watervole: (Default)
 I've just finished this book.  It only cost a few pounds for the Kindle version, so it was worth what I paid for it, but I didn't enjoy it enough to buy the next in the series.

It's an urban fantasy featuring Dina, who is an innkeeper.   Innkeeper in her case means that she has a symbiotic relationship with a building that is semi-intelligent, can modify its shape, produce defensive weapons and various other tricks besides.

The task of an innkeeper is to provide a safe place for aliens visiting Earth.

Rather disappointingly (from my viewpoint) the aliens to date include vampires and werewolves.   I must admit that I've had too many vampires and werewolves and I get bored with attempts to use bad pseudo-science to make them believable.  I cannot think of any kind of twist on genetic engineering that will convince me a werewolf can gain large amounts of mass when it changes form.

The inn suffers from the same problem.  I love the idea, but the claim that it is advanced science that can't be distinguished from magic fails to convince me.

I'd rather have real science or pure magic.  One masquerading as the other just annoys me.

On the plus side, the novel is very well written with excellent descriptive text.  The characters are engaging (I particularly liked the mass murderer using the inn as a safe place.  Not a character I would ever want to meet, but well and entertainingly written)

If the book had had original aliens I'd probably have enjoyed it more.  However, what is a minus for me may well be a plus for others.

If you like your werewolves strong and with buckets of sex appeal and your vampires to be clannish, scheming and to have complex, devious politics, then I recommend 'Clean Sweep; to you.

Books

Mar. 16th, 2017 02:15 pm
watervole: (Default)
 As I'm recovering from the winter's asthma  and it's after effects   (fog traps air pollution and there is more pollution in winter due to wood fires, high air pressure, etc.  Asthma means a course of steroids.  Steroids lead to muscle loss. Hypermobility combined with muscle loss means that I inevitably injure some muscles while trying to regain muscle strength.  Muscle injury leads to chest pain, etc.)  the brain cells are returning and I'm reading more books.

I seem to be buying a lot of books recommended by or written by friends. 

Currently in the reading queue are: Clean Sweep by  Illona Andrews (recc'd by  ([personal profile] feng_shui_house), Bride of the Rat God by Barbara Hambley, (might have been http://sallymn.livejournal.com/ ), Thomas the Rhymer by Ellen Kushner (think that was a friend of a friend) and The Crimson Outlaw by Alex Beecroft.  There are some other recs that I need to go back to now I'm in a better state of mind.

Just completed 'Remnant Population' by Elizabeth Moon.  She writes excellent Space Combat novels, but this particular book is very different in nature.  It's the slow-paced story of an elderly woman who chooses to stay behind when her colony is evacuated to another world.  She's a very believable protagonist.  Aches and pains, a love of gardening and a good touch of bloody-mindedness.

Being on her own allows her to do as she wants and to throw off some of the social conventions that have irked her.   She can value herself on her own merits, rather than being subject to the whims and opinions of others.

It's also an alien first-contact story with a twist that I love (even while conceding it to be improbable)

I've read this book before, and I'm sure I
 will read it again.


watervole: (Default)
 Oswin has recently been enjoying Richard reading Dr Seuss books like 'One Fish Two Fish, Red Fish Blue Fish' to her.  While the illustrations are amusing, it's probably the rhyme and rhythm of the words that are a big part of the appeal.

So, today, I tried 'The Jumblies' on her.  (the last time I tried, she was still too young and wasn't interested, but now she's nearly 2 1/2)

Big success.

Read it half a dozen times throughout the day and followed that up with a couple of readings of 'The Owl and the Pussycat'.

Only a few pictures for each poem.  Definitely the words that she loved. Big smile at the end each time and requests for another reading.

Edward Lear's poems appear to be working for yet another generation of children.  Oswin has no idea what all the made-up words mean, but it doesn't seem to bother her any more than it did my generation.  Personally, I think a runcible spoon is a spoon with holes in it (the kind you use for draining things).  It fits Lear's cheerful illogic.

 Far and few, far and few,
            Are the lands where the Jumblies live;
      Their heads are green, and their hands are blue,
            And they went to sea in a Sieve.

I think the time may have come to get Kipling off my bookshelf.  Oh yes, my best beloved.  I'm itching to read her the 'The Elephant's Child' and the other Just So stories. My father read them to me, and I read them to my children.  They were written to be read aloud, the words roll along.  "What does the crocodile have for dinner?"
"Go to the banks of the great grey-green, greasy Limpopo River, all set about with fever-trees, and find out."

Go and read it again, you know you want to!  And if you've never read it, find a child and read it to them immediately.
watervole: (Judith)
I grew up on Robert Heinlein and a few other writers.

