Friday, July 26, 2013

Jen Does PC Repair II

In the last edition of Jen Does PC Repair I talked about Dave's aura that interferes with electronics. I've since read The Dresden Files series and I'm convinced he's a wizard of some kind (one of the traits of wizards is just such an aura).

Last weekend we went to the inaugural PAXAUS (more on this in a later post) and while there we bought Dave a new graphics card (a Gainward GeForce GTX 760) to replace his old crossfired Radeon 4770s. They wouldn't run DirectX 11 and we could get a really nice deal at PAX (with lots of free swag) so we went for it. We got home yesterday and I installed it straight away and everything seemed fine...until his PC randomly switched off after a few hours. I figured we'd kicked a cable or something and didn't think much of it until it did it again today, and I realised it was ridiculously hot - his CPU got up to 87C. The power supply wasn't overloaded at all - it's rated for 620W and he's only running about 130W - but it seemed like the extra heat from the new card was too much for his case cooling to handle. So we carted it down to Umart to discuss it with them.

They said a first quick fix would be to just get some new thermal paste for the  CPU cooler, but since it's the middle of winter and we were already having cooling issues we decided to upgrade the CPU cooler to a water cooling system. The Umart guys suggested the entry-level Corsair Hydro Series H60. Unfortunately, they weren't available to do an install until early next week. Having just returned from 10 days of no PC (in the middle of the Steam Summer Sale) and with 4 more days before he has to go back to work, being PC-less wasn't a very favorable option. So I decided to take the plunge and install it myself.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

BA's Posting Challenge 14: Icebreaker

This week's topic: How do you get on to the topic of books when socialising, especially with new faces?

Socialising with new faces? I do not understand...

Seriously though, this is actually really easy right now thanks to the huge success of HBO's Game of Thrones. Most people have watched (or at least heard of) the show, and if they haven't it's generally easier to talk about TV than books. Once you get them started on the show, you just ask "Have you read the books the series is based on? The book series is called A Song of Ice and Fire and it's also really good!" And then, depending on their reaction, you can go from there. If they say "oh no, I don't read books", you can politely excuse yourself and move on to someone else at the party. Because who wants to socialise with someone who doesn't read books?

This post is part of the above Posting Challenge

Sunday, July 7, 2013

BA's Posting Challenge 12 & 13: Your Changes / Cha, Cha, Changes

Combined Week 12 & 13 Topics: How have you changed since your blog began? What has changed with your blog since it began?

I started this blog back in April 2010. I'd just gotten married, I was studying, and wanted a place to talk about my upcoming honeymoon and share stuff about my studies (like poetry). I also wanted to share outfit posts, because I'd recently started becoming involved in Fat Acceptance, and wanted to be more visible.

266 posts later, my blog and I have both evolved. I'm no longer studying (although I'm desperate to start again, maybe next year...) and I'm more confident in myself and my place in the Fat Acceptance community. I've gone back to the feminist roots I started putting down as a teenager, and educated myself about feminism and privilege. My blog has most recently evolved to be more books than anything else. I don't mind that, reading is a big focus of my life right now and I love talking about books.

This blog was never meant to have any kind of theme, and I still resist that strongly. It's a personal blog, more like a diary. I write about whatever I want to write about. It goes through phases. I write most about my outfits and body image and fashion, and about food; about Postcrossing, which I've recently got back in to; and about books and reading.

My blog posts get emailed to my husband, my best friend, and my Mum, so I must admit to a bit of self-censoring for that reason. I still keep my more "radical" thoughts to other platforms. My tumblr is probably where my most controversial stuff is, hidden in between the lolcats. It's mostly reblogs - there are so many fantastic people out there that say things far more coherently than I can about feminism and privilege.

I think that one of my most defining characteristics is my drive to learn. Anything, everything, I'm always trying to learn new things. And so I think that this means I am constantly changing and evolving as I learn and adapt. Which means my blog is constantly changing and evolving too.

This post is part of the above Posting Challenge

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Off The Shelf 2013: June

In June, I cheated a little bit. Well, quite a lot actually I suppose. I completed three books, but only one of them was on my Off The Shelf list, and one of the others was so tiny it hardly counts.

The first book I completed was the only one on my Off The Shelf list: The Wise Man's Fear. It was an excellent follow-up to The Name of the Wind and I'm looking forward to the final book in the trilogy, which is supposed to be out next year. There's an awful lot of story to cover yet, so I'm not sure how Rothfuss is going to cram it in to one book.

Goodreads also says I read All My Friends Are Dead in June. I did, but it's 96 cartoon pages so I'm not sure it counts! It was a birthday present from Miss RBit and really cute. But not on my Off The Shelf list!

Finally, I also read Vernon God Little in June, another book not in my Off The Shelf challenge. I didn't enjoy it as much as the friend who lent it to me, and only gave it 2 stars. The Deus ex machina feel of the ending really put me off, although the book and story overall were okay. Note that it deals with the aftermath of a shooting at a high school.

