Cat’s Eyes: The Book Depositary

Honestly, I was ultra excited when I saw Cat’s Eyes on The Book Depositary. I don’t know how they do it, but their prices are awesome compared to other online bookstores. They have Cat’s Eyes listed for $17.32. But what makes this price fantastic is that they offer free delivery worldwide. Yes, that’s right, worldwide. Sorry, the book mentioned is now out of print. However, why don’t you grab the free ebook instead.

This means you only pay $17.32 no matter where you are in the world. No wonder I’m excited. This opens the doors for anyone, anywhere to purchase the paperback book at a reasonable price and read it.

I know, before you go off on a tangent and tell me that it’s listed for $14.99 at Amazon so what’s the big deal? Let me explain why this means a lot to me. I live in Australia and purchasing books online is a real problem, not because of the book price or the wait time in receiving it, but because the postage is often so expensive, it’s not uncommon for the postage charges to be higher than what the book cost in the first place. Maybe I’m stingy but I honestly don’t see the sense in purchase books online if the postage is going to put me into serious debt. That’s why I became hooked on ebooks.

Yet as great and convenient as ebooks are, I actually prefer the old fashioned way of reading and WANT to hold a book in my hands when I’m reading. The Book Depositary will help me and other dedicated readers to do that for a while longer yet.

So, please, if you haven’t read Cat’s Eyes because it was too difficult to get a copy of the paperback, head over to The Book Depositary and take advantage of their generous offer.

Audio Book Review: The Shack

The Shack

The Shack by William P. Young

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Horror of horrors, I came to the end of my knitting supplies and have nothing to fill my morning train ride hours. No, I can’t write. I’ve tried it and I’m too sleepy to be able to focus. Besides that, my eyes water like crazy, which is more than a little annoying and I was arriving at work looking as if I’ve cried all the way because my eyes were so red and puffy. Not a good start to the day, I can tell you. Yet I find I can knit and not suffer any “side affects”.

After some complaining, I woke one morning to find a small mp3 player sitting on the kitchen table, along with a spare battery. Upon querying why the device was there, I was told that an audio book borrowed from the library had been converted and loaded onto the player and that I was to take it with me on the train. I did. It’s not the first audio book I’ve listened too, but it’s the first time I’ve realised that I can listen to a book without “side affects” too. Yay!

The Shack is a story of a man whose six-year old daughter is taken and murdered, while the family is on a camping trip, and then goes on to tell the anguish that follows the tragic event – emotionally and spiritually. When G borrowed the item from the library and when I first started listening to the story, neither of us knew it was religious. By the time I did realise, I had already grown attached to the main character and his problems (I could identify with him because of my own loss) and I wanted to know more. I wanted to know if this man, this father, could get through the darkness that I knew so well…so I kept listening.

Yes, this story is highly religious and my one complaint is that at times the dialogue felt more like a sermon than a discussion, which really grated on my nerves. Yet at the same time, I was drawn in and held tight by the ideas behind the sermons. I guess I even found comfort in those ideas to a degree. So, again, I kept listening.

This book was written to get those religious thoughts across to an audience. I know and accept that. Prior to 18th May 2006, I wouldn’t have listened to the entire book because I simply don’t like being preached at and to be honest I wouldn’t have related to the characters and events at all. But I’ve changed…in many ways. I didn’t like the preachy parts, but I sat and listened and was completed absorbed in what was being said. I was touched by the emotional struggle the father was battling, enough to bring tears. I remained oblivious to the comings and goings of other passengers. I was oblivious to everything happening around me. In fact, when I turned off the player and looked around I was shocked to see so many people seated around me when I had been completely alone when I pressed play.

This isn’t a book I would feel comfortable recommending to others because not everyone will get something from it. It’s a book that the reader should read if they have experienced troubled times, if they know grief and if they want to attempt understanding just one possibility of the whole picture. It’s a book I believe will pull a reader/listener in, but only if that person can relate to profound grief and emotional stress.

Religious or not, I’m glad I listened to this audio book because I gained something from it.