Heinlein, to a kid with a developing interest in science and the stars was wonderful.  His science was as accurate as was possible at the time his books were written.  His characters wrestled with how much mass they could fit on a spaceship without wrecking the acceleration, they had to consider inertia, trajectories and all sorts of stuff that invovled real science and real math.

I trusted him.  (Even at that age, I think I was aware that his stories with Martian canals were written at a time when Martian canals were believed to exist)  He never let me down.  I absorbed knowledge from his novels, and that was something I came to like.

I want novels both to entertain and inform.

(I remember in later years, being amazingly pleased by a couple of novels by Desmond Bagley that had really good geology and weather science in them)

And that is why I really HATE it when a novelist lies to me.  To me, it is incumbent on a writer to get their facts correct. I hate it in fan writing, even more in pro writing.

I know fan writers who take enormous pains to get facts correct. They will do research on dates, living conditions, language, etc.

And there are some professional writers who don't.

A friend of mine commented a couple of days ago about a romace writer who had bobcats and lynx in Regency England and it reminded me of a romance I read recently in which the Regency heroine kept a tank of lobsters.

I've kept fish myself.  I have no idea at all how a character living a long way from the sea (and thus unable to refill the tank with fresh sea water) would be able to keep the water clean (no electricty to power a filter pump).  She can't refill with fresh water because keeping the salinity correct is a problem even for modern marine tanks.  Also, how is she going to seal the tank?  What waterproof sealants exist in the Regency period that aren't toxic to marine life?

For a tank large enough to keep lobsters, she's  also going to need strong plate glass, not easy to come by in remote parts of Scotland.  You'd probably have to have it made specially and then transported without breakages along poor quality roads in a waggon.

except, of course, you couldn't get plate glass back then...  The processes to manufacture flat glass weren't around until the late 1840s and the early versions were very expensive.  Regency windows were made of little square panes of glass, roughly 15cm across.

So, I won't read anything by that writer again.

It's not just annoyance with things that are wrong, it's about suspension of disbelief.  If I catch a writer in an error or two, I stop believeing in the story.  If I no longer believe in the background, how can I believe in the characters?

I like reading Georgette Heyer and Patrick O'Brien, though both can be hard work on occasion.  Neither of them take any prisoners.  If you aren't prepared to work with a dictionary in hand, you'll miss a lot of the nuances.  (You can survive without, but it's more interesting with).  Both use language that is often missing from the dictionary on my Kindle -it really is a horribly basic dictionary - but it manages around 50% of the terms that I look up in Heyer.  I don't have O'Brien on Kindle, but luckily I do have A Sea of Words which is an incredibly useful guide/dictionary to his naval books (far more useful than online dictionaries and Google).

I've read both on occasion without any reference works to hand and enjoyed them, but the enjoyment is enhanced for me if I look up terms like barouche and sheer-hulk.  I get a better mental picture of the world in whch the characters live and how they interact with it.  I also learn some real history in the process.

Although I enjoy fantasy novels, they'll never be the staple of my reading.  They can only teach you about their own internal world and that knowledge doesn't carry over.

Fantasy can be easier for some writers - the background is invented   (though I can still be really annoyed by fantasy writers who break their own internal rules) and just as hard for others.  I like fantasy writers who want their world to work as a complete organism, and that can actually require a fair bit of research.  eg. The techniques for bulding a timber frame house will be exactly the same whether your world has dragons or not.

So, I'm a reserach junkie, and I like reading books by other research junkies - but they must still have strong characterisation and a good plot.  (Actually, thinking about two recent books I've enjoyed, I can be happy with a fairly simple storyline if the rest is good.)
watervole: (Default)
This book was recommended to me, and justly so. 

A franchise novel based almost entirely around a character who appears only in one episode has to be really good to meet this mark. 'The Never Ending Sacrifice' meets that mark.

It follows the life of Rugal, a Cardassian boy brought up by a loving Bajoran couple who adopt him during the Occupation. When they visit Deep Space 9, the commanding officer decides that Rugal's interests would be best served by returning him to Cardassia with his biological father who had been tricked in believing Rugal was dead (Cardassian feuds and politics can get really nasty).

That decision is to change Rugal's life, landing him on a strange world among a people he regards as enemies.

The title of the book refers to a classic Cardassian novel which looks at the demands Cardassia makes of its citizens, again and again. Service to the state is part of the culture, spontaneous help to your fellow citizens is not.

The culture on Cardassia is well developed, with lots of subtle detail to make it totally believable.  As Cardassia becomes involved in war after war, betrayal after betrayal, its citizens as well as Rugal continue to make sacrifice after sacrifice.