We're a week in to July and I'm halfway through American Gods with a plan to finish it this weekend. The same friend who lent me Vernon God Little has lent me another book: The Sense of an Ending. It's only 150 pages (but not on my Off The Shelf list!) so I may knock that off this weekend too. In a week I start a two-week holiday (vacation, for American readers, and no, it's not a Summer vacation, it's winter here!) and I expect I will get a lot of reading done, because I always do. So hopefully July shapes up to be a good month.

If you want to see my rating and/or review of each book, check out my Goodreads page.

This post is part of my Off The Shelf 2013 Reading Challenge

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

BA's Posting Challenge 10 & 11: Blog Meme Love / Picture Perfect

Week 10's topic: Share some of the memes others have created that you enjoy and take part in. What do you enjoy about the ones you’ve chosen to share?

The only literary meme I can think of off the top of my head is one of my favorite tumblrs (although it's a bit inactive these days): F*ck Yeah English Major Armadillo. For example:

Another good one:

Week 11's Topic: Share a photo of your books. Can be your TBR pile, your read pile, favourite books, least favourite books, books to donate, gifts, or your bookcase. What’s going on in the picture and why have you chosen to share these books?

There's a lot of options for this one. I've previously shared several book photos on this blog - for example:

My beautiful copy of The Great Gatsby

My Kindle (I was reading The Help)

My Off The Shelf 2013 reading shelf

My reading spot and some of my bookshelves

We own a lot of books. Hundreds, in fact. We have 5 bookshelves like the ones in the last picture, plus 2 shorter ones (only 4 shelves each), plus the small one my Off The Shelf books and our duplicate books are shelves on. Plus a stack on the floor in the lounge. Plus some boxes Dave inherited from his grandmother. Plus our kindles. A lot of books, is what I'm getting at. You can't walk in to our house and not know we are avid readers. So choosing which books to take pictures of is difficult. So instead, here is a picture of a book I don't own, my current read, which I borrowed from a friend (and which breaks my Off The Shelf streak, but more on that when the month is over):

This post is part of the above Posting Challenge

Monday, June 10, 2013

BA's Posting Challenge 9: Keeping Place

This week's topic: When it comes to keeping place in the book you’re reading, what’s your favorite method and has it changed over the years?

I have a confession to make: I'm a reformed dog-earer. It's true. Go ahead and judge me. But I wouldn't dream of dog-earing a book to keep my place these days. I don't really remember when my habit changed but it's been years now.

Luckily, I have a huge selection of bookmarks stashed all over the house. The biggest chunk is actually Dave's own collection of beautiful, old-fashioned leather bookmarks that he's collected from all over the place:

I don't use them very often though, they're displayed on one of our bookshelves. My current favorite is a dragon-themed bookmark from Galaxy Books that we picked up on our last trip to Sydney. My all-time favorite is the card that was attached to the first bunch of flowers Dave sent me, although that's currently languishing in a Wheel of Time, silently and scornfully marking the place I gave up on the series for the second time (towards the end of Book 4 - I made it as far as Book 9 the first time).

I also tend to hoard tags of clothes that are nice quality and bookmark-sized, and stash them next to my bed for when I need an emergency bookmark. And I'm not averse to using a scrap of paper in a pinch - store receipts work well in this regard. They're also perfect for shredding to make minor place markers - for example, a quote I like, or something I want to research.

I inherited a beautiful bookmark from my grandmother, but it's so pretty I haven't used it yet. It's currently on display on top of my jewelry box:

Of course, because I have a Kindle now I'm needing bookmarks less and less often. But I still treasure them. My Dad laughed at me recently when I gave my Mum a combination gift of a Kindle case and a hand-made bookmark. But I think Mum understood.

This post is part of the above Posting Challenge

Sunday, June 2, 2013

BA's Posting Challenge 7 & 8: Nooks / Blog Love

Another 2-for-1 deal, oops! My excuse for missing last week is that I drove up to Brisbane and back on Sunday for Dave's final tattoo session. I'll do a post on his tattoo soon, once it's fully healed.

Week 7's topic: Share a photo of your reading space/nook/area (if not possible then describe it instead). What do you love about it? How did it come to be your reading space? Is it missing anything?

While I don't have a specific reading nook (one day...) I do have the world's comfiest couch. This couch is huge and soft-but-firm, deep enough and long enough to sleep on but with plenty of cushions to pile up to get comfortable, with plenty of room for both of us, one of the cats (they tend not to socialise together) and Phoebe (if she's lucky). It's overlooked by some of our bookshelves (yes, there's plenty more), has the laptop within easy reach if I need to look something up (which I do frequently while I read), and has an excellent view of the TV if I want to have the rugby or cricket on in the background. The only thing I'm missing is a decent reading lamp - the lamp in the picture 1) has a blown bulb, and 2) points up, not down.

Week 8's topic: Share some of the other book blogs you love to follow, who have inspired you, or who have become your online besties.

Apart from Bookish Ardour, I only follow one other "dedicated" book blog: The Well Read Kitty - a fellow Kiwi. I have just added BookieMonster (another Kiwi) after she was linked from The Well Read Kitty. Some other bloggers I follow, like Miss RBit, also do book reviews and talk about reading and books. As I read more book bloggers, I'll find more that interest me - blog reading has a bit of a snowball effect. I've finally found a more-than-adequate replacement for Google Reader - Feedly. If you're looking for an RSS reader to replace Google Reader, I highly recommend this one.

