Ten on Tuesday: 01/31/2012

I swear by this time next week, The Unit will have disappeared from this list! The first time I read it, it only took me five hours; but for whatever reason, mostly Real Life laying claim to my print reading hours, I’ve had this for nine weeks! I’m also way 4 books/5% behind pace in my goal for reading 144 books this year. I should probably cut down on my internet time, ya think?

  1. The Unit (by Ninni Holmqvist)
  2. Hater (The Hater Trilogy, Book #1; by David Moody; narrated by Gerard Doyle)
  3. Quantum of Solace (Bond Novel #8; by Ian Fleming; narrated by Simon Vance)
  4. The Blind Assassin (by Margaret Atwood)
  5. Alias Grace (by Margaret Atwood)
  6. Emma (by Jane Austen)
  7. The Captive Bride (by Johanna Lindsay)
  8. Enough About Love (by Herve LeTellier)
  9. Something Borrowed (by Emily Griffin)
  10. The Kite Runner (by Khaled Hosseini)

Blind Assassin and Alias Grace made it back on the list. I had this idea that I was going to have blog posts centered around a theme of sorts every month and Margaret Atwood was slated for January. When I realized that I was crunched for time, I was going to forsake them yet again in favor of some Romance titles for February. But instead, I’ve decided to read more Atwood. I can do that you know (change my mind) because it’s my blog πŸ™‚

The Year of the Flood

The Year of the Flood
By Margaret Atwood
Narrated by Bernadette Dunne, Katie McNichol and Mark Bramhall;
Featuring music and lyrics by Margaret Atwood and performed by Orville Stoeber
β“… 2009, Random House Audio
14.00 hours
SPECULATIVE FICTION/DYSTOPIAN

The Year of the Flood is the second title in the MaddAddam Trilogy and a companion piece to Oryx and Crake. The story take place in the year 2050 in which the waterless flood, a viral pandemic, depopulates most of the earth. Toby, an older woman who had, years earlier, been rescued by the Gardeners – a granola-crunchy survivalists group, finds herself holed up in an organic spa when the human apocalypse hits; Ren, a young woman and erstwhile Gardener who came from one of the Helthwyzer compounds – a community fully dependent on science and technology, is quarantined in a room in a strip club and; Adam One, the leader of The Gardeners, finds himself expelled from his Eden – ironically the fringe lifestyle of his cult. Margaret Atwater creates characters with a past and a present in an uncertain future.

The characters’ lives are intertwined with each other and with characters from Oryx and Crake,Β though the treatment of the three major protagonists in The Year of the Flood are unequal. The lives of Toby and Ren are portrayed as dynamic as each of them attempts to move forwards and/or onwards in the aftermath of the human apocalypse and their pasts; but the life of Adam One is portrayed statically: his struggles are mainly philosophical as he tries to marry his suspect theology with reality. There are hints in his sermons as to what is going on in his life; but he is not grounded in the reality of the present the way the other characters are. His past is limited to the arc of the novel. The question becomes, do each or any of them have what it takes to move beyond the immediacy of the present and into the future? Toby is older, wiser and more experienced than Ren; but she is too old to procreate. Ren is young, fertile optimistic; but soft and still egocentric enough to place her feelings before pragmatic considerations. Adam One is strong in his convictions; but ultimately at what cost? What if being bigger, faster, stronger and smarter aren’t co-equal in the equation for survival? Which variable(s) will save you over the others? And what if it’s a faulty equation to begin with?