This is not an easy book, or a happy one, yet a few good things do do emerge. Rugal's background leads him to question and mistrust everything is he is told and to develop his own philosophy of life. His ability to relate to people from other cultures and backgrounds gives him a flexibility that most Cardassians lack and will lead him to some genuine friendships.

The characters are well-drawn, particularly Rugal's grandmother who despises him, but whom he comes to love and loathe in equal measure.
watervole: (Default)
I  do wonder how much life is left for charity book shops.

Bookshops are either closing down or stocking more and more stuff that isn't actually books.  Ebooks are taking over more of the market.
Second-hand sales from Amazon, ABE and ebay are massive.

How much demand is there for second-hand books that are not from the Web?

How do your own book-buying habits operate now?

For myself, if I know what I want, I'll go and find the cheapest copy (in acceptable condition) on the Web and buy it there.

However, I still walk into second-hand bookshops if I'm passing one..  The advantage of the physical bookshop is that it can show me the books that I didn't know I wanted because I didn't know they existed.

For now, at least, book donations to charity shops seem to be holding up.  I suspect that selling secondhand books online simply isn't worth it unless you're a professional or have a lot of spare time.  The amount that Amazon will pay you is miniscule.  It's simpler and easier to create space by donating them.

The concern here, of course, is that ebooks mean that there are less physical books to be donated.  This doesn't appear to be a problem yet, but may increase over time.

The recession probably means that many people can't afford new books, so charity shops still win on that front, and have the advantage of no postage costs which makes it easier to undercut Amazon.

Costwise, we're still ahead, and we do tend to score well on old and collectible books.

Thoughts?

I'll be in the Dorchester bookshop tomorrow,  and there's a lot of work to do.  I know sales need to improve (the bad weather in the last month or two has had a real impact), but I don't know what target I should be aiming for.  There's only one bookshop for the hospice, so I've nothing to compare with.
watervole: (Default)
 
Could the ancient Egyptians have reached South America? There are enough clues in archeological remains and in the legends of bearded white men to suggest the possibility.

There is really only one way to determine if that is possible, and that is to recreate a papyrus boat using the paintings in ancient tombs as a guide.

I first read this book many years ago and came back to it recently when copy turned up in the charity shop where I volunteer It holds up very well. Although it is slow to get going, it really gets interesting when they start work on building the boat and is riveting when they are at sea.

There is a point when they are half-way across the Atlantic in the middle of a storm, when you think: "These men are crazy to even attempt sailing a reed boat across the ocean."



The most fascinating aspect of the book is what the journey helps reveal of the sailing and construction details of the ancient Egyptian boats. Details that make no sense on a wall painting suddenly make vital sense after a month at sea. Everything from rope thickness to the way the mast is supported become relevant in the context of sailing a boat that does not have a rigid hull.

Definitely worth reading - if you enjoy this, you'll probably also enjoy 'The Benden Voyage' by Tim Severin, and Heyerdahl's 'Kon Tiki'.
watervole: (Default)
 Good day for children's book sales today.

Noticed someone looking at the children's books and mentioned we had more in the backroom.  Sold the Philip Pullman trilogy and two more books.  Half an hour sold a full set of Narnia books to someone else looking at the shelf, and followed that up by selling a nice story book off the top shelf (to someone looking through the basket at the bottom).

We took around £15 on children's books, and they were almost all ones I picked out for people once I knew the age of the child.  Now, all I need is a few little girls of an age to like sparkly fairy books.

We also sold one of our old/rare books for £30 (a translation of Napoleon's memoirs).

The craft section is almost sold out, so I'll replace it with either history or natural history next week.

The last of the military history books is on the shelf - they've been selling well, but most of the best ones are gone now.  

Currently selling old poetry books.  Often quite old in lovely bindings.  The bindings, sadly, have a fair bit of damage, but the paper inside is lovely (acid-free and thin).  I'm selling them very cheap because of the damage.  Also have a language and literature section at present. Dictionaries tend to be popular, and lit books will sell in a separate section when they tend to remain unsold in the general fiction.
watervole: (Default)
I thought you'd like to see my book display.

If you start here and click through the half dozen pictures, then you should (fingers crossed) be able to read my comments with the pictures.




watervole: (Default)
 Had a very successful week in the Hospice shop last week.

We didn't so much break the previous books record as smash it.  we took £130 on two bays of books, which I was very pleased with (and compares well to takings in other sales areas)

Which is interesting, because I'd taken the risk of reducing the number of shelves.  What I did was to add a lot of visual interest and contrast.  The top shelves no longer run in a straight line.  One is lower than the other to make it easier for people to see the display books.  Each shelf of paperbacks now has two books with attractive covers face out (rather than with only the spine showing).  The fiction is still sorted alphabetically, but the hardbacks are now mixed in with the paperbacks (I increased the shelf spacing slightly to allow them to fit in).