I'll try to get back on track with a post a week, I promise!

This post is part of the above Posting Challenge

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Off The Shelf 2013: May

Progress slowed down a bit in May: I went through a bit of a gaming phase, picked up XCOM: Enemy Unknown, and somehow lost a fortnight. According to Goodreads, I'm still 3 books ahead of schedule for my official goal of 45 books, but that puts me 1 book behind my unofficial goal of 52 books. There's a long weekend coming up though, and we have a 2-week holiday in July, and my gaming phase has given way to another reading phase, so I'm not worried...yet!

In May I finished reading The Casual Vacancy and The Name of the Wind. Sadly, The Casual Vacancy was a great disappointment. I gave it 2 stars on Goodreads and felt that I was being generous. Like I said in my review, if it had been anyone other than Rowling I doubt I would have persisted. Most people I know who have read the book (including my Mum and Miss RBit) were of similar opinions. I can't think of anyone I would recommend this book to.

The Name of the Wind was, happily, much more enjoyable. I wasn't actually planning on starting this series just yet, but early in the month we went up to Brisbane for Dave's second tattoo session so I had a day to kill reading. I was nearly finished The Casual Vacancy but didn't want to cart a doorstop around with me, so I took my kindle thinking I'd start one of the non-fiction books on my list. I sat down, pulled out my kindle...and it was flat! You cannot imagine the horror. Luckily, Dave had his with him also (well, of course he did, why am I saying "luckily"?), but the only book on my reading list that was also on his kindle was The Name of the Wind. So, while not quite according to plan, at least I did start a really excellent book. You can see my review here. I started the sequel, The Wise Man's Fear, last night, after borrowing it from a friend. It's a much longer book (around 1000 pages), so I don't know how long it will take me. Unfortunately, the projected trilogy isn't finished yet - so depending on how long it takes Rothfuss to complete, I may end up having to do a re-read.

I also finished listening to A Game of Thrones on audiobook and started A Clash of Kings, I'm not sure I like Roy Dotrice's voice acting as much in this one. The way he pronounces Melisandre, with a huge over-the-top emphasis on the penultimate syllable ("mell-e-SOND-r") is a little grating, as is The Onion Knight's thick pirate accent. Still, it's good to have a cheat's way to re-read these huge books without eating in to my Off The Shelf reading time.

While I consider listening to A Song of Ice and Fire on audiobook only minor bending of my Off The Shelf rules, I do have some out-and-out rule-breaking coming up. The same friend who loaned me The Wise Man's Fear also loaned me Vernon God Little by D. B. C. Pierre. And who am I to turn down the loan of a book? So that will be up next after The Wise Man's Fear. I'm also being pestered by Miss RBit to read a book she highly recommends - The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein. Frankly, I'm surprised I made it 5 months without straying. At least they're both short and quick reads. It just means I have to work extra hard to keep up with my Off The Shelf reading!

If you want to see my rating and/or review of each book, check out my Goodreads page.

This post is part of my Off The Shelf 2013 Reading Challenge

Sunday, May 19, 2013

BA's Posting Challenge 5 &6: In the Design / Other Loves

I missed last week because I was sick with a pretty nasty cough, sorry, so here are two posts for the price of one!

Week 5's topic: How did you come to have your current blog design and what do you love about it?

Honestly, I haven't put a huge amount of thought in to my blog design and layout. I prefer to keep it simple and uncluttered, and I like purple. It's just one of the Blogger default themes. The Goodreads widget is new this year, since I started my reading challenges. The tagline, "You never get wise, you only get older" is a line from the Dandy Warhols' song "Big Indian". To me it's not a negative sentiment, it's saying that there's always more to learn and that there's things that you will never learn, but that's not a bad thing.

Week 6's topic: What else do you love to talk about besides books, on your blog or off it?

I talk about food a lot here. I love food. I love baking. I love to make food and share it, as a gift to my friends. Right now I have chilli jam cooking in my Thermomix, to give to some of Dave's friends from work. And we're cooking beef pot roast in the slow cooker for dinner. I wish I had more time to cook and bake more.

On my tumblr, besides reblogging cute animal pictures, I reblog a lot of feminist and fat acceptance stuff. I like to read and share that stuff and think about it, and sometimes talk to a couple of friends who "get" it, but I tend not to write it myself or share it outside of safe spaces. There's plenty of great bloggers out there who say it better than I ever could.

I also talk about computer games, sometimes here on this blog but also with my friends. My biggest time sink right now is XCOM: Enemy Unknown which is a game from one of Dave's favorite franchises. I hadn't picked up XCOM when it came out because it didn't seem like my sort of game: I prefer RPGs. But after watching Dave play it I decided that I'd check it out, and I picked it up when it was a Steam Daily Deal last week...and I love it. In fact, I'm going to go play it right now!

This post is part of the above Posting Challenge

Monday, May 6, 2013

BA's Posting Challenge 4: Meet and Greet

This week's topic: Who are some of the authors you have met or would love to meet and why?

