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Too Many Books

November 22, 2014
Scene from "Winter Passing" not my actual house

Scene from “Winter Passing” not my actual house

First of all, there is, sadly, such a thing as too many books. I fight against this truth. I rail against this truth. And then I look at the stacks and piles of books scattered around my house. There are books everywhere. Some of them are even on the seventeen bookshelves! But there are piles of books on my desks, on my dresser, my bedside table, the kitchen stool, the dining room table, on the floor, and even the bathroom sink. It’s a problem.

So, what do you do when you have too many books?
Well, you have to get rid of some of them. It just a fact.
Ok, how do you choose what to get rid of?

too manyI go through my books fairly often (and yes, I still have that many scattered around). First, I look at whether or not I’ve read it.
Yes: Will I read it again?
No: Why not and how long have I had it?

If I’m not going to read a book again, then that’s easy; into the pile it goes.
If I haven’t read the book at all that becomes more complicated. I obviously picked it up for a reason. I thought it looked good. I wanted to read it. So, that’s where time comes in. If I’ve had the book for more than a year and I still haven’t read it, then it can go. If the urge to read it comes back (and I can remember what the heck it was), I do work at a bookstore. It’s not like the book will be gone forever, wiped out of existence the moment it leaves my house. Even out-of-print books are available through the magic of the interwebs!

dragonOf course, all of this is the theory. In practice I manage to come up with some reason that I can’t sacrifice my precious, precious books. They’re mine! My books! My preciouses!
Yeah, I have issues. I’m like a little book dragon. (There was totally a book called that. I bought it when I was in high school. I can’t remember if I ever actually read it or not though.)

Now, let’s assume you have a pile of books you need to get out of your house. What do you do with them.
1. Used bookstores!
You can get credit for MORE books. (It’s a slippery slope, but the exchange rate means that if you can confine yourself to just spending the credit you should end up with total fewer books in the house.)
Not all used bookstores take the same things or even take books all the time (LP is currently not taking used books because we’re too full) so check before you haul all your books across town.
2. Donation!
Most libraries have a Friends of the Library store where they sell books to raise money. They’re usually not too picky about what they take and you can get a tax receipt for your donation. There are also thrift stores, literacy programs, VA hospitals, and various shelters. The local shelter for abused women is almost always happy to get books, especially anything that kids can read.
3. Host a book swap.
This has the same problem as #1, but it can help spread books around your social circle. Maybe you have something that Tim really wants, but just can’t spring for right now. The nice thing about a book swap is that if there are leftovers you can still employ any of the previous suggestions.
4. Have a giveaway on your blog!
Yeah, I’m sneaky. Sometimes I give you guys books that I’ve got built up around here.
5. Give them to your friends!
We’ll discuss the giving of books as gifts in a later blog (the holidays are approaching with the inevitability of the Russian winter), but there is nothing wrong with giving a used book as a gift if you think the person will genuinely like it. I mean, as long as your cat hasn’t peed on it or something.

So, those are a few ideas for what to do when you’ve got too many books. And tell me what you do in the comments!

Hansel & Gretel by Neil Gaiman

November 20, 2014

hanselFirst of all, I know, I missed yesterday. I’m sorry, but I got struck down by a terrible cold. I just couldn’t get my brain together enough to come up with something coherent for you all. So, I took the day off from writing and tried to drink all the tea in my house. I did not succeed (I have a disturbing amount of tea), but I did put a large dent into my cinnamon tea supplies. I am still ill, but doing much better today, hence the present though somewhat late and brief review.

I picked up Neil Gaiman’s new Hansel & Gretel from Little Professor the day it came out, but then I set it down on my desk and sort of forgot about it. I occasionally rested a mug of tea on it or another book. But I didn’t pick it up. It’s just one of those things I ought to own, but I’ve read Hansel & Gretel. I’ve read it repeatedly. What can Neil Gaiman really give me that ‘s new?