The non-fiction only has a few categories: military history, crafts, cookery, religion and biography.    When those categories have sold out of good books, they'll be totally removed and be replaced by art, natural history, language/literature and history, which are currently building up priced stock in the backroom.  I've also got piles for new age, travel, transport, men's interest, women's interest and a couple of other subjects that may/may not build up to sellable quantities.

In my book, it's far better to have a few large sections that show clearly to the buyer, then a lot of little sections that get lost in the noise.

Although we sold a £20 book (battle of Britain) and several around £5 (how to make stuff for doll's houses), it's noticeable from the till records that most of the increase was in paperback sales.  (I look at number of books sold as well as total takings)  Same books, same prices, just a far more attractive display.

I often stand at the till, just to watch how people approach the book display and how long they spend there.  A few weeks ago, they'd walk up, glance vaguely over the display, mostly at eye level, then walk on.  Now, they pause, scan the whole display, often bending down to look at shelves nearer the floor, pick up one of the face out books to look at it, then, after that, they often pick up a book close to the face out and look at that as well.

Several times, I've observed a book that has been on the shelves for a couple of weeks, sell within an hour of being placed face outwards.

Also, a pattern that I'd previously noticed of books on the top shelf selling less (I date code, and there were more older books at the top)  has now evened out.  We're still selling less at the end of the alphabet (bottom shelf) but that's not as bad as it was.

I need to come up with an idea to help the WXYZ authors.  Suggestions welcome...
watervole: (Default)
 Been a good week at the hospice shop.  I won't know the overall sales until Monday, but this week we've sold: £15 book on Trolleybuses, £8 book on Judge Dredd, £6 Tyneham (ghost village), £8 Lord of the Rings and the incoming donations include a wonderful set of the Illustrated London News from the 1960s with photo spreads of things like Churchill's funeral.

Also got a little book on railways that's over 150 years old and has only one original copy for sale on the web (amidst a large number of print on demand reprints), so I've stuck a large price tag on it and placed it in the window.  It's an interesting little book with some good engineering details.

Of course, I'm now drowning in books to price as the depot responded rather enthusiastically to our request for more stock (until now, it's been like getting blood out of a stone, but they suddenly got madly enthusiastic).  There's a good pile of military history in what they sent, so those are already out on the shelves, and most of the outdated travel books are in the pile to go to an Internet firm that pays about a penny a book.

I'm also working about two days a week (voluntary),  which is rather more than I'd originally planned on, but we're a new shop and still very short of staff.
watervole: (Default)
 Just got last week's sales figures for books for the Hospice shop.
I'm a very happy bunny, and so is the shop manager.  Sales last week were £97.  Two weeks ago, before I joined, they were around £30.  Same shelf space, same stock, just better display. (I've not even changed much on the pricing.)
The only drawback is that I've now sold all the good military history books.  The last one went on Friday for £6.  Churchill went earlier in the week for £8.  I've put up a note asking for more military history, but it's time and luck dependent as to whether we get more,
I've been deliberately showcasing them, as I know from past experience that you're more likely to get donations in a subject if people know you keep them as a specific category.
The manager is already thinking about going up to two units of shelving for books, and I think we can justify that (as long as we get enough incoming stock).

Sold one book yesterday by singing to a tired toddler.  It kept her from crying and allowed her mother time to browse the shelves.  Result, very happy mother whose last words on leaving were: "I'll definitely be shopping here again."
watervole: (Default)
 I've just finished reading a truly excellent fan novel on AO3.

Sharpe's Dragon is a crossover between the worlds of Sharpe and Temeraire, but I think people who are only familiar with Sharpe will still enjoy it.  

Take the Naoleonic Wars and add an aerial corps of dragons.

Take Moncey, a bit of a riff-raff among dragons, a small, ex-feral, independent minded and occasionally lonely dragon who happens to run into the South Essex while warning them of an attack.  Give him a slowly developing friendship with a man who is a bit of a riff-raff among officers, slightly feral and independent minded....

It's slow paced, with excellent historical detail and true to all the characters.

HIghly recommended.
watervole: (Default)
 One of the reasons we read science fiction is for that sense of wonder, an introduction to a world totally different to our own, one that is strange and different.

Sometimes we can encounter that same sense of wonder when reading history, when the past is described so vividly that it becomes real and wonderful.

I've just encountered that sense while reading Mark Twain's Life on the Mississippi.  It begins with a historical humorous outlook on the way various explorers cheerfully claimed vast tracts of already occupied land for their own countries, but the book came to life for me when he starts to talk about the skills of the riverboat pilots.