Book Review: The Hobbit

Originally posted on another site on 22 April 2010.

The Hobbit

The Hobbit by J R R Tolkien

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Although I’ve always been an avid reader, I was not introduced to Tolkien until the Lord of the Rings series was made into movies. I watched the movies in absolute awe and rushed out to buy the books. However, the books were drab and boring in comparison. It’s not often I enjoy the movie more than the book, but in this case it was 100% true.

Tolkien’s writing style put me to sleep! I didn’t finish the books and got rid of them, vowing never to read anything else by this author…and I’ve kept that vow.

Then, last year, G arrived home from the library with an audiobook version of The Hobbit. I didn’t have time to listen to it then, and wasn’t overly keen to make time either, but he kindly converted it to mp3 so that I could listen to it when I was able.

Time became available at the beginning of this week. My thought was…I’m too tired to read or do anything else on the train in the morning, so I could sit with my eyes shut and listen to the story. If it was boring – and I was certain it would be – I could let my mind wander, just like I do any other morning. No big loss.

Early on Monday morning, iPod Touch clutched in my hand, I settled back, touched “play” and closed my eyes. Two hours later, I almost missed my stop – which has never happened before. No, I didn’t fall asleep. Yes, I was engrossed in the story…and I was enjoying it.

I wish I knew the reader for this audiobook, because he was excellent. He made the experience entertaining by using different voices and accents for different characters. He used music and some sound affects to help set the mood in certain scenes and he knew how to deliver tension and pace effectively. I also wish I knew if the reading was abridged or not. At a guess, I’d say it was but that was fine by me.

I’m glad I took the time to listen to this story, or this version of the story anyway. It surpassed my expectations. Highly recommended.

Book Review: Writing Fiction for Dummies

Originally posted on another site on 12 March 2010.

Writing Fiction for Dummies by Randy Ingermanson and Peter Economy

My Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Writing Fiction for Dummies is an excellent resource for new writers. It covers all the basics from starting out to looking for a publisher, which would provide a solid foundation to get started with for any serious writer.

As I’m not a newbie, I didn’t get as much from the book as a new writer would, but I knew that when I purchased the book. I bought it for two reasons, no make that three reasons:

1.One of the co-authors is Randy Ingermanson (the snowflake guy). As I use the Snowflake method all the time and I subscribe to his newsletter, I was sure the book would be useful in helping me improve my method…I was right!

2.I needed an inspiration boost and felt I’d get it from this book. This is related to the first point in a way; knowing the content would be heavily Snowflake influenced convinced me that I’d be inspired to get stuck into my own planning…and I was right again!! (I love being right.) 😉

3.I was interested to read the section of writing proposals. This is something I’ve been researching for a few weeks now, but I haven’t been able to find anything useful. When I realised there was a section on proposal writing in the book, I was pleased. I didn’t know what to expect, but I learned more than I imagined and now have a “Proposal Template” saved in my writing file. I’m sure I’ll be returning to that section of the book often when I need help filling in the different sections of the proposal.

While new writers need to find a method that works for them, a more advanced writer needs to bring things back into prospective at times and I think that’s what I got from the book most of all – a reminder that determination and persistence is the only way to move forward.

Thanks to this book, I’m enthusiastic about my next project.

What a difference a decade makes!

During my lifetime I’ve seen some changes in the world, especially where technology is concerned. I remember, in 1990, when my boss paid $50,000 for two computers. I was thrilled to be given one of those computers to work on. It was a buzz to use exciting new equipment and I learned quickly that I liked computers. Yet, looking back, that computer hardly did anything compared to today’s computers. There were two programs on it, it didn’t have the internet or email. In fact, I hadn’t even heard of those things back then. When I left that job in 1995, there was talk of this new thing called Windows. I had no idea what that could be…and I didn’t find out for a couple of years.

