Monthly Archives: August 2009

Reading List: August

August– a great month for reading! Since moving, I have treated myself to a wondrous library card which I intend to take full advantage of. (Did she just end a sentence with a preposition? Yes she did!) There is an excellent library here with a branch just around the corner from my apartment. In fact, I would be there right now if it was not closed on Sundays.

Trickster’s Choice and Trickster’s Queen by Tamora Pierce

Tamora Pierce is one of the most influential writers in my life. Her Lioness Quartet numbers among my favorite works of literature. So, imagine my joy when I obtained the first of these books in hardcover from Swaptree.com. This two volume series is set in the Tortall universe and follows the adventures of Alanna’s daughter, Alianne of Pirate’s Swoop as she finds herself embroiled in the affairs of the trickster god, Kyprioth.

Like many of Pierce’s works, this series features a strong female protagonist. Aly is the sort of hero a young girl can look up to. She is strong, independent, and uses her own skills and strengths to work her way through tough situations. She is the sort of female hero that seems to be lacking in more recent young adult works.

I enjoyed both books but the first is by far the more interesting of the two. I loved the intricacies of Aly’s world of spies and the intrigue of the brewing revolution happening within the Balitang household. I loved watching Aly grow from a spoiled, misdirected girl to a self-assured, powerful woman.

Still, there were several points within the series that were disappointing. Above all, I found it hard to connect or feel for many of the characters within the novels. Aside from Aly herself, the majority of the characters felt one-dimensional– as though too much time was spent treating the characters as if they were chess pieces on a game board instead of individuals. I can see, due to the nature of the story itself, how this was necessary but it was rather disappointing. Again, the second book spent too much time lining up pieces than creative a compelling narrative. It was only near the end of the second volume that I started to feel for the characters as I had in the first book, and by then the story was ready to end.

Just After Midnight by Stephen King

The short story is my favorite form of literature. It takes a true master to craft a successful and compelling short story and in many ways this newest collection from Stephen King falls short. I have one major complaint about King’s works and it features prominently within this collection: his writing becomes formulaic after a while. There are distinct patterns, themes, and ideas that prevail throughout this collection (as well as his other works).

Just After Sunset essentially boils down to the same story written three or four times with different characters in slightly different situations or settings. I like my short stories to be filled with ideas and a certain degree of mystery– many of these were simply stories for the sake of stories. Sure, they were entertaining to read but unmemorable beyond that.

That said, there were several stories within the collection that satisfied the short story elitist lurking in my chest. (Incidentally, she’s usually dressed all in black, wearing a black beret, and sipping coffee like the stereotypical poetic type. “Lowfat milk and two shots of espresso, please,” she requests from the other side of a chain coffee-shop counter.) My favorite story from the collection is simply titled N. and tells the story of a circle of stones and the people whose lives are consumed in maintaining a rift. My other favorite stories include Willa and Stationary Bike.

Overall, the collection was entertaining if not the most profound collection of stories. Who doesn’t enjoy a little human suffering and horror every now and again?

Night by Elie Wiesel

This one can easily be finished in an afternoon. I picked it up on a whim between chatting and gaming online, before I knew it I was turning the last page and swaying back and forth between disgust and amazement. I think what I liked most about this narrative was the simplicity of the writing. Night is blunt and powerful. I regret not having the opportunity to read it for a class, but am infinitely glad it popped up on my Swaptree page.

Overall, it has been a productive month for reading on the home front! I think this has been the only New Year’s Resolution I’ve actually managed to stick to.

Attack of the Books

Just what you wanted, more pictures of the apartment. Last week Shawn brought all of his books down. It certainly was a chore carrying them all up to our second story unit. Here are some before and after photos:

booskbefore

Before

After.

After

Webkinz: Redecorating

It has been a long time since I updated about my newest friend, Mr. Battykins! Over the last few months, I have been concentrating on building him a lovely house to live in. So here are a few snapshots of the renovations:

The Bedroom.

The Bedroom.

Battykins loves swimming!

Battykins loves swimming!

Swaptree.com

Do you like to read? Do you have an addiction to buying a new book every time you walk past a bookstore? I do! So if you are anything like me, you might find the newest trend of trading your old books, CDs, video games, or DVDs for someone else’s old books, etc. One man’s trash is another’s treasure, as they say.

Before I moved, I signed up at Swaptree.com hoping to clear my shelves and obtain a few items I wanted in return. It is an interesting idea. The system finds trades for me based on my “want list” and my “have list,” all I have to do is take them to the post office and pay the shipping. Don’t want to wait in line at the post office? Swaptree has an option to print and pay for postage using a credit card via their system.

For the most part, my experiences with the site have been positive. I was able to trade a few unwanted books and DVDs for long-lusted-after items. Among these items were hardcover editions of Tamora Pierce’s Trickster’s Choice and Stephen King’s recent short-story collection, Just After Sunset. The site is easy to navigate and includes a feedback system much like the one seen on eBay. Users accept or reject trades that are offered to them through the system.

There are two major downsides, however, to the system. First, Users choose a condition for their items much like those that appear on the Amazon marketplace (i.e. Like New, Good, Acceptable). For my part, I am a stickler when it comes to the condition of my books. The items I traded were all in like new to very good condition, and as a trader I expect to receive items of the same caliber. Imagine my disappointment when I received books that were marked as “good” to find them yellowed, creased, wrinkled, and torn for my practically new items. Second, the trades are oftentimes uneven when it comes to value. I was reluctant to trade my mint condition DVDs for paperbacks in less-than-mint condition. However, Swaptree works in a way that as a user rejects trades it affects his or her rating with the site.

Overall, I really like the idea of being able to swap my items for new ones and only having to pay for the cost of shipping. There are a lot of these sites out there these days, so if you find yourself with a plethora of unwanted items it might be worth looking into.

A New Habitation

Here are a few pictures of the new apartment. I have not said much about it here, but I relocated this past week to Evanston, Illinois. Shawn will be heading off to graduate school at Loyola in the next few weeks.

Overall, I like the new place. My only complaints being the creaky floors, lack of a garbage disposal in my sink, and the super-frustrating shower. It is also very noisy here. After two days, I am already sick of the train (a block away) and the constant sirens. Boo.

The closet picture is my favorite. Allow me to display my very grayscale wardrobe. See those boxes? When I can afford it, I will buy a small desk or table and put it there for my computer and crafts. The space is big enough to comfortably fit my needs.

Enjoy the pictures!

Prototype Outfit 1

Click for bigger!

Click for bigger!

This is what I have been working on recently — designing clothes for my dolls. Granted, my sewing skills are far short of spectacular. The skirt was the first thing I designed and made up a pattern for, this was a trial run and it turned out well save for a few small flaws (it’s a little too tight) that were worked out in another skirt.

The shirt, however, has a few really major problems and once I haven’t been able to bring myself to work on it again. First, my stitching is all over the place and that’s something I think will come with a little more practice. I had some troubles attaching the velcro in the back (I am hoping adding a few extra panels will fix this). Finally, the bust area gave me all sorts of problems. The ruching in the front is a disaster and it ended up fitting awkwardly (again I am hoping the extra panels will fix some of that).

Any advice or suggestions will be greatly appreciate!