Here, Twain writes from first-hand experience of learning those skills, and it makes for fascinating reading.  The description of a pilot navigating a dangerous river section at night is hair-raising and makes the navigation skills of a London taxi driver suddenly seem trivial by comparison.

You can get the book free from Project Gutenberg and I definitely recommend it as a window on a totally different world.

I've no idea what the rest of the book will cover, but I'm looking forward to it.
watervole: (books)
Having just read "Fuzzy Nation", I've decided to go back and read the original novel once again.  My paperback copy is falling apart, but fortunately, it's also available on Project Gutenberg.

So, for those among you who'd like to read an enjoyable SF classic, you can now download Little Fuzzy. Legal and free.

It's a good old-fashioned story where the good guys are good, the aliens delightful and virtue triumphs in the end.

I expect the sequel 'Fuzzy Sapiens' to come off copyright in 2014, so hopefully I'll be able to replace my paperback of that as well.
watervole: (Default)
 The sun is shining this morning for the first time in a long while.  The forecast says we should get a break from the endless rain, which will come as a great relief.

My health actually seems to be improving...

A long bout of chest pain caused originally by an asthmatic cough appears to be responding to massage (I think there were some badly knotted muscles there) and the pain is much less now.

The tennis elbow is almost gone.  I'm able to knit small amounts now.

The improvement in the chest means I'm able to start doing a lot more exercise (even walking used to be painful) which is triggering aches and pains as other muscles come back into use, but this is short term and is already improving.

In a mad spurt of enthusiasm, I've started tidying my desk.  Yesterday I cleared about 3/4 of it and removed much stuff at least 5 years old, if not more.  The remaining items are inevitably the hardest ones, as they're the ones that require me to do something with them, but I'm going to have a stab at it.

I also seem to be reading a lot more (the reducing pain levels have helped the brain come back on line).  I've already read two of my Xmas books.  Fuzzy Nation by John Scalzi is a good read - it's a rewrite of the classic "Little Fuzzy" by H Beam Piper.  Scalzi's version is the more adult of the two, Holland's motives are a lot more complex and the Fuzzies themselves are not quite so innocent.  I think on balance, I prefer the original book, but that's probably because it has a higher comfort factor and I've read it so many times.  (though I do prefer Scalzi's way of proving that the Fuzzies are sapient  he builds it into the plot in a very logical manner and gives the reader the clues to work it out themselves)

For those who haven't read either, the basic premise is that alien worlds can be strip mined if they have no intelligent native life forms.  What happens when a life form is discovered that is borderline sapient?
watervole: (books)
 I was going through a box of books today at the Red Cross and came across a lovely collection of books about Africa.  A collection of travel books (Freya Stark and others), books with excellent photos of several tribes, birds of Bahrain, even a book about how to cook European dishes while using ingredients available in Nairobi. Several of them pitched in at the £20 price bracket, so I've used the whole set to do a themed window display.

It'll be interesting to see how well they sell.

More books

Mar. 9th, 2012 05:37 pm
watervole: (books)
 I suggested to the shop manager that one way of dealing with the overflowing back stock of books was to increase the space selling books in the shop.  

Menswear isn't selling very well at present, so if we can find enough shelving, we're going to replace a rack of trousers with three more shelves of fiction.

We'll do the swap over on Monday, so that should keep me busy...

I'm also hoping that they'll go over to a sticker system for recording how long fiction has been on the shelves.  Our current technique is to record the date a book enters the shop on the price label and to check regularly for books that have been there a long time.  Oxfam use a four week colour rotation system which is a lot quicker.

The idea is that all books put out in week 1 have a small red sticker on the base of the spine.  Week 2 books have a blue dot.  Week 3, yellow and week four is green.  

In week five, you remove all the books with a red sticker and replace with a new lot of red books (or use a fifth colour if you want to avoid confusion).  It's much faster to check for books with a red sticker than it is to check the date individually on the back of each book.

It's not such a useful technique for non-fiction as the prices are often higher so the books get a longer shelf life.  There, it can still be useful to use the date labels.  However, for non-fiction worth two pounds or less, I want to start using coloured sticky dots.
watervole: (Default)
 I'm physically tired.  Another day sorting books.

Found a couple of good ones - a book from the Festival of Britain that should be worth around £18, a couple of 80 year old books about Hampshire and the New Forest.  (only about £6 each because of poor condition).

Sold three in the £5-£10 bracket.  One about Poole's history, a book of Benningfield's landscape paintings and a hundred year old book of church organ music (with some lovely hand-written notes in pencil by the original organist).