Back then, in what might seem like the dark ages for some people, reading was only done from printed material. Books were wonderful to look at, to touch, to smell. The stories within the covers were sometimes not so wonderful, but I learned to pick and chose quite well so that I didn’t waste too much of my hard earned money. It’s shameful to admit, but the cover was the first thing that caught my attention. Then…if the blurb on the back was good, I’d open the book and read the first paragraph. If I liked the way the words were put together, I’d consider buying the book. If I didn’t like the word flow, the book was rejected. This method worked well for me over several decades of reading.

In 1997, I bought my first Windows operated computer. I installed a word processor called Word Perfect and happily wrote two 200,000+ manuscripts from start to finish in about three years. What happened to those manuscripts is another story, for another day. Yes, I saw the icon on the computer that would connect me to the internet and email, but I still didn’t know what those things were and had no need for either of them because I was happy doing something else I loved – writing.

The years passed, the millennium came and went without the huge catastrophe that everyone seemed to be warning us about. Instead, things went on as usual and then started to grow and grow. Finally, in early 2001, I was introduced to the internet for the very first time. I remember my fascination with the concept that we had instant access to all this information and we could communicate with people all over the world at any time of the day and night. It was brilliant. And what made it better – and worse – was the knowledge that I wasn’t the only writer writing the next best seller. (I say “worse” because it’s since the internet that I stopped writing at every spare moment I had.)

I learned so much in the years that followed. About everything, not just writing. But then I discovered something called self-publishing and the weirdest thing yet, ebooks. I found it difficult to grasp the concept of books without paper. In a lot of ways, I rejected the notion. It just felt so wrong! As did self-publishing.

That first Windows computer was quickly replaced with bigger and better systems, which were again replaced for newer technology a short time later. This cycle happened several times in the effort to stay up with the times, but we soon realised that it was an impossible situation and we finally accepted that our new laptops would have to see us through for some years to come. We were now completely immersed in the instant world of viewing, downloading, accessing, emailing, blogging, facebooking, gaming, chatting, online buying and selling, paying, meeting…

Still the years ticked by, technology rolling along in front of us, always showing us new and fascinating things. Suddenly, self publishing and ebooks became real, acceptable, the way of the future. I found myself wanting to “try out” the self publishing side of the publishing industry and I certainly looked at ebooks in a more favourable way. This was especially true when technology provided a gadget that I could hold in my hand, allowing me to sit wherever I wanted and read peacefully. Especially when I could carry a dozen or more books with me everywhere I went (or a lot more if I really wanted to), without giving myself back ache from the weight of carrying heavy paper books.

What a difference a decade makes!

This year, I have listened to my first audio book and have read at least two ebooks. I look forward to reading more. I already have them queued up in my iPod Touch. I carry an assortment of books with me every day – fiction and non-fiction – because who knows what I’ll want to read at lunchtime or on the way home?! And with modern technology, it doesn’t matter because I have my pick.

I thought choosing ebooks would be more difficult than printed books. Riskier. But I find the cover still catches my attention first and if the blurb is any good then I’ll proceed to view the first page of the ebook and see if I like the author’s style of writing before I decide whether or not I’ll part with my hard earned cash. This method always worked with printed books and, so far, it’s done me well with ebooks too.

If the last decade has given us such changes, I wonder what the next decade will bring. I can’t even begin to imagine.

October 2009: General Update

There hasn’t been much of interest for me to post about lately. Life is moving forward quickly and before I know it the end of the year will be here. In a few weeks, we intend to go away for a couple of days, inland, which I’m looking forward to for various reasons.

The books in the trilogy I’m reading are thick – over 700 pages each (except the first one, which was a little over 500 pages) – so they are naturally taking me longer to read than usual. I’m enjoying them immensely and this set has gained a place on my favourites list. Not many books make it on to that list.

My new family tree is growing steadily. Each weekend I spend at least a couple of hours transferring information from the old tree and, this time, I’m sourcing everything that is entered into the tree. I have a lot of regrets with that old tree, but at least I learned from those mistakes. With the help of DaF Genealogy (see the link in the sidebar), I’ve even managed to climb over a brick wall that had been holding me back for some years.