The Year of the Flood
expands the world that was introduced in Oryx and Crake and there are crossovers that tie up some loose ends from the first book in the MaddAddam trilogy (Yes! We do discover what The Snowman did at the end of O&C!) There is a satisfying sense of closure at the end of TYOTF; though the novel as a whole didn’t “pop” the way Oryx and Crake did. Perhaps it is because the novelty of the world that Margret Atwood first introduced, one of color and exotic forms wore off, only to be replaced my images of squalor. Or maybe it was the narration.
Bernadette Dunne, Katie McNicol and Mark Bramhall narrate from the point-of-perspectives of Toby, Ren and Adam One respectively. Bernadette Dunne gives a solid performance, though one wonders if a couple of the characters wouldn’t have benefited from some ethnic flavor. Katie McNicols shines as a young woman undaunted, though unprepared for the future ahead; but her voicing of other characters seems underdeveloped (e.g. her voice for Zeb seemed at odds with the physical descriptions of him – a bear-like Russian. He came across as sounding not like a bear-like Russian at all.) Mark Bramhall took all his textual cues, performing the role of Adam One with decreasing optimism and certainty; but often sounded more like a charlatan than a charismatic guru. There is performed music after the Adam One sermons, performed by Orville Stoeber. The voices of Mark Bramhall and Orville Stoeber are a close match so there is a sense of continuity; but the music overall is of a 1970’s Church folk style, which if you’re not keen on it, can be irritating. The casting was well-conceived; but somehow each of the narrators fell a little short of completely inhabiting their respective characters. The result is that the listener is reminded that they are listening to a narrative, not experiencing the story.
Not withstanding the narration and the sense that one could stop with the MaddAddam books now, it should be interesting to see where Margaret Atwood takes us in the final installment.

Other Stuff:
The Year of the Flood (by Margaret Atwood; narrated by Bernadette Dunne, Katie McNichol and Mark Bramhall; featuring music and lyrics written by Margaret Atwood and performed by Orville Stoeber) qualifies for:
Β  Β  Β  Β  Β Β 
I borrowed a library CD edition of The Year of the Flood (by Margaret Atwood; narrated by Bernadette Dunne, Katie McNichol and Mark Bramhall; featuring music and lyrics written by Margaret Atwood and performed by Orville Stoeber) from The Ashland Library (Jackson County Library System in Southern Oregon.) I receive no monies, goods or services in exchange for reviewing the product and/or mentioning any of the persons, companies or organizations that are or may be implied in this post.

My Future Self: Home Office Excavation: Week 3

OK, so, again, what we’re looking at doesn’t appear so dramatic in terms of “Before” and “After”; but the ability to get a clear and detailed shot of the same space is a testament to the importance of light in the space! Also, to give you a sense of scale, the mound of papers in the “Before” photo is approximately 16″ high and 42″ long (not counting that basket.) Progress was made rather quickly because of something I had not anticipated: momentum. After Week 2’s efforts, I was really eager to start on Week 3! I wasn’t even finished (and am still not) with the list of things to do from week 2; but I found myself itching to tackle the next segment of my home office. Throughout the week, I was ferreting through the floor stacks, recycling, shredding, throwing things away and, shoring up the stacks as they threatened to slide into cleared areas. And that’s the other thing: no shoving things back into a previously cleared space. Once it’s cleared, it needs to stay that way! I caught myself stacking more books onto the floor next to the shelves before I realized that if I kept doing that, I was creating my own Sisyphean hell :-/
So what were some of the Found Objects this week?
Another Copy of Animal Farm (by George Orwell; illustrated by Ralph Steadman): Oy, I just bought a copy of this a couple of weeks ago! I saw it in the window of an independent bookshop and I knew I had to have it! What I didn’t realize was that I already had a copy. And that’s the thing: I don’t even know what I have any more. That said, if I had wanted to get to the copy that I had first bought, I couldn’t have because it was “lost” in all the chaos. I’m keeping both copies as a reminder of my folly and a reminder against impulse purchasing. There are a lot of books on those shelves and most are catalogued on goodreads; but when I have cleared the room, a major reorganization of those books is in order.
Jumbo Office Clips: Five years ago, I bought a box of twelve jumbo office clips. Apparently they breed! I found over fifty! What this really means is that when I was taking work home, the office clips were somehow getting left behind when the work went back to the office. I was not intending to steal office supplies; but technically, that’s what I was doing. This week I returned all of them (minus twelve.) I’m marking the remaining twelve with a spot of nail polish so I can more easily identify what is mine and what is not!
Christmas Decorations: From 2010. Three bins as a matter of fact. This past Christmas, we couldn’t figure out where some of our Christmas decorations went, including a creche! There were here under a mound of stuff. These will go into a storage unit that’s not my Mom Cave.
Old envelopes and stamps: When I was maybe eight-years old, I was fascinated by a series of animal stickers which the issuing company called stamps. I told my Mom that I wanted to collect stamps and she thought that I was interested in philatelic pursuits. My godfather, a hardcore stamp collector was eager to encourage me as well. I never screwed up the courage to tell them I wasn’t really interested in stamp collecting, so for many years the misunderstanding stood. As a result, I actually have a rather nice collection of stamps and first day covers; but what I also have that’s not so nice is a habit of saving envelopes and canceled stamps even though I don’t collect anymore. All the envelopes and canceled stamps that I was “saving” for the past five years either got put in the recycling bin or thrown away. Its’ amazing how much space all these bits of paper took up!
Next week, we’ll look at some other paper demons….
See Also:
Epiphanies 2011 (“MyFuture Self”)
My Future Self: Home Office Excavation (wherein I talk about the impact of clutter)
My Future Self: Home Excavation: Week 2 (wherein I talk about the effect of light and, planning)

