31 January 2011

Disconnected

My phone died on Thursday night.

It wasn't one of those things I saw coming.  I was having trouble starting one of the programs on it, so I just did a hard shut down and then pressed the "On" button again.  It came on, but stopped between the manufacturer's screen and the carrier's screen.  You know, just in case you had no clue where you were spending your money.

Luckily I had some free time, so I ran over to my local store and even luckier, there was no line in the tech department there.  Anyone who deals with a phone store knows how rare that is.  The woman took a look at it, tried to do an alternate hard reset, but had no luck.

My Droid Eris was bricked.  Of course, it was out of warranty and I am only halfway through my contract.  This left me the option of buying a phone at full price or ordering a refurbished one to come in next week.  Being as I have no landline and two children, the idea of being without a phone for several days was not really something I thought would be good.  Then she also said if I had an old phone at home, I could switch over to that until my contract came up next year.  So, I raced home and went searching, and found my old LG VX8300.  This is an older flip phone.  No virtual keyboard, no apps.  It does have mobile web, but not a full browser and who wants to try to type URLs in with a numeric keypad?  But, it was a phone.  They switched it over for me, and now for the next year I will no longer have a computer in my pocket.

I work with the web for a living.  My job as a librarian is to work on webpages, library catalogs, and digital archives. From OverDrive to WorldCat Mobile to librarian chat services by text and email to ereaders, librarians are having to deal with patrons and technology on the front lines.  Being a librarian on the "back line", working for a network, when the library staff doesn't have answers, they come to me and the others I work with.  I also love gadgets and really enjoyed having an Android phone, an Apple iPod Touch, a Nook...all these things that library staff are needing to know more and more about as technology comes home hard to libraries.  I am used to being always connected.

But connection didn't always come from a screen in front of your face, or an new message in your email inbox.  It can come from saying hello while passing in the hallway, a hug from a friend you haven't seen in ages - or since yesterday.  It can come from your parent calling you to check how you are doing, or writing a note to someone you care about, or bringing cookies to work.  Connection came in personal action, and didn't always have immediate gratification.  That was okay, and so is this.  I am not the most patient person, and admittedly I have a Touch so I can have portable contact, but still limited to wi-fi hotspots and not 24/7.

Will I find that I have less technology distraction?  I won't be pulling my phone out of my pocket to see if I got an email or a tweet.  I won't have people look at me across the table while scrolling through my Reader.  I won't be woken up at 2 AM because an email came in and the phone is vibrating.   I could spend a little more time reading, or finishing my knitting, or choosing garden plants, or playing games with my niblets.

By disconnecting, I can reconnect.

26 January 2011

Review: Lost Voices

The Book:


Lucette is fourteen, stuck in a remote Alaskan town with her uncle after her mother's death and her father's disappearance off a fishing vessel, slowly falling into despair and isolation.  When she is attacked by her uncle and tumbles off the cliffs to meet death, Luce instead becomes a mermaid and is brought into a tribe of other lost girls-turned-mermaids like her.  Finding beauty, long life and friendships within her new tribe, Luce soon discovers that she possesses the power - and the desire - to sing humans to their deaths.  As Luce's singing talent makes her both a boon to her tribe - and a burden to her new friend and queen, Caterina - new mermaids join and cause all to question their rules and feelings.  Torn between her new life and friends and her struggle to retain some hold on humanity, will Luce have to choose between being true to herself, or to her tribe?

The Yarn:

Sarah Porter brings mermaids out of fairytale and folklore and melds it with cold Alaskan seas and hard topics.  I actually started this book almost two months ago, as soon as I acquired it, because it sounded hauntingly beautiful.  However, I struggled with the first couple of chapters and I didn't resume until after the New Year.  The books starts slow and sad, and even as the plot picks up speed, the depressive overtones remain with no real signs of a happy ending.