I've only met one really famous author, and that was Raymond E. Feist when he came to do a signing in Wellington. I have a signed copy of the extended version of Magician. This was years ago now. I remember we had to wait in line for ages and that he was not doing dedications, just signing his name. He was complaining bitterly to his assistant about the quality of the coffee while he signed. Wellington has a great café culture and so I remember being offended about that. I know, now, that most big-name authors won't do dedications at bookstore signings either, because there's just not enough time. But at the time I was really disappointed.

One author I would love to meet is George R. R. Martin, author of the series A Song of Ice and Fire. He came out to Australia in 2010 for WorldCon. I really, really wanted to go but we couldn't afford it. Now of course he's super-famous thanks to the HBO series of Game of Thrones so I've probably missed my chance :(

This post is part of the above Posting Challenge

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Off The Shelf 2013: April

April was a great month because I finally finished off The Dresden Files so can move on to other, more varied reads! Since the March update, I've read books 13-14 of The Dresden Files, plus Side Jobs, the short story collection. I'm currently about halfway through The Casual Vacancy by J. K. Rowling. I'm not really sure what I think about it yet. There were a lot of characters introduced really quickly and I'm still finding it hard to keep track of who's who and on what side of the main conflict they fall. Like many others, I picked up this book because I'm a Harry Potter fan and I was excited to see what Rowling could do in a different genre and with a different target audience, but to be honest I'm not impressed so far. Once I finish reading I'll do a review.

I'm currently sitting at 18 books read for the year which is back ahead of my reading goal. I'm really loving how much I've gotten back in to reading because of these twin challenges and thanks to Goodreads. Finally I've got my reading mojo back and I'm loving it!

One thing I am struggling with though is that because of the large number of books in my Off The Shelf challenge, I don't really have the wriggle room to read other things that I might want. I'm a notorious re-reader, which is partly why I took on the challenge in the first place, but sometimes I just want to read something familiar. I'm meeting that need currently by listening to the audiobooks of the A Song of Ice and Fire series...but I have less than an hour's listening time each work day, and these books are looooooong - A Game of Thrones is nearly 34 hours, and that's the shortest. In fact, I just did a quick calculation: at this rate it's going to take me the rest of the year to listen to the series. Longer than this year even. Eeep.

I also don't have much room to squeeze in other books that I want to read if they come up. For example, there will almost certainly be another book in The Dresden Files out later this year that I'll have to fit in. My plan right now is to blast through as many of my Off The Shelf books as quickly as I can, so I have spare time towards the end of the year to read other stuff. So far that's working well, but I haven't really started reading the non-fiction on my list, and that tends to take me longer to read.

Still, I'm meeting my goals for now, which is great, and really enjoying using Goodreads to see what others are reading and enjoying. If you love reading, you should join Goodreads too!

If you want to see my rating and/or review of each book, check out my Goodreads page.

This post is part of my Off The Shelf 2013 Reading Challenge

Sunday, April 28, 2013

BA's Posting Challenge 3: Disgruntled Blogging

This week's topic: What are some of the cons you've discovered when it comes to blogging?

The two main problems I have with blogging are essentially two sides of the same coin.

Side one: sometimes I just don't feel like blogging. There's more than one failed (sorry, "on hiatus") blogging challenge in my blog history. There's stretches of weeks at a time where I post nothing. I think I'm learning to not do daily blogging challenges because that's what I struggle the most with. This weekly one is going well so far though.

Side two: sometimes when I blog I have verbal diarrhea and spit out long, rambling posts that are quite possibly only of interest to me (see yesterday's post for an example, 1800 words after excluding the block quotes). Sometimes I just really, really want to write, and write, and write. So my blog swings from nothing at all to overloaded and back again with alarming rapidity.

Luckily, because my blog is pretty small and personal and not 100% focused on a particular theme, I get very little spam or hate mail. But I know other bloggers (especially Fat Acceptance bloggers) who get daily hate mail and even death threats. So I know I'm lucky in that regard.

Otherwise, no real disgruntlement here!

This post is part of the above Posting Challenge

Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Dresden Files: Book Series Review

Yesterday I finished reading Side Jobs, the collection of short stories and novellas/novelettes set in the Dresden Files universe, and with it the series to-date. Fourteen novels and the short story collection, and I'm finally done. For now. Unfortunately, the series is far from over - Jim Butcher is apparently planning around 23 books total, which means I'll be reading The Dresden Files books for many years yet. At least I got in to the series halfway through - the first book, Storm Front, was first published way back in 2000. This review is also a general introduction to the series and its concepts. I'll try to keep this review as spoiler-free as possible, but I'm sure there will be minor spoilers. You have been warned!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

ANZAC Biscuits

Today is ANZAC Day in Australia and New Zealand, a national day of remembrance to commemorate all the soldiers from both countries that have served in our armed forces. 25 April is the anniversary of the landing at Gallipoli of the ANZAC forces, the first major military action of our countries in the First World War. It's kind of the equivalent of Veterans Day in the US.

ANZAC Day can be pretty politically charged and almost never passes without some kind of "incident" in either Australia or New Zealand. I've talked a bit before about celebrating ANZAC Day as an Atheist. Today I did the same thing I do every year on ANZAC Day - I baked ANZAC Biscuits.