The catch is that the more we sell, the more we get.  Both local donations and books coming in from the depot are up.  Another five sacks of books arrived today, and that's not counting the two boxes that arrived since I was last in the shop on Friday.

Really, I only want to do one day a week in the shop - especially now the allotment season is starting.  I'm doing the better part of two days a week now, and even that is barely keeping pace with the problem.

The shop is short-handed overall.  We need more volunteers just to man the till, let alone help in the back room.  I've put a note on the book shelf asking for another volunteer for the book team. Hopefully, someone will be interested.

I've recently taken over the children's books as well.  I'm still getting up to speed on those.  The trick ( as with most books) is to cull the books that don't sell after a reasonable period of time and see what those books had in common.  The first few weeks suggest that condition is critical.  Old, tired looking books are usually the ones left behind.  Annuals are also very slow sellers (as they always have the year on them.) I think Beano may be an exception, but don't yet know for sure.  I'm pricing the annuals (apart from Beano and its like) very low indeed to see if that shifts them.

The other slow seller in children's books is what I'm starting to think of as 'granny' books.  They're the ones that grandparents buy because they liked them when they were young, or because they feel children should read the classics.  But they don't sell to modern children.

Young adult isn't selling, even though I think we had some good books.  I'm going to save these up for a while until we have a decent collection and then try a dedicated shelf of modern YA books rather than mixing them up with children's books in general.

I've found a very successful trick with mini books.  Little ones like "Yoga for Cats" and pretty much any book under 4inches in height and intended to be funny/a gift.  They don't sell at all on the book shelves, but are going like hot cakes since I put them out here and there with the bric a brac (colour matched with the china, etc.)
watervole: (books)
  This was the first library book I borrowed on my Sony ebook reader. (and I'm waiting to see if Amazon censor that line from my book review...)

Set in a future where the British Empire rules a good chunk of the stars, the book gives us an Empire with 1970's entertainment, pseudo-Victorian morality for the Empire and technology that feels like a second-hand car.

Captain Smith and his motley crew face the evil Ghasts and overcome them by plenty of derring do and stiff upper lips. There's not much in the way of character development.

You'll need to have seen things like Bladerunner and War of the Worlds to get all the jokes.

There were some annoying point of view shifts in mid-paragraph - I suspect that's partly due to this being the writer's first book.

I found the book entertaining enough to read to the end, but not interesting enough to want to read the next one in the series.
watervole: (books)
My ebook reader is already changing my reading habits.

I've downloaded a load of classics, which is hardly surprising as they're free, but the big difference is that I'm actually reading them.

It's weight and convenience.  My collected volume of Kipling is big, heavy, and hard to keep open on my book rest.  That all makes it physically difficult for me to read. With my Sony ebook reader, I can take it anywhere, read anywhere and not strain my neck/shoulder by  holding the pages open.  I can even read it balanced on my knee, which I find impossible with hard copy.

Over the last few days, I've reread 'The Jungle Book':

I enjoyed this as an adult far more than I did as a child.  When young, I expected the whole book to be about Mowgli.  As an adult, I remembered that it was a collection of many things and thus wasn't disappointed.  In fact, some of my favourites were not Mowgli stories.  I particularly liked the story of the white seal.
 
Kipling has a real gift with words (reminds me a little of Ursula le Guin) and some of his tales read like myth.
 
I also appreciate the poems a lot more now.  Kipling has a wonderful sense of rhythm, which I totally failed to appreciate when younger, but now really love.
 
A small bonus for me was realising that the poem with 'Her Majesty's Servants' was set to the rhythm of several songs that I knew.  When he talks of the cavalry cantering to 'Bonnie Dundee', the metre is that of 'Bonnie Dundee'.  He also works 'British Grenadiers' and 'Lincolnshire Poacher' into the same poem.


Just read the poem here - and see the way he uses rhythm.  Each of the animals used by the army (elephants and bullocks hauling guns, mules carrying packs on hilly routes (a screw-gun was carried in parts and screwed together when used), camels carrying loads, and also cavalry horses) has its own rhythm.  Ideally, read it aloud.  Of all the poets I know, Kipling seems to benefit most from being read aloud.
watervole: (books)
 I got my ebook reader for Xmas, and very shiny it is too.

The thing that most impressed me (and is still my favourite feature) is the excellent dictionary.

First thing I did was to try it on the word that the Kobo failed on.