To My Zombie Comrades-in-Arms,

Isaac Marion, the author who created WARM BODIES, has put together a collection of short stories, one of which is set in the WB world. The collection is called THE HUNGRY MOUTH. This week-end, Isaac Morton is autographing about 300 copies and shipping them out. There are still copies available!

isaacmarion:

My new book, The Hungry Mouth, came off the presses today. What you see before you is what I’ll be doing this weekend: hand-packaging, labeling, and shipping all 300+ of these…

Get yours at www.thehungrymouth.com Still got about 100 available!

When She Woke


When She Woke
by Hillary Jordan
narrated by Heather Corrigan
β“… 2011, HighBridge Audio
10.80 hours

Set in the not-to-distant future and in a society that has sought to redress its issues with religious fundamentalism, When She Woke features Hannah Payne, a young woman convicted of aborting her unborn child. She is sentenced to sixteen years living as a red Chrome, meaning that she has been injected with a virus that turns her skin blood red. Its plot line is very similar to that of The Scarlet Letter (by Nathaniel Hawthorne) and might be considered a homage to the Classic and/or a re-imagining of the tale from the woman’s (Hester Prynne as Hannah Payne) point of view.

Hillary Jordan has taken care to cast her characters in a realistic and human way. Hannah Payne expresses her doubts, angers, insecurities and new convictions in way that is believable. The reader may not find her logic unassailable; but her actions and new awareness bear the pedigree of experience. Aiden Dale, as the modern iteration of Hawthorne’s Arthur Dimmesdale, is a morally complex man drawn with true pathos and much less of a villain for his cowardice than the original. Jordan has fleshed out the emotional landscape of this story without excessive melodrama and provided a way to connect with the Classic. That is not to say that the story doesn’t stand well on its own, because it does. Without having read The Scarlet Letter, a reader would be interested in the characters’ psychological development and perhaps question his or her own convictions as they travel with Hannah on her literal and interior journey:

“Was that all her religious beliefs had ever been then, a set of precepts so deeply inculcated in her that they became automatic, even instinctive? Hear the word God, think He. See the misery of humankind, blame Eve. Obey your parents, be a good girl, vote Trinity Party, never sit with your legs apart. Don’t question, just do as you’re told.”


What might give a reader pause is that there is a fine line between honoring a Classic such as The Scarlet Letter and, being unoriginal. The Scarlet Letter certainly provided the creative impetus for Ms Jordan; and despite her claims that The Handmaid’s Tale (by Margaret Atwood) was not an influence, the comparisons are inescapable. The influence of The Handmaid’s Tale may not have been direct, but Ms Jordan’s invites the comparison by creating scenes that are strikingly similar in tone and substance to Ms Atwood’s own dystopian novel. Drawing so heavily upon the Classic, and coincidentally upon Ms Atwwod’s work, for plot points and character creation may give credence to the charge that Ms Jordan may have borrowed too heavily. Still, what Hillary Jordan brought to the table was a fresh, credible voice to the plight of a woman caught between a rock and a hard place.
Heather Corrigan is renders the text very nicely. The listener will be easily able to discern between interior thought and dialogue and, the mood(s) of the protagonist, Hannah Payne, from whose POV the story is told. Though Heather Corrigan sounds younger than the protagonist, her skill set in bringing Hannah to life is not to be denied. One minor quibble is that the word is “Chrome,” not “Crone.” Once you know what the word is supposed to be, it’s all good πŸ™‚

