Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Maybe It's Just the Method: Thoughts on The Future of Bookfoolery

This is how I've felt about my own blog, for the past year or so:

Well, no wonder I'm burnt out. If you're bored by your own blog, for crying out loud, what's the point?

I must say, I was very relieved to find that I'm not the only one who has been going through this angsty stage. Andi at Estella's Revenge, Heather of Capricious Reader, Beth Fish Reads and Shannon of River City Reading have all talked about being bored with their blogs, wanting to shake things up, switching to "free range reading". I had no idea that so many blog buddies were going through the same thing, primarily because I've been staying away from blogs in the hopes that un-internetting myself would help.

So, here's what I'm thinking. When I began writing this blog, my reviews were deliberately casual online journal entries about my reading and my family. I didn't spend a lot of time on them. This review of London Transports by Maeve Binchy, for example, was my first post. I wrote my thoughts and moved on. Sometimes I just posted a photo with a few words or told an anecdote.

I've been thinking about blogging a lot and I'm pretty sure that the only way I'm going to be able to carry on is to return to a simpler blogging style, keep my posts brief, allow myself to be more random, do away with the formality of reviewing (which keeps creeping back; this part may be a struggle). What do you think? Think that will work? Am I crazy even thinking about sticking around?

Addendum: Fist pumps to "free range reading".

©2014 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery  or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

The Color of Burnout

Burnout is orange. It's made of sharp pointy things and it smells of blackened pizza. It makes you prickly and insufferable if you think about it too much. It's not especially pleasurable but the outcome can be positive in the long run. I've been here, before.

Yes, my friends, I am definitely still in the midst of blogger burnout. I thought maybe a week or two of avoidance would do the trick but I'm still happiest away from the computer. So I've been thinking maybe I'll do weekly updates till I get over the hump. It doesn't aggravate me to sit at the computer and write. It's merely reviewing that I can't tolerate.  Frustrating, but hopefully it will pass.

Reading update:

After my last update, I finished Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck. Believe it or not, I was never assigned any Steinbeck reading at all during my school years. Shocking, no? I've read several of his works as an adult and inexplicably convinced myself that Of Mice and Men was one of them. But, recently I came to the realization that I was wrong; I hadn't read it at all. And, of all the books I've read recently, Of Mice and Men turned out to be the one that gave me the strongest I want to talk about this sensation I've had in quite some time. So, it was definitely a fulfilling read.

My copy of The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell arrived via Paperback Swap not long before Trish announced her Sparrow Read-Along (#SparrowRAL at Twitter, still under way) so I joined in on that and finished it, mid-week. The story is still rolling around in my head. I liked the story but I loved the characters, particularly Emilio. I still miss Emilio.

I only finished two other books, this week, both poetry for children from the "Poetry for Young People" series published by Sterling, both purchased. I enjoyed the extra material in the two volumes I read in April: Robert Frost and African-American Poetry, so I was very excited to find some of the other titles in the series reasonably priced when I went shopping for poetry.  These are the two I purchased and read, this week:

The illustrations in both books are fabulous and I particularly enjoyed the Kipling because there was ample information about each poem, beyond the biographical information at the front of the book. I'm not certain Dickinson is for me, to be honest. But, I do claim a few favorite lines from her poems -- like, "Hope is the thing with feathers" -- even though I'm not entirely taken with her poetry, in general.  I've been in a Serious Poetry Mood, so I have purchased a few other titles and hope to get started on them, soon.

I've also begun reading The Light Between the Oceans by M. L. Stedman, as planned. I began reading Gail Sheehy's memoir, Daring: My Passages, shortly after I started The Sparrow, although the reading of Daring skidded to a halt during the time I was most immersed in The Sparrow. And I just began reading A Survival Guide for Life by Bear Grylls, last night. I'm definitely enjoying my reading more, now that I've relinquished the pressure of reviewing. Hopefully, I'll someday get my reviewing mojo back. In the meantime, I'm just going to enjoy myself and take each day as it comes, soak up the air, endeavor not to burn the next pizza, play with the cats. It's in the 70s! The windows are open!!  Cool air makes being alive a million times more gratifying.

Happy thoughts to all.