On the writing front, I am pleased to announce that I’ve completed the first draft of a non-fiction children’s picture book. The facts are there and now I have to make them entertaining for the intended audience (and the person reading the words to the child). I feel I have that under control. Then I’ll have to work on the proposal, which I think is going to be very difficult to write. I’ve already started doing the research and have printed out some examples. From what I’ve read, for non-fiction it is customary to send the proposal prior to writing the manuscript. However, I decided to write one of the manuscripts as an example to include in the proposal. If it helps or not, I cannot know, but that’s how I’m going to approach my submissions in this genre.

Living in a Technical World

ipod-touch-stanzaRecently, I posted on Forms of Reading and the Future and another post entitled Kindle, Sony and the iPhone. Both these posts generated a lot of traffic and I received several comments and even a couple of emails, which was wonderful.

As a result of these discussions, I did a lot of research and finally decided that buying an iPod Touch was the way for me to go. I’ve had it for a few days, and I’m still getting used to the way it works, but my first impressions are all good.

I love the fact that I have one small, light device which carries all my music, photos, contacts and event reminders all well organised and easily accessible. However, what I find really outstanding is that same small, light device also holds heaps of books – audio and ebooks – as well as games to pass the time on a very long train trip, which I do five days a week.

It’s brilliant!

So now, armed with my mini-computer and my iPod Touch, there’s no excuse as I have everything I need to get the things that are important to me done – namely writing, reading and gaming. In fact, with a forced four hours a day to concentrate on these things, I should be as productive as I can ever be…unfortunately, I’m not, but I’ll leave that for another post.

Living in a world when technology is advancing every day, I feel lucky to be able to step into the future armed with the tools that should make a blank page fill with words. Words of a story I want to write, words of a story I want to read and words of other kinds that make life more pleasant. How did we ever survive without these wonderful gadgets?

Book Review: Assassin’s Apprentice (Take Two)

Assassin's Apprentice (The Farseer Trilogy, #1)

Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is the second time I have read this book, the first being in early 2006. Click here to read my 2006 review. On that occasion I had intended to read the trilogy but something happened in my life which stopped me – the loss of my son. Unable to concentrate for long periods of time and unable to handle complex plots, I turned to stand alone, much thinner books written for young children. The three books which make up The Farseer Trilogy have been sitting on my bookshelf ever since.

Now, three and a half years later, I find myself wanting to complete the trilogy. However, I realised the grief had completely wiped the first book from my memory. Apart from the main character’s name, I could remember next to nothing of the story. I didn’t want to pick up book two and start reading, hoping the first book would come back to me, as that would be distracting, so I read the first book again.

I had expected a flood of memory to occur at some stage during the reading – especially when I approached the climax – but that didn’t happen. I did, however, remember small sections that obviously made an impression on me in 2006, but not enough to spoil any of the surprises. This morning, after finishing Assassin’s Apprentice for the second time, I set about finding the review I wrote back then. It seems I enjoyed it then, with some reservations about the detailed descriptions. Today, I think I have a better appreciation for the book as I had more time in which to sit and become absorbed by it – I even read the “telling” sections at the beginning of each chapter, that I didn’t have much time for previously.

Maybe it’s a case of “older and wiser”, but I think it’s more likely to do with the time restraint issues I had back in 2006, but whatever it was I really enjoyed this second reading. I became totally absorbed and found myself wanting to return to the story, even when it wasn’t possible. Eventually, I left all other distractions at home (for the train trip to and from work) and concentrated solely on the book, which meant I was dedicating four hours a day to reading. I was captivated!

The author shows in this one book how a complex plot can be written in a smooth, believable manner. She also proves that whilst action is important, it doesn’t have to dominate every paragraph of every page. She shows that a character driven book can pull a reader in and hold them through thick and thin, through the laughs and pain, through love and death. This is a brilliant example of a well written story.

This morning I finished Assassin’s Apprentice and in the next minute I was already absorbed by Royal Assassin, book 2 of the trilogy. It’s looking as if this trilogy is going to take a place on my “favourites” list.