The Sony came up trumps.  I don't know if it has the entire OED, but it certainly has a very good chunk of it.  'Pattered' came up with not just a good clear definition, but also several examples of how the word is used, such as the patter of rain and the colloquial meaning of 'the patter of tiny feet'.  Every word I've tried has come out fine, with a clear and easy to follow definition.   (It also has discussions on words that get confused, like lie and lay)

Where a word isn't in the dictionary, like a place name, then I can use the wi-fi to connect to Wikipedia.  This isn't fast, but it works just fine and  I deliberately bought this as an ebook reader that can also peek at the web on occasion, rather than as a computer that also happens to read books.

I've just made a donation to Project Gutenberg, as I seem to have downloaded about 30 books - which, impressively, only fill a tiny fraction of the ebook reader's capacity.

I welcome suggestions for books that I really ought to add to the collection.

(Current reading - The Jungle Book)
watervole: (Default)
'No Present Like Time' is the  second book in Steph Swainston's 'Castle' series.  It's a lot better than the first one.
Most of the things that annoyed me in the first volume are absent now.  It's much better plotted, characters are introduced in a more organised manner, the lapses into present are almost (but not entirely) eliminated.

Without these annoyances and distractions, the writer's talent for language can show forth to much better effect.  Swainston has a real gift for descriptive language and a delight in playing with words.  In the 'Shift', the alternative world that Jant reaches under the influence of drugs, many of the strange beings there have names that are puns or clever plays on word meanings.

Sadly, there were still a few minor things that threw me out of the text.  It's usually the bits that the writer adds as almost throwaway afterthoughts that tend to spoil the book for me. A description of a hurricane has windmills rotating so fast that 300 catch fire and burn.  Clearly the writer doesn't know that any miller worth his salt will take the canvas off his sails and lock the sails in position at the first sign of really bad weather.

And Tris, which ironically has no need of a long-distance communication system, turns out to have the semaphore towers which were lacking in the Fourlands - which did need them.

Still, overall, a well-written book and one that encourages me to continue with the series.
watervole: (Default)
 I'd very much appreciate people's advice on choosing an ebook reader.

I played with a Kobo (the basic model) in Smiths and very much liked it.  However, reading an online review made me have some second thoughts.

I like it partly because the page control is in a good position for me (bottom right corner), but the review commented that the button was a little stiff and that after 100+ pages the RSI started to kick in.  As someone who's prone to RSI, that's definitely a potential problem.

I have to rest my books on a stand as I can't hold them in my hand, thus buttons in the middle bottom are a pain.

The other catch with the Kobo is that you can't load books from Amazon (though it may be possible to use a site that strips DRM - has anyone used these?)

What are the pros and cons of ebook readers that you've tried?  

I want easy to use, intuitive menus, simple to use controls, bookmarks, etc.  

I'm not bothered about colour or wireless access or annotation, or anything beyond reading books.
watervole: (Default)
 I always try to read books by Eastercon guests, however this was not one of the best.

I hit several problems with this book.  

Firstly, it takes forever to sort out who is who and what is going on.

This isn't helped by the fact that many characters have multiple names and titles that are used on difference occasions.  eg Lightening, Saker, Micawater and Archer are all the same person.

Second problem is that the writer occasionally drops into present tense for no apparent reason. I found this jarring and can only attribute it to poor editing.

Third - occasional point of view slips.  The narrative is first person throughout, but there are a few places where the non-psychic narrator suddenly knows exactly what another person is thinking.  Poor editing, again.

Fourth - I didn't initially find any characters that I actually cared about.

Fifth - why do Awians have wings if they can't fly?

Sixth - I know the narrator is a drug addict, but there were sill an awful lot of descriptions of injecting drugs.

Seven - it took me ages to sort out the level of technology - I initially thought it was all medieval as the battles are all like that;  a passing reference to trams confused me totally.  This world turns out to be a Victorian level of technology, but with no firearms and odd modern styles of t-shirts, etc.  The trams turn out to be water-powered (which I didn't find convincing).  The bit I found most unrealistic is the communication system.  There isn't any.  No telegraph, no semaphore towers, no postal service, nothing. Battlefield communications are equally bad.  This is a massive plot device simply to ensure that the narrator (who is the only person who can fly) ends up carrying all communications of any importance.

I nearly gave up a quarter of the way through, but persevered  and found that the book did get better.  A plot finally started to develop and the characters got more interesting.  I enjoyed it enough in the end to pick up the sequels in the Red Cross shop, but I wouldn't have paid full price for them.
watervole: (Default)
 I'd never heard of this book, but SallyMn just recommended it, and as I've always loved 'Three Men in a Boat' by Jerome K Jerome, I went to take a look.

As soon as I have an ebook reader, this book is going to be on it.  It's free at Project Gutenberg (and I assume 'Three Men in a Boat' will be also if you haven't already read that), so go there and enjoy!

A light, gentle, self-mocking sense of humour and a wonderfully tongue in cheek way of viewing the world.