©2014 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery  or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Not-quite-a-week update

Just thought I'd drop by my blog. Hello anyone who reads this. Hello, blog. The blog break is helping, already. I've only finished one book, this week: Spillover by David Quammen. I didn't feel much like reading, at the beginning of the week, but I'm slowly getting back my reading mojo. Spillover, about zoonotic diseases (those that cross over from animal to human -- which is most of them), is excellent and will make you want to get the annual flu shot, wash your hands regularly, wear a mask, possibly hide from people. I'm reading Of Mice and Men by Steinbeck, now.

I'm going to take another week off but I have this sneaking suspicion that I'll be okay when that ends. I'll keep updating. I'm happy that I feel fine sitting to type an update. My brain was starting to feel like the photo above. I'm shooting for this:

I'm going to make this next week an internet-free staycation week and we'll see if that gets the brain clutter down to reflective pond with beautiful trees and a mountain backdrop or, at least, small-town traffic level. If not, I'll stay away a bit longer.

Here are the books I plan to dip into, this week:

The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell - There's a Sparrow Read-Along going on  [#SparrowRAL on Twitter] and I'm already behind but I'm hoping to get started reading The Sparrow, this week.

California by Edan Lepucki - The copy of California in my house is a book that's traveling and since it has one more stop after my home, I need to get going on it so it can move on to the next reader.

The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Steadman is my F2F book group's September selection. Last month, I screwed up and waited too late to get started reading and I'm not sure if I'll make it to the meeting but I still want to get the book read in time, just in case.

OK, off to stick my head back into the sand. Bye for now!

©2014 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery  or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Tuesday Twaddle in lieu of Monday Malarkey and Time Off from Blogging

I opted not to get on the computer most of the day, yesterday, because I had to do important things like eat birthday cake. Also, after updating my browser over the weekend, I'm still getting used to the browser updates, which are frustrating. Silly little things have changed, like no longer being able to write an accent sign over an e by hitting Option and E. I guess I'm going to have to look that stuff up all over again, just when I got it memorized. Le sigh. So, anyway, you get Tuesday Twaddle instead of Monday Malarkey. Same thing, really.

Recent arrivals:

  • One Flight Up by Susan Fales-Hill - via Paperback Swap
  • Stormdancer and Kinslayer by Jay Kristoff - Purchased
  • The Forgotten Man Graphic Edition by Amity Shlaes and
  • Shades of Gray by Susanne Jacoby Hale - sent by friend

Last week's posts:

Last week's reads:

  • The Time Fetch by Amy Herrick 
  • 2 A.M. at The Cat's Pajamas by Marie-Helene Bertino
  • Second Form at Malory Towers by Enid Blyton

Currently reading:

Just Spillover by David Quammen. I'm sure I'll add something else, soon, but I'd like to make a little progress on the reading of Spillover, since I've been hacking away at it, off and on, for ages.

Blog plans:

I'm going to take some time off from the blog as I've been having a terrible bout of insomnia and also feel like I want to scream at the thought of sitting down to write a blog post. Clearly, I've become a little burned out (plus, lack of sleep can totally screw up one's ability to think straight). We got a new gym in town, a couple weeks ago, and I'm finding that my days revolve around planning when to exercise, so maybe it will help if I take off some time, get into a routine, and then fit my blog posts within whatever time ends up being open. I enjoyed The Time Fetch and 2 A.M. at The Cat's Pajamas enough that I doubt I'll have any trouble remembering them well enough to write about them later, so I'm not worried about that. I'm planning to do a giveaway some time this month, as well, so hopefully I'll feel recovered within a week or two.

Having said all that, I can't tell you how long I'll be away. I've found that I need to take breaks from blogging more often every year. If I don't feel like writing about books within a week or a month, I'll just stay away till I do. Best to all, till then!

©2014 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery  or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Fiona Friday - Cat with gnome

I asked for help naming my gnome on Facebook and friends came up with some excellent names, then I completely forgot to make a decision. Since I'm posting a photo of Izzy with gnome, I'm still open to suggestions.  Also, Happy Labor Day weekend to the Americans!