Tradition has it that ANZAC Biscuits include the slow-perishing ingredients they do so that they could be baked by "wives at home" and sent to the soldiers serving overseas. Or perhaps they don't include eggs because of shortages during the war. Because "ANZAC" is protected under Australian and New Zealand law, the recipe for ANZAC biscuits must be kept generally the same, with the basic ingredients unchanged. Technically, all those ANZAC Biscuits recipe variations with macadamias, or craisins, or whatever aren't really ANZAC Biscuits. Also they must be called "biscuits" and not "cookies".

My recipe is based on the Edmonds Cookery Book recipe. Edmonds is the New Zealand cooking bible and I wouldn't be without mine, although it's starting to look a little worse for wear. I double the recipe and substitute rapadura* for regular sugar and wholemeal for plain flour. So it's still true to the "correct" recipe! ANZAC Biscuits are really easy to make too.

ANZAC Biscuits
1      cup wholemeal flour
2/3    cup rapadura sugar
1 1/3  cups desiccated coconut
1 1/2  cups rolled oats
100g   butter
2 tbsp golden syrup
1 tsp  baking soda
2 tbsp boiling water

Preheat oven to 180C. Stir together the flour, sugar, coconut, and rolled oats. Melt butter and golden syrup together (I just do this in a jug in the microwave). Dissolve baking soda in boiling water and add to butter and golden syrup. Stir butter mixture into dry ingredients. Place tablespoonsful of mixture onto cold greased trays. Flatten with a fork (mine never spread like they are supposed to so I have to flatten them). Bake for about 15 minutes until golden. If you bake for shorter time they will be chewy; longer time they will be crunchy. Cool on trays for extra crunch, or wire racks if you like them chewy (mine are chewy). Makes about 20. (The original recipe is supposed to make 20 but I have no idea how, my doubled recipe makes 20 and they're not huge).

* Rapadura sugar is evaporated sugar cane juice that is not refined or crystalised, is organic, and still includes all the molasses. It's similar to brown sugar but even less refined. It's grainier than regular sugar, but you don't notice it in crunchy-oaty-coconutty ANZAC Biscuits.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

BA's Posting Challenge 2: Book Lies

This week's topic: Have you ever lied about reading a book (if so, what was it)? Would you?

I suppose this lie goes either way - lying about something you have read and don't want to admit, or lying about something you haven't read because you want to impress someone (or some other reason). I don't really understand why you'd do either, really, although I guess I can imagine scenarios...

I suppose you might be embarrassed to admit you've read something (like Twilight or Fifty Shades) but if you enjoyed it, then good for you. If you're reading, I'm happy. Even if Twilight is...okay, I'm going to stop there, because the point of this is that I shouldn't be judging people for their reading choices, and that's something I have to work on. So yes, I suppose I can see a situation in which someone might want to hide the fact that they read (and enjoyed) something that's been put down by others (like me, yes, I am trying to learn to not be Miss Judgypants about Twilight lovers).

When I was an English Literature student, there certainly were pretentious people around who would judge you if you hadn't read their favourite classic. I can't remember ever lying about reading something I hadn't, but it's not outside the realm of possibility that I did while I was a student so I didn't look uncool to the hip Lit Student crowd (seriously). But these days I take it as a reading recommendation. If someone asks me if I've read something, and I haven't, they're probably asking because it's good and they think I should - so why lie about it? I can take their recommendation, read the book, and happily discuss it with them later. There's several books in my Off The Shelf 2013 list that I'm embarrassed to admit I haven't read yet, like To Kill a Mockingbird, but it seems pointless to lie about reading it.

So I can see how you might want to lie either way, and I can imagine scenarios in which I might have done so, but can't remember a specific instance where I lied about what I have (or haven't) read. And if you ever catch me mocking Twilight lovers, remind me that at least they're reading, and that's a Good Thing!

This post is part of the above Posting Challenge

Sunday, April 14, 2013

BA's Posting Challenge 1: Loving Blogging

As mentioned previously, I'm participating in Bookish Ardour's Posting Challenge for book bloggers. While I don't consider myself a dedicated book blogger, I have been writing about books more often recently thanks to my Off The Shelf 2013 challenge. Also, a lot of the topics are generic enough for a general blog like this one. Because books are obviously at the forefront of my mind right now, this is as good a time as any to do a bit more book blogging.

So. Today's prompt asks, "What do you love about book blogging and book blogs?" The truth is, I don't usually read a lot of book blogs. I read all sorts of other blogs - Fat Acceptance and Feminism and Personal ones, work-related ones, random ones that I read a post or two of and then never see again - but there's very few book blogs in my Google Reader (yes, I'm still using it, I haven't had the heart to find a replacement yet - why do you do this to me Google? WHY???). Ahem. Goodreads has started recommending books to me now, but it's still a bit hit-and-miss it seems. I'm also very much a "judge a book by its cover" person - I pick up books with interesting covers, and I always read the blurb on the back cover (to the horror of a friend of mine). I'll also pick up new books based on friend recommendations...But I suppose if you find a good blog, with similar tastes in books, then that would be like a friend recommendation, wouldn't it? So, if you want to recommend me a good book blogger who blogs about fantasy fiction, I'm all ears.