The answer to that is complicated. It is both, “nothing much” and “everything.”
The story has not changed much from the one you are used to.
There is a father and a mother. (Not a step-mother, by the way.) There are two children. There is a house of gingerbread, and a cage, and a bone. There is a tearful reunion of the children and their father.
There are differences.
The old woman is not necessarily a witch. Oh, she is old. She is crazy. She somehow made a house out of gingerbread in the middle of a famine. But she never uses magic that we see. She drugs the children. She locks up the children. But she doesn’t curse them or enspell them.
The mother is cold and bitter and the father isn’t perfect. He stays away more than he has to, maybe to escape his wife. And she only has to work on him for one night to get him to take the children out the first time. One night isn’t such a very long time to decide to lose your children.
The difference I found most striking was that the old woman offers to teach Gretel everything she knows about trapping visitors. I don’t think I’ve ever read a version where Gretel is to become her apprentice. I like it and it simultaneously adds to the creep-factor immeasurably.

The true standouts of the book are, of course, the illustrations by Lorenzo Mattotti. These illustrations change this from what would be, on the whole, a moderately entertaining, but ultimately forgettable retelling of Hansel and Gretel and make it something dark and creepy that will crop up in your dreams. The illustrations are not facing the text pages. You read two pages of text and then, you flip to the next page and get this:
woodsThe art seems almost violent. Everything is black or white. There are no muted greys, no bright reds. It is stark, but also rich in a strange way. There are the carefully rendered figures and then huge sweeping shapes around them. There is delicacy combined with boldness. It’s beautiful. There is no doubt about that. The illustrations are beautiful. But they are also as haunting as Gaiman’s descriptions of war. And they are what make this book stand out as something you will want to keep on your shelf rather than just reading and passing along.

 

Writing Excuses and the Giveaway Winners

November 18, 2014

WX-bannerFirst, let’s get the old business out of the way.
My 150 Follower giveaway is over. The winners have all been emailed. Thank you everyone for participating!

Now, onto new business.

I mentioned before that while I was at the Out of Excuses retreat I got to be the special guest on an episode of the Writing Excuses podcast. This fulfilled a major life goal and finished out the last of my three wishes for Emma Newman’s Three Wishes project.

So, if you’re at all interested, here is a link to my episode of the Writing Excuses podcast; A Bookseller’s Perspective.
(Sidenote, Brandon will reference me pitching a book in an earlier episode. That will actually come sometime next season. They posted this one much earlier than originally planned.)

Top Books of 2014 – Little Professor Edition

November 17, 2014

Every year we at Little Professor post our list of our favorite books from 2014. Most of mine are included here, but I’ll do a separate post with small reviews later. For now, here is the list full LP list without commentary:

15

 

Valour and Vanity by Mary Robinette Kowal

14

Lock In by John Scalzi

 

 

 

13

 

 

The Brothers Cabal by Jonathan Howard

12

The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell

11

 

 

The Magician’s Land by Lev Grossman

10

Tigerman by Nick Harkaway

9The Martian by Andy Weir

 

 

8.

Tomorrow the Killing by Daniel Polansky

7

 

 

The Book of Strange New Things by Michael Faber6

Indexing by Seanan McGuire

5

 

 

4Half-Off Ragnarok by Seanan McGuire

3The Secret Place by Tana French

 

The Painter by Peter Heller

2

1

Ghost Train to New Orleans by Mur Lafferty

 

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage

by Haruki Murakami

 

What’s on the Shelf

November 16, 2014

Not that I have very much time to read this month, but I thought I’d let you know what I am reading during my minuscule free time.

waistcoatsWaistcoats and Weaponry  by Gail Carrier
This is the third of the Finishing School books. Sophronia is in her second year of school learning more ways to, ehm, finish an opponent. She has a new favorite weapon, a bladed fan, but also more challenges. Soap, her dearest non-female friend has been showing a disturbing tendency  toward romantic feelings. Sidheag, Lady Kildair, is mysteriously missing from school. And Lord Mersey, Sophronia’s erstwhile beau, is being terribly confusing. And that’s just the first few chapters!
This series is a delightful steampunk romp. It’s also a YA prequel to the more adult Parasol Protectorate series that Gail is justifiably famous for. I’m enjoying it tremendously, albeit slowly.

londonLondon Falling by Paul Cornell (on audio)
I won’t recap the plot here, since I’ve talked about this book several other times. It’s a dark urban horror sort of a book. It creeps me right out to be honest, in part because it is so well narrated. The POV switches between several characters, all of whom are given very distinct voices. Damian Lynch does a lovely job. I’m also not very far into this one either, just in Chapter 8. I can’t listen to it right before bed or I’ll be up all night.
If you’re looking for a spooky, gets-under-your-skin sort of read, I recommend this one! And The Severed Streets, the sequel is already out, so there’s no waiting!