More books

Sep. 21st, 2011 05:36 pm
watervole: (Default)
The Red Cross shop manager tells me that the cricketing biography that I repriced to £8 on Monday has sold already. 

I went in again today and did a few hours this afternoon wading through the back stock.   Had a load of good fishing books donated, so put them out to replace the gardening books.  Gardening never sells very well at our shop, and it sells best in Spring when it sells at all.

More annuals in, most in very good condition and dating to the 1970s.  Value seems to range from £3 to £7.  Sounds expensive, until you reckon what you'd pay for a new annual coming out this year.  Then, it sounds very reasonable.  Modern annuals, even in good condition are only worth one or two pounds.  That's nostalgia for you.
watervole: (Default)
Back at the Red Cross today.  I missed last week as I was totally exhausted from finding places to display morris posters. 

First task, which regrettably is a common one, was to find where the book rests had got to.  They have a distressing habit of vanishing in my absence.  You wouldn't think it would be rocket science to put a new book on the book rest if the book currently on the rest sells (which is, after all the reason for displaying it on the rest), but this doesn't always happen.

Second task, which took most of the day, was culling the books that hadn't sold and starting up several totally new sections.

I've been saving books on certain subjects, like poetry, so that I can put them out as a block.  One poetry book on its own is very unlikely to sell, but put a batch together and there's a fair chance that a poetry lover will spot them and buy one.  I did this with English, German and French dictionaries two weeks ago, and most of them have sold now.

So, today, we got a block of poetry, one of Art and one of architecture.  Also a collection of annuals from the 1970s.  I've put out a full shelf of history books in addition to my usual military history section - military history is very popular in our shop, any good book on the subject is likely to sell within a month.  The coffee table ones rarely go, or the ones written for kids, but the 'proper' ones with good detailed information are very sellable. Especially if they're about aircraft or tanks.

I do most of the book pricing, with some help from a couple of new volunteers, but there's someone, I don't know who, who sometimes prices biography - and gets it wrong.  Modern celebrities are priced too high at £2,50 - they don't get the value second-hand because they are printed in the millions and remaindered within a year or so.  But the book that my unknown 'helper' priced at £1.50 (presumably because s/he had never heard of him) was a cricketer's biography and has now been repriced at £8.  Cricket books are printed in smaller quantities and there tends to be interest in the game's history.  Good (not coffee table) cricket books, hold their value reasonably well, but you have to filter out the generic ones.

I know the art books are likely to sell, even at prices ranging from £5 to £12 for relatively old books.  The pictures inside are in good condition and last time I did a section on art, they all sold within a few weeks - often to very happy customers.

The architecture books are more of a gamble. Quite  a few of them are in the £20 - £50 range.  I've kept the £50 ones in the back room with a note on the shelf telling people to ask for them.  They're lovely old books and some of them will sell just because they're old and have great illustrations.  Some of the rest may not find a buyer in the shop's demographic, but I figure you never know until you try.

However, if they don't sell, then I've tied up a lot of shelf space with them.  I'll see next week how they've been selling.

What  I find fascinating is that my instincts about books are often (though not ) always correct.  I can hand one to my volunteer looking up prices on ABE.com and say:  "I think this one will be worth around £20"  It's a book with a plain, unillustrated cover about perspective, and I suspect some of our staff might have binned it (I found a biography of Montgommery in the chuck box today and rescued it - military history will sell even if the dust jacket is torn).  But inside are detailed diagrams of how to do drawings with perspective.  It's very specialist and will clearly be of serious interest to the right person.

I have my blind spots, though they're getting better.  I still find it hard to believe that you can get £5 - £7 pounds for many old annuals as long as they're in good condition, but we price them at that and they sell.  Some will even sell (though for less) in poor condition.

Looking forward to seeing what sells, though not to the mess that the shelves will be in when I return. The dear public do tend to put books back in random places...


watervole: (Default)
 A well-told tale that starts gently with a fairy story that starts reaching into the past and gradually becomes a mystery story as Becca searches for the tale of her grandmother's early life.

Although we realise fairly early on that the story will link back to the Holocaust, it's still shocking to be reminded of the bare facts of the era. Yolen handles this well, making us feel the horror, but without giving you nightmares.

There's a careful understanding of human nature, both of the way the partisans dealt (or didn't deal) with their inability to make an impact, and also the inescapable fact that there were people who accepted and even approved of what was happening.

I like the way Yolen gives and ending that allows us to understand that a person can be happy even without the traditional 'happy ending'.

I'd definitely recommend this book, though I'm not sure that I'd want to read it twice - the story will linger in my mind for a long time.

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Judith Proctor

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