What I love about writing my own blog is the way it lets me get thoughts out of my head. I like sharing and connecting with other people, although I'm honestly still surprised when people comment on my posts or share them with other people on social media and stuff - I tend to treat my blog a bit like a semi-public diary and never really consider that other people might find it interesting. Mostly I blog because I like to write. I have a general personal blog without any particular direction because I like being able to write about whatever comes into my head. I go through bursts of high activity and then weeks with no activity at all. What I'm saying is, if you're new here and expecting regular posts about books, you'll be disappointed...But if you stick around you might find the occasional diamond in the rough.

This post is part of the above Posting Challenge

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Off The Shelf 2013: March

Nearly TWO weeks behind this time! That's at least partly because I've read nothing but The Dresden Files and also because, while I'm still meeting my reading goals, I'm not ahead of them any more. I had a couple of weeks of pretty intense gaming - I go through phases where I watch a lot of TV, or game, or read, and this was definitely a gaming phase (Mass Effect 3, for those interested). But I realised I need to catch up on my reading again so this week I've been spending my evenings reading.

Since the February update I've finished off books 10-12 of The Dresden Files and have nearly finished (hopefully will finish tonight) book 13. That leaves 1 more plus the short story collection. Then, finally, I'm caught up and can read something else! I'm not complaining really, I have really enjoyed the series, and once I'm caught up I'll probably do a more thorough review of the series to-date.

In March I also signed up to Audible. I'd picked up the audiobook of The Atrocity Archives by Charles Stross, primarily because it was read by Gideon Emery (who has just the most fabulous voice, swoon), and I'd been listening to it in the car on my drive to and from work. After I finished that, I decided I wanted to do it more often, so I signed up to Audible and picked up A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin, read by Roy Dotrice. I've read the books before, repeatedly, and I wanted to do another re-read but was prevented from doing so by my Off the Shelf goals, so I figured this was a great way to fit in MOAR BOOKS. Roy Dotrice's reading sounds like a grandfather and I'm really enjoying it. The best thing is Goodreads includes audiobook formats too, so the audiobooks also count towards my overall reading goals without infringing on actual reading time!

Bookish Ardour, whence came the Off the Shelf challenge, has also posted a blogging challenge which I think I will do. It's understandably book-themed, and while this blog is a bit more general than that, I still liked the sound of the challenge. It's only once a week posting which should be manageable. At least it will get me posting more than once a month. In the mean time, I'll keep ploughing through my reading goals!

If you want to see my review of each book, check out my Goodreads page.

This post is part of my Off The Shelf 2013 Reading Challenge

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Off The Shelf 2013: February

It's hard to believe it's March already! This week Dave and I celebrated our 3rd Wedding anniversary, and also last weekend I dashed over to NZ for a flying visit for my Nanna's 80th birthday. So I'm sorry for the delay in posting my February update - this update covers the first week of March also.

Thanks to several hours in planes and airports I got a lot of reading done last weekend, and my total for the year to date is 11 books so far, which is still ahead of my goal.

Since the January update, I've read the following:

  1. Books 6-9 of The Dresden Files (5 + the short story collection to go!)
  2. Reality is Broken by Jane McGonigal
Reality is Broken was my plane-and-airport read for last weekend. I have all The Dresden Files in physical copy and didn't want to be carting around books when I have a perfectly good kindle, so I chose Reality is Broken for my Dresden-break. If you're interested, I recommend you check out my review which is one of my more thorough ones. I haven't been reviewing all The Dresden Files books but they all at least get a rating.

This month will basically be all Dresden, all the time - I'm getting nagged by a friend (and Dave) to finish the series to date (and also to make predictions on what will happen, like some kind of performing prediction monkey!). I'm not sure I'll knock over the rest of the series this month but at least they're easy reads.

If you want to see my review of each book, check out my Goodreads page.

This post is part of my Off The Shelf 2013 Reading Challenge

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Off The Shelf 2013: January

My Off The Shelf dedicated bookshelf - the rest are on my kindle

Well, we're approaching the end of January so I figured it was time to do an Off the Shelf update. I'll try to do one every month so I have a record of how I did in the challenge.

If you're reading this post on my actual blog site, you can see my Goodreads widget over on the right there that shows my total book count. So far I've completed 5 books in 2013. While I've only set a goal of 45 books (which is marginally less than a book a week) I'm still trying to keep my running total to about 1 book a week - that way I have a bit of wiggle room. So I'm still 1 book ahead of my working goal right now, hooray!

I've finished my preliminary reading and read one book of my Off the Shelf list. In summary, so far in January I've completed the following books:

  1. Dark Matter by Juli Zeh
  2. Summer Knight by Jim Butcher (The Dresden Files 4)
  3. A Tiny Bit Marvellous by Dawn French
  4. Cotton: The Biography of a Revolutionary Fiber by Stephen Yafa
  5. Badass by Ben Thompson

It's a long weekend here in Australia (Australia Day) so I expect I will finish at least one more book this weekend. I'm about to start Death Masks by Jim Butcher (The Dresden Files 5).