©2014 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery  or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Season of the Dragonflies by Sarah Creech

Season of the Dragonflies by Sarah Creech
Copyright 2014
William Morrow - Fiction/Magical realism
Source: Sent by publisher for TLC tour

Remember on Monday when I said I had plenty of time to finish Season of the Dragonflies because my tour wasn't scheduled till the 28th? No? Well, I did, and it turned out I was looking at the wrong week of the calendar. Fortunately, I finished the book last night. Whew! Close scrape.

Season of the Dragonflies begins with the tale of Serena Lenore, how she fell deeply in love and discovered a flower called Gardenia potentiae. From the blossom, Serena created a perfume that grants its users the power to fulfill their every dream. The Lenore family fortune has grown due to careful sale of the special potion at an extraordinary price; but, true love has escaped the grasp of the youngest Lenore daughters, Mya and Lucia. After one of the famous buyers of the special elixir threatens to expose the Lenore family's secret, Mya takes a chance that Great-Grandmother Serena's threat -- that a curse will fall on the family if the formula is altered -- is an empty one.

But, even before she mixes a new formula that she hopes will solve their problem, things begin to go wrong. The flowers are not releasing the powerful scent that normally fills the town of Quartz Hollow during harvest time. Perplexed, mother and company president Willow Lenore delays the harvest while she tries to figure out what's gone wrong.

Meanwhile, Mya and Lucia are facing off. Lucia left home many years ago but Mya has always stayed, certain of her future as the next company president. Mya and Willow have the family gift in different forms but Lucia has never shown any hint of the gift at all. Now divorced, Lucia has returned home and has, for the first time in her life, seen a vision. And, it's a bad one. 

While the Lenore women deal with the threat to their business, they're also faced with new possibilities. Mya is dating a younger man who loves her but she's unsure she can ever love and commit to anyone. Lucia finds that the spark between her and the man she once loved has not gone out. Even Willow may have a second chance at love.

What is causing the changes in the flower that are making Gardenia potentiae lose its scent? Can anything be done to save the flowers or will the Lenore family lose everything they've ever worked for and cared about? 

I loved the historical chapter and then absolutely hated the first few scenes of Season of the Dragonflies. There were two types of scenes I dislike, right off the bat. It was not a good start but I DNF'd the last book I read for TLC Tours so I decided I was just going to have to force my way through Season of the Dragonflies, no matter what. But, while it was slow going, at first, eventually the promise was revealed. By the time I was 1/3 of the way into the book, the pages were absolutely flying.

Sarah Creech's writing was compared to that of one of my favorite authors, Sarah Addison Allen, in the publicity material. That was why I decided to participate in the blog tour and I was not disappointed. Although there are plenty of scenes of a type I tend to dislike in Season of the Dragonflies, the magical realism is lovely and dreadful and enthralling. I like being surprised when I open a book, so I'm not going to share any of the details but the secret to saving the family crop is wound up in something completely unexpected and yet integral to the story. It's there from the beginning and I didn't like it, at first, but I absolutely loved the solution and the denouement.

Recommended - After the initial historical scene that set the background, Season of the Dragonflies got off to a rocky start for this reader but thank goodness I didn't go for the 50-page rule and set this book aside. The farther you read, the more beguiling the story becomes; and, even elements that I normally dislike in a story ceased to make me squirm as I realized their relevance. I absolutely loved the magical touches, the characterization, and the unexpected revelations that pulled everything together at the end. It will be fun seeing what Sarah Creech comes up with, next.

©2014 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery  or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Paramédico by Benjamin Gilmour

Paramédico: Around the World by Ambulance by Benjamin Gilmour
Copyright 2012
The Friday Project (an imprint of HarperCollins)
Originally published 2011 in Australia by Pier 9 (an imprint of Murdoch Books Pty Ltd.)
Source: Purchased

Cynicism among paramedics in Australia is so entrenched that Pip James, a former lecturer at the ambulance education centre in Sydney, used to insist her students write themselves a letter immediately after employment. This letter would outline the students' motives for joining the job, the way they perceived the profession and a description of the paramedics they hoped to become. The letters were then sealed and only opened again once they had returned to the school after a year on the road. As expected, the students squirmed horribly when reading their earlier sentiments. But many also learnt how insidiously tainted they had become.