The sadness that comes from Luce through the entire book is charged with loss and isolation.  She was an outcast at school, an orphan, and living with an uncle who was abusive in so many ways.  While becoming a mermaid seemed to be a joyous escape from a life of pain, Luce realizes that it comes with a cost.  With her tribe, humanity is to be scorned, and none deserve to live.

There is a lot of "typical teen storyline" in here:  Luce is determined to make her tribe the family and friends she didn't have before, especially with Caterina, the queen.  Her struggle to stay part of the group causes Luce to be untrue to her own views about not wanting to kill, to not be honest about what some of the other mermaids do, and hide her own emotions about still caring for her father and not leaving her whole human past behind.  There are definite mean girls and followers; Luce flips in between her desire to have friends and her "human" conscience.  Of course, as she continues to isolate herself in pursuit of control over her voice, Luce fails to see threats to the tribe from within until it is almost too late.

Porter's debut novel is full of beautiful imagery and dark ideas.  She is able to convey teen issues of bullying, friendship and abuse in compelling and unique way.  While there are definite questions left at the end of the book, Lost Voices is the first of a planned trilogy that will no doubt provide answers.

The Ink:

Title:  Lost Voices (Lost Voices, #1)
Author: Sarah Porter
Publisher: Harcourt
Date:  July 2011
Read:  NetGalley eBook

25 January 2011

In Pursuit of Spring

I swear, I am not going to turn this into just a book review blog.  I have really enjoyed writing about what I have read.  Plus I read a lot, and why shouldn't I share what I think about those choices I have made, just as everyone out there makes those same choices.  So, my other pursuits to share...


I have been knitting!  For a while, I admit.  I am not a fast knitter, but this is one of the projects I will be finishing.  This is the Starburst Hat by Elizabeth A. Cote, knit with Malabrigo Seleccion Privada.  I adore Malabrigo yarn, plus this hand-dyed colorway is in my favorites of purple and green.  I believe I have enough in my stash to do a couple of fingerless gloves afterwards.

I titled this post "In Pursuit of Spring" because it has been a hard couple of weeks for me.  Some of it is personal, but there is just this prevailing sense of dreariness that comes with winter for me.  Winter has its stark beauty, and I do love to watch the snow fall, but the last couple of weeks with a multitude of snow storms and school closings for my niblets and making sure they have their care and that I take care getting to my job...it is stressful and tiring and can make a woman cry.  I long for green to come from the ground and burst from the trees.  I want to see things grow.  I realize that last winter I carried some of this same feeling, but now I have some help to remember that spring is coming.




January may bring snow, but it also brings seed catalogs!  Most of my favorites have already arrived.  While last year's garden didn't do as well as I hoped, this year I will pre-plan a bit more, get the soil tested to make sure it will support healthy plants.  Also I will observe seed-starting dates a bit more stringently.  I get excited to see green again, and I know I started my squash way too early inside.  Only one plant took root outside, and the one zucchini it gave me was stolen by squirrels or skunks.  I would rather grow fewer vegetables better.

So, signs of spring are just a page turn away for me.  I can settle for that right now.

24 January 2011

In My Mailbox

Welcome to my first installment of In My Mailbox.  I first saw this meme on Stacked, and it is hosted by Kristi (Another one who spells her name correctly!  ;) at The Story Siren.  In My Mailbox is a way to showcase books received for review, picked up from the library or purchased.  I am planning on doing this post every other Monday and highlight what I got the previous two weeks.

Review:


I am thrilled to say I actually received one title in the mail this past week, courtesy of LibraryThing Early Reviewers and HarperCollins.  666 Park Avenue by Gabriella Pierce looks like a fun read for a debut paranormal book.

Also this past week I received two eBook galleys from NetGalley: Vegan Family Meals by Ann Gentry and Art of the Chicken Coop by Chris Gleason.  Both are slated for June release.





Library:

I seemed to have gone on a non-fiction bender this week, although I did end up with a couple fiction titles I had been wanting to read (or re-read as is the case).