What’s on your bookshelf these days?

Socializing

November 15, 2014

I am an extrovert. I love to talk to people. I love to be the center of attention. I love to make connections and I especially love sharing things I’m passionate about with other people. This is why I have a blog, do theater, work in retail, and am planning  a podcast.
However, I also have some pretty bad social anxiety. This comes into direct conflict with my desire to meet people and spend time outside my own house.

2014-10-09 09.52.07I’m shy. I like letters more than phone calls. I’m worried that people won’t like me, that I’ll do the wrong thing, that I’ll mess up and ruin my chances at becoming a friend. Things in my head escalate rapidly from “tiny mistake” to “world ending apocalyptic event that ruins your life forever!” So, it’s hard for me to make plans with people.
I’m afraid of being an imposition. So I will almost never initiate plans unless I feel very confident in my relationship with someone. I can agree to plans made by the other person, but I’ll almost never make the first move, as it were.

Photo from the Birmingham News

Photo from the Birmingham News

Why am I telling you all this? Well, because this week I have socialized my butt off. (Not really. That would be an awesome exercise plan though!)
Monday I had lunch with a friend who had been away for a long, long, looooooooooong time. Then, after work, I met up with another friend for drinks and conversation about writing. Friday night I had dinner with another friend who introduced me to three new people (two of whom, it turns out, are customers of mine.) And then this morning I had brunch with one of my best friends from high school. And it was all great and I loved every moment of spending time with them.

Photo from The Homewood Star

Photo from The Homewood Star

But…
There’s always a “but.”
All of that cut waaaaaaaaaay into my writing time.
That is more socializing in one week than I’ve done the entire time I’ve been home from the Writing Excuses Retreat.
I really kind of want to go crawl in a hole right now, drag a book, a mug of tea, and a blanket in after me and post a “No Trespassing” sign outside it.
Which is exactly what I can’t do. I’ve got a NaNoWriMo* write-in tomorrow afternoon at the store.
I also work 6 days a week in retail and education. Not the two most solitary professions.

dragonageThis sort of feeling is usually a good indication that I need a day to myself with the aforementioned tea, book, and blanket. Another thing I do is spend some time with a videogame. I can exorcise a lot of frustrations attacking digital enemies. (I’m especially looking forward to Dragon Age: Inquisition coming out on Tuesday.)
So, I have a question for you. What do you do to recharge when you’re overwhelmed?

My Brain is Mush

November 14, 2014

The combo of NaNoWriMo and #BlogLikeCrazy is starting to take its toll, so I don’t have a Jonathan Strange read-a-long post today. I’m hoping to get that up for tomorrow, by it might be Sunday. I just haven’t had the time to sit down and read lately.
I’m trying to write between 2,000-3,000 words a day, I’m in a writers’ group that’s critiquing 10k a week, and I’m beta-reading Ghost Talkers for Mary Robinette Kowal (which is the coolest job I have right now). Oh yeah, and I have those two real jobs that I get paid to go do. So, my personal reading time has pretty much gone down the drain.

However! This is not just a post about how I’m tired and you should send me cookies (although, you can totally send me cookies if you want to! Just address them to:
Sara the Sparkle-Princess (I stole that from Cat Valente)
c/o Little Professor Book Center
2717 18th St S
Homewood, AL 35209

squeecast-thumbnailBut, since this isn’t a post about how I want cookies and other exciting things in the mail (nothing recently dead please. Only dead things of archaeological interest) I should probably tell you what this post is about.
PODCASTS!
Yes, I know, I’ve already done a post that was entirely about podcasts. This isn’t that. Although that one was very good and you should totally go read it.
teaTwo of my favorite podcasts updated this week and I feel like they both had some amazing things to say, especially in light of all the things we’re all trying to get done this time of year. Whether you’re also participating in NaNoWriMo or #BlogLikeCrazy, or if you’re just trying to get everything organized for the holidays or the end of the year, it’s important to take a breath every now and then and remind ourselves that not only can’t we do absolutely everything, but we actually aren’t supposed to.
I have a problem with this one. A really, really, really big problem with this one.

So, if you’ve got some time have a listen to this month’s SF Squeecast and the most recent episode of Tea and Jeopardy. I think they’ll make you feel a little better.

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