See also:The Scarlet Letter (by Nathanial Hawthorne)
The Handmaid’s Tale (by Margaret Atwood)

Other Stuff: When She Woke (by Hillary Jordan; narrated by Heather Corrigan) qualifies for:

I purchased and dnloaded a copy of When She Woke (by Hillary Jordan; narrated Heather Corrigan) from weread4you.com. I receive no monies, goods or services in exchange for reviewing the product and/or mentioning any of the persons or companies that are or may be implied in this post.

Ten on Tuesday: 01/24/2012

It looks exactly the same as last week!

  1. The Unit (by Ninni Holmqvist)
  2. The Year of the Flood (by Margaret Atwood; narrated by Mark Bramhall, Bernadette Dunne and, Katie McNichol)
  3. Running the Rift (by Naomi Benaron)
  4. Emma (by Jane Austen)
  5. The Captive Bride (by Johanna Lindsay)
  6. Enough About Love (by Herve LeTellier)
  7. Something Borrowed (by Emily Griffin)
  8. Washington: A Life (by Ron Chernow; narrated by Scott Brick)
  9. Quantum of Solace (James Bond #8; by Ian Fleming; narrated by Simon Vance)
  10. The Kite Runner (by Khaled Hosseini)

January started off strongly, with me completing a book every couple of days; and then Wham! Real Life played it’s card as it sometimes does and now I’m off pace. These things tend to self-correct though and I’m not discouraged. Hopefully, next week’s list will look a bit different πŸ™‚

My Future Self: Home Office Excavation: Week 2

When I first decided to start de-cluttering my home office, the first thing I did was to take a series of “Before” photos. There turned out to be thirteen photos that covered the various sections of my office (and; no I couldn’t get a single shot that encompassed it all!) I decided that each week I would tackle the segment of my office that had been captured in one of the photographs. It’s good to have a plan. In fact, there’s quite a bit of time required in developing a method of attack for each section. I learned that this week when I just went higgledly-piggedly into the office expecting it to be like last week: After a a few hours, the section would be cleared! Um no. This week I discovered that some de-cluttering solutions require more time and forethought.

Before

One of the things that happened during last week-end’s cleanup was that there were literal “shifts” in the strata of stuff in the center of the room. Stuff disappeared into the maw and other stuff washed up on the shores of my fiction book shelves. Also, apparently, I became Queen of Mixed Metaphors!

One of the other noticeable differences that occurred as a result of last week-end’s cleanup was that, in removing a stack of books from atop my woofer, more light was able to make it’s way in. Working with an iPhone camera, I had been unable to get a clean, clear photo the first time around; but this time I was able to get a very detailed picture. One can also safely guess that the admittance of light probably has a more positive effect upon my moods than sitting in dismal gloominess πŸ™‚ (☜ ☜ See that? A smiley emoticon!)
At first blush, there doesn’t appear to be much that I need to do and the “After” photo (see below) isn’t so dramatic as last week’s; but still, there’s enough to tackle!
In the upper left hand cube, you can see a box laying horizontally across the tops of books. It’s The Complete National Geographic (Every Issue of National Geographic Since 1888 on DVD-ROM.) DH bought it for me for Christmas in 2010 because even then, the clutter had been an issue; and this was DH’s response to the years of National Geographics that I had on hand and in storage (Yes, there is a storage unit somewhere… to be discussed later. Much, much later.) I haven’t even opened the box set of DVD-ROMs, but I’m going to do so this week. If it’s all good, then I’ll be donating the National Geographic print magazines to an organization that wants them. I will pay the shipping costs because it will be worth it for me to get them out of here. If the CD-ROM thing doesn’t work out, I will get a bunch of magazine files and store the 30+ years of magazines on top of the non-fiction shelving unit. BTW, for those of you who own a backlog of National Geographic magazines and would like a way to find any article you may want to read, The Publications Index is very handy indeed πŸ™‚ (☜ ☜ Look at that! Another smiley emoticon! Before you know it, I’ll be whistling while I work!)
  • Note to Self: Start researching who wants old National Geographic magazines