I'm pretty happy with how I'm going. I'm enjoying reading again, even if nothing I've read so far has been blow-my-mind amazing. If you want to see my review of each book, check out my Goodreads page.

This post is part of my Off The Shelf 2013 Reading Challenge

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Man/Woman of Now - The Kia Ads

There's a fairly big sporting event happening in Australia right now - the Australian Open. If you're not Australian and/or not in to tennis, you might not be aware of it. I don't tend to watch tennis - I know essentially how it works, and I can recognise the names of the main players, and follow along in conversations with people who are really in to it, but it's not really my thing. Tonight, though, I turned it on in the background while I was reading and was listening with half an ear.

This post isn't about tennis, though - it's about a matched pair of ads for Kia Australia that are running right now. I don't watch a lot of TV, and especially not free-to-air TV, so I don't really see many ads. I tend to forget how heteronormative mainstream media is because I just don't consume it that much. It's really, really hard to ignore ads though - they're designed to catch your attention. So when a Berlei ad came on talking about bouncing breasts (yes, really) it distracted me and I looked up - a friend had mentioned this ad recently and so I was watching it to see what she was talking about. That ad is a whole other story, though, so I won't go further in to the bouncing breasts ad here. The next ad in this break was the Kia "Man of Now" ad. I thought it was an interesting gimmick, but didn't think that much more of it...Until in the next break, the matching "Woman of Now" ad played. And now I was interested. The comparison between the two was particularly telling.

Man of Now

Vocal transcript: I'm a new-age man, I'm ageless - but not ageist. I'm free-range, free-spirited, free-willed - but on a leash. I push the envelope, push the buttons, push a pram [as he walks past a woman pushing a pram], push it real good. I wear the pants, I wear aftershave, I wear the blame and I wear it well. I'm going strong, and in one direction - but not on my iPod [he pulls a face like he smells something bad]. I'm tweeting, posting, sharing, linking, liking - my wall is never dry, I'm a social networking butterfly [as he walks past a woman walking with a little girl wearing fairy wings]. I'm house-proud, a house hunter, I like a house party, now I'm in the dog house [he pulls a little-boy-repentant face, then bumps in to the woman from the other ad]. I'm a barbequeing, meat-eating, sausage-sizzling, prawn-peeling salad lover. I'm international, interconnected, intercontinental - I'm into everything. [He gets into his car - a sporty sedan].

Woman of Now

Vocal transcript: I'm a woman of my time - on time, behind time. I climb the corporate ladder...I've got a ladder in my stockings! I can't wait, I don't have time to wait. I put on weight, I lose weight [as two female joggers in pink outfits jog past]. I wear a skirt, I wear the pants, I wear heels, and I wear them out. I'm texting, typing, LOLing, OMGing, I'm digitally in touch - but not retouched [as she walks past a billboard advertising an unidentified beauty product]. I'm a story-telling, canteen-helping, fundraising, muffin-making, party-going, yoga lover [she bumps in to the man from the other ad]. I'm in all compartments, head of all departments. I'm into womanhood, and watch the neighbourhood - it's all good! I'm putting fires out, putting my feelers out, letting my feelings out. I don't internalise - I vocalise. [She gets into her car, an SUV].

The man's description is nearly all about him taking charge and taking action. He is doing things, positive actions that let him take charge of others. When he's subservient it's to a woman in a clichéd way - "on a leash", "in the doghouse". His appearance and attire isn't referred to, except for the cliché "wear the pants" (which occurs in the woman's ad also) and his aftershave. His social media activity is him doing things. He's dominant, in control, active. He drives a sporty car.

The woman is a very different story.  The woman's appearance and attire is mentioned six times - including "wearing the pants". Her value is based on her appearance - she's horrified to find a ladder in her stockings, she's proud she doesn't need to be retouched. Most of her actions are passive, supporting things - making muffins, helping in the canteen (presumably at school), telling stories (presumably to her children). Her weight is mentioned (of course). Her social media actions are reactions to others - LOLing, OMGing. She's passive and reactive. She drives a practical car.

The ads are subtle and use an interesting gimmick which is fairly popular right now (of following a moving narrator who is speaking directly to the camera) and I'm sure they're effective - they use current language and refer to current pop culture trends, and they're appealing to their target audience of married working couples with young families. They're perfect examples of the "perfect" man and woman of now, and so because of that, they hit the mark.

But the social construct that creates these ideals is still going strong and doesn't seem to be crumbling. Both men and women have a lot to live up to, if they want to meet these ideals. Messages like these are everywhere, and are so insidious that it's easy for them to pass unnoticed and just slip in through the subconscious. It's hard to question messages we receive every day. But it's only by questioning these messages that we start to unpack and turn against these ideals. We don't need to meet these ideals to get through life, let alone buy a car, and we shouldn't feel pressured to.

(Note: according to the YouTube comments on the man's ad, these are rip-offs of a George Carlin routine. If you know which one, let me know in the comments on this post! But I don't recommend you read the YouTube comments. Seriously. Especially on the woman's ad.)