American Terroir: Savoring the Flavors of Our Woods, Waters and Fields by Rowan Jacobsen explains how "taste of place" can be so important in geographic cuisine.

My Empire of Dirt: How One Man Turned His Big-City Backyard into a Farm, A Cautionary Tale by Manny Howard.  This caught my eye after having read Farm City by Novella Carpenter.

Food Heroes: 16 Culinary Artisans Preserving Tradition
by Georgia Pellegrini.  I love personal stories of a culinary slant, and this one will probably make me want to start growing mushrooms in my basement again.

Almost Perfect
by Brian Katcher.  The Stonewall Children's and Young Adults Award winner for 2011.  I just finished the EPUB on my Nook that I had checked out of the library a couple weeks ago, but wanted a copy again to review.

The Honey Trail: In Pursuit of Liquid Gold and Vanishing Bees
by Grace Pundyk.  Between stories of Colony Collapse Disorder in the news the last year and my own beekeeping class the previous spring, I had to pick this book up.

Shadowfever by Karen Marie Moning.  Final book of the Fever series that I have been anxiously awaiting.

Grow Great Grub: Organic Food from Small Spaces
by Gayla Trail.  This is Gayla's second book on microfarming (growing food in small, sometimes unconventional space) and her blog, You Grow Girl, is a great source of information and inspiration.

Purchased:

Nothing the last couple of weeks.  I do have a gift card burning a whole in my wallet though...

I would love hearing about what you are reading this week!

19 January 2011

ARC Review: Enchanted No More

The Book:

When the dwarf knocked on her door, Jenni knew nothing would ever be the same again.

Jenni Weaver was able to escape her life as a halfling and the last Mistweaver after the tragic deaths of most of her family fifteen years ago, living a quiet human life in Denver, but she couldn't run from her past or her powers forever. She is drawn back to serving the Lightfolk through guilt, promises and the need to save her last sibling.  Soon Jenni discovers that the power she left behind is an integral part of her self, and she is the only one that can balance the powerful magic coming.  A magic that both the Lightfolk and the Darkfolk wish to claim for their own.

The Yarn:


Jenni has been scarred by her role in her family's deaths, her feeling of betrayal by the Lightfolk, and the separation between her and her brother Rothly.  Since her magic and her youthful love cost Jenni everything she loved, she left it all behind to live as human in Denver.  Yet while Jenni Weaver wanted to forget all that reminded her of those failures, Jindesfarne Mistweaver was the last of her family who could balance the elemental energies that were being brought to the surface of the earth.   Drawn back into the struggle between the Lightfolk and the Darkfolk, Jenni must face her own feelings, reclaim her magic and deal with those she left behind.  Jenni struggles with her need to save her brother, her hope for connecting to her last surviving relative, and to forgive those who didn't support her family when they fought and died fifteen years before.  One of those people to forgive is herself.

Unfortunately this emotional turmoil lay heavy across the story and I found that most of the secondary characters, except for the brownies, to be shallow, self-serving and lacking any real empathy.  Race relations threaded through the story arc also, as Jenni's mixed-blood is pointed out more than once as a flaw and relegate her to a second-class status, even in the face of her needed magics.  The obvious discord between the major magical races and those with mixed blood played a large role in the character interactions. Maybe that was the point?   However, it made the faults of Jenni, her brother and Jenni's former love Aric even more amplified, which left them hard for me to connect to through much of the book and overshadowed the main plot at times.

Robin D. Owens is the author of the successful Celta and Summoning series, ones that I have feverishly read through the last couple of years.  Enchanted No More is the first title of the Mystic Circle series.  While I admit I didn't love this one as much as her other books thus far, I will definitely pick up the next one to see where Owens goes with it.  I will hope for more of the lush background development and stronger heroines I have seen in her other series.

The Ink:


Title:  Enchanted No More
Author: Robin D. Owens
Publisher: Luna
Date:  January 2011
Read:  NetGalley ebook

13 January 2011

This is what happens

When the Universe gives me a snow day and these thoughts get into my head about how nice it would be, since I am starting to do some new stuff on the blog with my reviews and just a way to start a new year, to give it a new look.

Between shoveling the 18+ inches of snow my city got on Wednesday, in between having to futz around with Photoshop Elements and resize my uncooperative header about eleventy million times when I changed the blog layout, and after 9 PM remembering all the "real" work stuff I planned to do that sat in my bag...I am in PAIN, people!

However, I am pretty happy with the update.  I changed the template style, along with colors and added static pages.  I moved my blog links to a separate page and culled out ones that were out of date or not working (if you have a blog about one of my "Pursuits" and want me to add you, email me!) along with expanding the About Me page.  I took out my LibraryThing book widget, but added links to find me on LibraryThing and on Goodreads.  Eventually, I would like to start pulling my blog posts together on pages about certain subjects:  book reviews, knitting projects, maybe my underground chicken exploits.  Things have started to heat up again with my quest for chickens, so as soon as I have some definitive information, my readers will be the first to know!

Don't be surprised if you see some other new things spring up here along the way, but I hope you like the new look!

12 January 2011

Book Review: Buzz Off

The Book:

Story Fischer is celebrating in her small Wisconsin town: her divorce is final, her market is busy, and the honey that she harvested as a new beekeeper is starting to show up on her shelves.  But when her mentor is found dead from bee stings in the middle of his apiary, her sweet outlook quickly sours.

Not only does Story have to convince the locals that the honeybees are not responsible, but then she must quickly convince them that she is not responsible for the next dead body that shows up in the river.  A likely suspect is found: her ex-husband.  Story knows he is a jerk, but a killer?  Story must find out the truth before her bees and her business are just as dead.

The Yarn:

As someone who just went through Bee School this past spring, I was excited to be presented this book.  You  really don't find much about beekeeping in fiction.  Join that with a new mystery series and I moved this fast to my to-be-read pile.  I think the basis for this new series is fun and a good storyline for a cozy mystery. However, there was a lot of details thrown at me in 312 pages.  Story goes from celebrating her recent divorce to dealing with an old high school flame to trying to figure out if the police chief is mad at her for something that happened when they were teens.  Those were just the possible romantic entanglements.  The notion of "small town" sometimes gets lost in the large amount of characters in this book, and there seemed to be a large amount of characters with chips on their shoulders around Story.

Then there were the lists.  I make lists, I adore lists, but there were so many lists that Story made.  Lists of people, of beekeeping facts, of gardening tips, of ideas about the murders. I think this premise would have worked better if there were not so many other details and people introduced in this book.  Every character and plot device seemed to be thrown in: small town, philandering husband, divorce, new business venture, disapproving mother, old flame, angry police chief, assorted relatives, nosy neighbors (my list could go on).  Plus having a sister who "text talks" - O. M. G.  There was a lot of these people that tended to sidetrack the main plot of the murders without having a real place in them.

The end of the book seemed to bring closure on some of these characters.  Hopefully the next book in the series will slow down a bit and focus on a smaller group of people.  The details about beekeeping, gardening and recipes are worthwhile to read if your interests swing that way.  If you like your mysteries with a little bit of apiary love and a lot of small details, Buzz Off is a decent start to this series.

The Ink:

Title:  Buzz Off (A Queen Bee Mystery)
Author: Hannah Reed
Publisher:  Berkley
Date: September 2010
Read: Library Paperback

09 January 2011

A Girl Has Goals

I have seen a lot of my friends post reflections on if they achieved their goals and resolutions for the past year, and what they want to accomplish for the next.  Obviously, as in my previous post about goals, I have kept them close and personal to my soul and Self a lot of the time.

However, as I see myself branching more into reading and reviewing and doing more writing as a librarian, I think it would be good to set some personal goals here and watch how I handle them through the year.

Books:


I read a lot of books.  I have been a bit lax on keeping track on my reading.  I am on LibraryThing and now GoodReads, plus have friends in both places to encourage me to keep better track, especially as I review for NetGalley and my own blog.  There are a lot of wonderful books out there to read!  I hope to narrow my focus in review reads to my own areas of interest:  fantasy, young adult, cooking, gardening, self-sufficiency and homesteading.  


Goals for 2011:


  • Read 100 books:  I am not thinking this will actually be that difficult.  I have always been a "speed-reader" and reading for fun is one of my favourite things to do. I will be tracking the books I read on GoodReads (if you want to friend me and keep me in line) However, combined with my next goal, I will have to make sure that I keep a good focus on the books too.
  • Review at least 2x a month:  This would give me around 25 reviews this year, which I hope to actually beat this goal hard into the ground.  I would like to review half of the books I read this year, but since this is a new feature for this blog, I don't want to dissuade myself by setting the bar too high.
  • Try Audiobooks:  I have not been a fan of audiobooks.  I listen to music a lot in the car, and many have told me this is a great way to read books when time is limited.  I tried an audiobook - once, when I was eighteen - and didn't like it.  However, like high heels, artichokes, and eBooks, I can give audiobooks another go and may find I will like them the second time around. 

I did give up on heels again though.

Yarn:

Oh, my knitting has suffered some.  I live too far from WEBS to be a part of their Expert Knitter classes at this point, nor do I really have the time and funds to invest.  I did get some projects finished, albeit usually at least a month late.  Other things I ended up losing in my varied stash places, which I am sure will turn up again at some point.  I do love my yarn though, so I have goals here too.

Goals for 2011:

  • Finish Four Projects:  I have one thing on the needles right now.  I am not going to promise anything big to anyone this year either.  I will knit, I will make things.  Some will be gifted, because that is my favourite part of this work.  Sharing it with others.
  • Sort my Stash:  I have a couple (only a couple? I must be ill...) bins in the back corner of my living room filled with yarn that probably I have not seen in years.  Now that I have a spare room I am thinking of making at least one part of it "Craft Central" for the house.  There is already a small work table up there, and lots of room for storing.
  • Get It All on Ravelry:  I love Ravelry.  So much information and inspiration is there!  I have not been as on top of my account as I should have been, and with all the yarn and UFOs floating around my house, this will be a good way to work two issues in one fell swoop.

Ink:

A woman's ink is never done.  Well, this woman's ink is not, that is for sure.  Not yet. It has been two years since my last tattoo.  While I do have plans for a larger piece on my right shoulder sometime down the line, I think that the idea I have right now is smaller and much easier to fund right now.

Goal for 2011:


  • Get Tattoo:  Simple and to the point!

Other Pursuits:

So much could fall under this part of my blog.  This past year has brought me new gardens, a beekeeping course, a woman's retreat in August, a personal revelation and life-change, and so much more.  Some of this I leave in the hands of the Universe, however some obvious things come to light for this year.

Goals for 2011:


  • Grow My Garden:  I didn't have as great a harvest last year, so I do plan to have my raised beds tested through the extension office.  They will do a general soil analysis and let me know if there is anything I really need to amend before the spring planting begins.
  • Preserve More:  I went out of my comfort zone and made tomato sauce and ketchup this summer.  Not complete successes, however the ketchup is already gone, along with the applesauce.  I now am the proud owner of a pressure canner and a larger chest freezer, so I expect that more will end up in my basement this fall.
  • Take Space:  The retreat I went to in Maine last August was everything I had hoped for and more.  This year I have the privilege of going back as a co-facilitator to the group, and help lead some of the wonderful workshops.

Lots of things to do, but still just moments in my Life. 

05 January 2011

ARC Review: Pack of Lies

Note:  Some possible spoilers in the following review.


The Book:

The second book of the Paranormal Scene Investigations series (after Hard Magic) finds Bonita Torres and the Private Unaffiliated Paranormal Investigations (PUPI) team still settling down months after the events of their last case.  Tensions between people  - both with Talent and those without - and the Fatae has never been that settled, but an attack on a young woman with her Fatae companion, which results in the death of one of the attackers, quickly devolves from an open-and-shut case to one that will challenge everyone's notion of who is telling the truth.  Especially when dealing with a magical creature that cannot tell a lie.

Neither the Cosa nor the Fatae seem too concerned about pursuing the facts any further, so it is up to Bonnie and her "pack" to determine what actually happened.  As Bonnie continues to deal with her growing connection with Ben Venec, one that challenges her senses on all levels, the PUPI team pits their talents - and Talent - against the walls of silent victims, secret plans and increasing resentments between races.  This time PUPI is brought a case that could destroy any chance they have to continue operating,  or one that may finally prove their worth.

The Yarn:

Laura Anne Gliman has woven a well-told tale of race relations and sexual assault he-said-she-said with a newer paranormal twist.  Bonnie is a strong young woman who is willing to stay true to herself and how she lives her life, even while building her place with this not-quite-officially-sanctioned investigative team.  I have not read the first book of the series, but am familiar with Gilman's other series in this alternate reality (Retrievers).  I found the development of all the characters fine but the running secondary storyline -with Aden Stosser setting up further sabotage against her brother Ian's PUPI team - made me wish I had already read Hard Magic so I knew the previous events better.

The developments between Venec and Bonnie, as their connection in emotions and Talent increases in ways that are unexpected, definitely throw a conflict into the working of the team.  Bonnie does not want to get involved in an "office relationship", Venec is struggling with his attraction to Bonnie, and I see these two already very similar to Wren and Sergei (from the Retrievers series) in their interactions.  It also made me wonder where the series will go with Bonnie's professed bisexuality, now that she has gotten involved with both Venec and Pietr.  That said, I do look forward to seeing what happens next, and if Bonnie stays as true to her personal beliefs and values as her bond with Venec grows.

Having read many of Laura Anne Gilman's other books (the Retrievers series and Flesh and Stone, first of the Vineart War trilogy), I was thrilled to be able to receive this ebook galley.  Thanks to NetGalley and Luna for making it happen!

The Ink:

Title:           Pack of Lies (Paranormal Scene Investigations #2)
Author:       Laura Anne Gilman
Publisher:    Luna/Harlequin
Date:          January 2011
Read:         NetGalley ebook    

02 January 2011

A New Year

I just read over my previous post at this time last year about what I wished for my New Year.  A time where I was celebrating newness:  a new home, a new family, new traditions and ways to work.

I wished to find my most authentic Self.


It's funny to read that now, because I have found a more authentic way of living, found my Self.  It cost me things I hadn't thought that I wanted to give up, things I truly thought were already a part of me, but were necessary to lose in order to find myself in a place where I could truly accept me in all my imperfect glory.  


It cost me trying to do everything at once.  It cost my tight rein on control as my children start to explore the world more and more on their own terms and make decisions that aren't necessarily mine.  It cost me saying "yes" every time I was approached to do more work (
looking at my calendar, well, I guess I am still working on that one).  It also cost me my marriage: I discovered being true to myself couldn't bear up in the relationship I had placed myself into, no matter the feelings.  I made a choice to hurt another person I never thought I would ever think of hurting in such a way.  But I did.  They say the ends justify the means...I can only hope for truth in that statement.

However, all I can do is look forward and look for ways to stay present.  Watch my niblets and my gardens grow.  Put my words down when I feel the time is right.  Not worry about the dirty dishes, but scrub the bathroom sink because I
have to right now.  Make choices to live the simpler, greener way I wish, but not fault myself for having to make other choices in need of convenience.  Find love in the most obliviously obvious (to me, anyways) places and people.  

Stay authentic.  Stay My Self.