In the next cube to the right, you can see a shiny gilt edge of something. This something is a frame that, uh, frames a needlepoint portrait of Mary, Mother of God. The needlework was done by my godfather’s wife in 1978 to commemorate my Confirmation in the Roman Catholic faith. Now, my faith isn’t what it used to be; but the needlework is really fine and the overall picture is beautiful. It will be hung in my daughter’s bedroom and away from direct sunlight.
  • Note to Self: Pick up picture hanging hardware. Actually I just need a nail.

In the cube below the first one, you can see a piece of paper. It’s an Earphones Award for The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (by William L. Shirer; narrated by Grover Gardner.) I was the studio engineer for all fifty-seven-plus hours of the production. The Earphones Award was bestowed by AudioFile Magazine to the narrator and he gave it to me for safekeeping. This is not what he had in mind. So, the award goes into a plastic folder thing for now. I would like to have all of Grover’s Earphones awards framed and I have a great patch of wall in my office where they could all go.
  • Note to Self: Blackstone had a whole bunch of Earphones awards framed and mounted in one of the conference rooms. Find out from Josh’s secretary where they had the framing done and about how much it costs.
Diagonally across from the Earphones Award, there is a orange, brownish blob. It is a jar of honey. It was also a hostess gift a narrator brought when he came over for dinner. An Albanian beekeeper in Southern California produced the jar of honey; and for some reason I don’t want it opened, much less eaten. It’s sort like a little arty icon sitting there. I can’t explain it; but there it sits. It’s gotta move because it does not belong on a bookshelf. So off to the kitchen, onto a top shelf where hopefully DH won’t raid it during some midnight feeding frenzy.
  • Note to self: Put a florescent green Mr. Yuk sticker on the jar to deter DH
Next to the honey jar there is a CD, Louisiana Fairytale: Tommy Sancton’s Crescent City Serenaders. This gets shelved with Song for My Fathers (by Tom Sancton) on a TBR shelf.
And now onto the seemingly innocuous thing: The papers, basket and plushy pineapple you see in the corner of the photo. It doesn’t look like much; but it actually fills an entire 20″L x 14″W x 10″H bin and then some. I know this because I’ve taken all the stuff and put in the described white bin and hauled it into the dining room to be sorted and dispositioned. Ironically, I had to spend some time clearing off the dining room table first :-/
The plushy pineapple, a souvenir to the Dole Plantation in Hawaii when I was eight years old, goes into my daughter’s plushy bin. When I recover the Dole patch that was on it, I’ll sew or hot-glue it back on. The white basket goes back into the office, this time residing on top of the fiction book shelves, to be brought out again at Easter. The papers were sorted. I’ll spare the grueling details of this one for now; but I’ll get into it later when we’re just dealing with paper clutter. I will say, however, that we are now eating off of TV trays because I’ve requisitioned the dining room table to do paper triage.
Found objects: A red croquet ball, two 3 lb hand weights, a clear tack and, a dust bunny the size of a small cat. The red croquet ball gets put aside to be later stored with my Alice in Wonderland ephemera (which I believe may be behind door #3, which is currently obstructed by the Mountain of Mess); The hand weights get put in the master bedroom, hopefully to be joined by the workout DVD that goes along with it as soon as I can find it; the clear tack gets picked up off the floor and stuck into the bulletin board (to be put up once I have the floor space to position a stepping stool) and; the dust cat gets consigned to the dust bin.
After
See Also: