevailing all throughout the novel.  Dualities that are exhaustive such as life and death, love and loss, freedom and oppression – to exist, one must belong to one part of the other. You cannot have death without life, you cannot love without bearing great loss when your love finally goes, and freedom would not be as sweet without oppression (or the risk of it).

In Chapter 3, Dickens tells us a wonderful fact – that we are all mysteries to each other, “that every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other.” And with mad ingenuity, Dickens unravels those mysteries bit by bit, and neatly ties up all, and I mean ALL, ends into tiny little knots that are mind-blowing in their sophisticated complexity.

A Tale of Two Cities ended up being arresting and very, very memorable, but it didn’t quite start out that way. After the aforementioned first lines, the next 30 pages or so made me worry about wasting a perfectly good weekend over trivial Victorian descriptions of a coach and a mail and the perils of traveling from London to England in the year “one thousand seven hundred seventy five.” If I wanted to read about European travelling history, I would’ve picked up a non-fiction book written in contemporary language, not one that was published in 1869 and written fancily.

But alas, like all good things, this book needed me to bear patience, and afterwards, it rewarded me with a roller coaster of a story that deserves a thousand years of repeated telling. A Tale of Two Cities was well woven with the many intricacies of family drama, romance, social prejudice and a highly suspenseful plot set in the backdrop of the French Revolution. It was so good and so heart-felt that I stared at the ceiling a good hour after reading the last lines of the book, chewing over and over about all the plot twists, all the nuances, the neatly-tied ends, and the madness of Charles Dickens. What a wonderful writer, what a genius. He deserves the crown of being the most widely-read Victorian novelist of all time.

Charles Dickens ended the book as beautifully as he opened it. The last lines compete with popularity with the first. I’ve chanced upon it so many times (e.g. Dark Knight Rises). It is beautiful but it was made even more memorable with the context with which it was delivered.

It is a far far better thing that I do than I have ever done; it is a far far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.

I cried.

Yes, A Tale of Two Cities demanded concentration especially by a reader spoilt by contemporary fiction for so long – but it was concentration that was easy to give. The language was intricate yet full of imagery. Some words did need looking up and some paragraphs demanded multiple reads to get immersed into, but this is not a surprise. This book is a classic after all, and reading classics does not merely entertain, it also challenges.

Everyone (and their mothers) should read this.

Weekly Round-Up: March 24-30, 2013

It’s time for our first Weekly Round-Up; a summary of current events going on within our community just in case any of you missed out on the happenings and need to catch up on new topics, monthly reads, and other things!

First on the agenda is the introduction of our latest forum game, The Weekly Challenge! You can check out the current challenge here.

Next up, as per the last post about eReaders vs. published copies, we have a forum topic covering the ins-and-outs, the pros-and-cons and the thoughts, likes and dislikes about owning an eReader here!

As per a suggestion, we’ve requested a support group, discussion and study on Shakespeare with contributor Frank in the month of May! You can check out that discussion in this link!

Speaking of the support group, there’s lots of talk going on with Darliza about Dune!

Check out our Monthly Group Read for the month of April – we’ve got some people reading ahead and discussions are already being made! If you haven’t already, we’re reading Christopher Moore’s ‘Fool‘ – how fitting for the start of April!

Last but not least, we have plenty of new members, so please don’t forget to give them a warm welcome!

I hope you all enjoyed this recap of the week’s events! So long and thanks for all the fish … For now!