It's easier to avoid cynicism, however, when patients present with genuine and pressing needs, when the service is not abused. Ambulance workers in the West generally agree that the level of disgruntlement in their job is directly proportional to the number of time-wasters they attend. When customers call for a lift to the shops, for a drink of water, for a blanket when cold, it's no surprise. If customers reserved calling ambulances for serious injuries and acute illnesses only, frustration and cynicism among paramedics would probably decline accordingly. 

~p. 164

The purchase of Paramédico was one of those cases of "One book leads to another." First, I came across my old copy of The Paramedics and decided I wanted to read it, again, because I've been watching old reruns of the cult classic show Emergency!  Then, I happened across Rescue by Anita Shreve -- again, whilst unloading boxes of books and organizing my home library. I'm not even quite sure how I came across Paramédico, to be honest, but since I purchased it from an online bookstore I'm guessing that I just happened to be looking up something entirely different and thought, "Hmm, I wonder if there are any new titles about paramedics." It's an old obsession; I have quite a little collection of books about EMS and a handful of novels with paramedic heroes.

Paramédico is quite different from the other books I've read because it's not just about being a paramedic and what it's like; it's about the experiences of a paramedic who traveled around the world working with other paramedics, doctors, nurses and some lesser qualified medics while, at times, filming them. There's a film by the same name. I have yet to locate a DVD that will work in the U.S. but you can purchase Paramédico on demand at Vimeo, so I may give in and do that. I really would like to see the film.

The book is absolutely fascinating, as much (possibly more) from a cultural perspective as the stories of field medicine in action. After reading The Paramedics, I'd been wondering what emergency medical services are like in other countries and I could not have chosen a more fascinating peek into the differences in how ambulances are dispatched and staffed, what supplies are carried, what is expected of medics by patients in different countries. Expectation was something I had not thought about, actually, that in some places the expectation -- of pain relief or the lack of it, for example -- is completely different. Can you imagine an American accepting a vitamin shot or a valium injection for just about everything? Isn't it beyond fathoming that there's a country where the ambulances carry no drugs at all? Valium, vitamin shots, no medication, a ride on a floating ambulance that makes you queasy but lacks disposable vomit bags . . . those are options in other places.

One thing that seems to be a constant wherever you go is abuse of the system, something that baffles me because the last thing I can imagine anyone desiring is a ride in an ambulance or a visit to an emergency room, especially for no good reason. I'd have to be near death to end up in either (that's happened once -- I was in bad enough shape that I have almost no memory of it, which is fine by me).

Paramédico begins with an introduction and a chapter about the author's first posting in the Australian Outback. After you get to know the author's Australian background, he takes you on a journey around the world with stops in South Africa, England, the Philippines, Macedonia, Thailand, Pakistan, Iceland, Italy, the U.S. (Hawaii) and Mexico. His travels took place over quite a few years and it's been a few years since publication, so things may have changed in some of the countries he visited; Gilmour does make that perfectly clear. But, you still get a unique perspective on various cultures that likely have not altered much. I think that's what I loved most about the book. It had the feel of a travelogue but from a unique perspective, that of each country's emergency services.

The biggest problem most readers will probably have with Paramédico is that you need a strong stomach to read some of the medical scenes. I have no problem with that, possibly because of the stories my father used to tell about his time as a Navy Corpsman on a hospital ship. The reality is another thing entirely, I'm sure.

Highly recommended - A well-written peek into EMS in 11 different countries. Medical professionals of all kinds will appreciate the stories of situations and treatment but it's the cultural perspective that really makes Paramédico an excellent book; and, it's very well written. If you can read about messy medical situations without getting queasy, it's a book that I highly recommend.

One note: The author is not particularly complimentary to Americans. That didn't bother me. I think it's good to read about what people think of us in other countries and to get an outside viewpoint of where and how we (or the politicians who represent us) may be causing trouble for others.

Is this the last link in my latest round of chain-reading? Nope, I noticed a couple other books I'm pretty sure I haven't gotten around to reading during last week's work on the library (both novels with paramedic heroes, I think). So, I'll keep sliding in an EMS read, now and then. It will be hard to beat Paramédico. I hope Benjamin Gilmour will write more about his experiences, in the future.

©2014 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery  or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.