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Off The Shelf 2013

I'm currently suffering from Reader's Block.  I have 3 books I've started reading and stalled on, and a pending pile about a mile high.  I want to read, I'm just struggling to motivate myself to spend my precious spare time reading.  So when Miss RBit from Legally Alien told me that she's doing some reading challenges this year my ears pricked up.  I decided to join her on one: the Off The Shelf 2013 challenge from Bookish Ardour.

The goal of this challenge is to read books that have been lurking sadly, forgotten and unread, on your bookshelf for too long.  I have quite a lot of those, because I'm a book collector.  I buy books I've heard are good and then forget to read them.  I buy second-hand books by the boxful.  And there's also quite a lot of books that were bought for Dave that I eventually decide I want to read, too.

Preliminary Preparations
Before I start on my stack of unread books, I of course need to finish the books I've already started, and also a couple of books that I've borrowed from other people and need to return before they break down my door with axes and torches and an angry mob.  So, before I do anything else, I have to finish reading the following:
The Challenge
Once I feel like I have a clean slate, I can start my actual challenge list.  I decided that my Challenge Level (from the Bookish Ardour challenge post) is going to be Level 3: Making a Dint, which means I need to read 30 of my unread books this year.  Which is a lot but I think is doable.  But wait, it gets worse!  As mentioned above, I'm in the middle of Book 4 of The Dresden Files, a modern-fantasy-supernatural-detective series which currently runs to 14 books plus a short story collection.  I have decided, probably rashly, to 
group the entire unread portion of the series together as one Hulk-sized book of my 30 book list.  So, in no particular order, here is the list of Off The Shelf books I will be reading in 2013:
  1. The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher
  2. Guyland: The Perilous World Where Boys Become Men by Michael Kimmel - a non-fiction book about, well, guys
  3. The Casual Vacancy by J. K. Rowling - Rowling's first adult fiction novel
  4. The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man's Fear by Patrick Rothfuss - Book 1 & 2 of a projected in-progress trilogy of fantasy novels - The Kingkiller Chronicle (2 for the price of 1!)
  5. Badass by Ben Thompson - a humor/history non-fiction collection of stories about badasses
  6. Tesla: Man Out of Time by Margaret Cheney - biography of Nikola Tesla
  7. Reality is Broken by Jane McGonigal - non-fiction book about how gaming can save the world
  8. Scott of the Antarctic by David Crane - another biography, this one about Robert Falcon Scott
  9. The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch - a fantasy novel
  10. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee - a classic that I'm embarrassed to even include because I should have read it long ago
  11. Neuromancer by William Gibson - classic sci-fi
  12. American Gods by Neil Gaiman - a fantasy novel that has been sitting in my "to read" pile for ages
  13. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick - classic sci-fi and the basis for the movie Blade Runner
  14. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe - Nigerian fiction
  15. Fevre Dream  by George R. R. Martin - supernatural fantasy that I picked up because it's by my favorite author but never got around to reading
  16. Cloudstreet by Tim Winton - Australian fiction
  17. The Bonesetter's Daughter by Amy Tan - Chinese fiction
  18. I Am Legend by Richard Matheson - post-apocalyptic sci-fi
  19. Kokoda by Peter FitzSimons - historical non-fiction
  20. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes - (the novel version) - classic sci-fi
  21. Papillon by Henri Charrière - French memoir
  22. Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight by Linda Bacon - the definitive HAES non-fiction book that I embarrassingly still haven't read
  23. The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark by Carl Sagan - non-fiction book about the scientific method and critical thinking
  24. Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk - contemporary fiction - I'm a fan of the movie and want to check out the book
  25. Life of Pi by Yann Martel - Indian fantasy - recently made into a movie and I want to read the book before I see it 
  26. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez - Spanish fiction
  27. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad - an allegorical classic
  28. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey - another one of those must-read books that I'm yet to read!
  29. The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand - another one I should have read by now...this is getting embarrassing
  30. The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood - one of the very few books I've started and given up on, I'm hoping I can get through it this time
And there we go.  This list in no way reflects my usual reading tastes, by the way - I tend to stick to "safe" warm-fuzzy fantasy and keep clear of what I think of as "Oprah Book Club" books - contemporary fiction or chick-lit.  I also used to have a complete blanket ban on sci-fi that I've been gradually lifting a teeny bit at a time.  I do read quite a lot of non-fiction but not as much as represented here, and usually don't read biographies.  So I'm using the challenge to also push my boundaries a little bit more.

All in all that's 45 books in total to get through this year which is probably pushing it so I'll have to see how I go.  It's certainly doable and I used to read a lot more than that, so hopefully this will help me get into my reading groove.  I've put all the books I have in physical copy on their own shelf in my bedroom, and grouped all the ones I have on my Kindle together, so everything is set to go!  I just have to avoid starting too many at once.  I expect I'll usually have at least 2 going - a fiction and a non-fiction - but I'll try to limit myself to that.  I'll be reviewing and rating on Goodreads as I go also - I haven't used it before (surprisingly) so this is a good way to start.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves!  I still have to complete my preliminary excuse me, I'm off to bury my nose in Dark Matter.

This post is part of my Off The Shelf 2013 Reading Challenge