Kindle Lending Library

I was searching around Amazon for some gift ideas and happened across this tidbit of information. Amazon’s Prime membership now includes the ability to borrow some Kindle books. I find this absolutely phenomenal for several reasons:

  1. I’ve purchased several Kindle books simply because there was no accessible available at the library. For the most part the Kindle version is a fairly cheap alternative, but more often than not these would be books that I wouldn’t normally have forked over my hard-earned cash for. And unlike a physical copy of a book, I can’t give it away, donate it, or otherwise relieve myself of ownership.
  2. I can no longer read regular print books. At least not comfortably and without the risk of giving myself a migraine. But for better or worse I’m still a book collector. Favorite books of mine in rare editions and autographed books have a permanent place on my shelves and I expect they always will. However, that means I’ve had to purchase two copies of some recent additions to my collection. For the most part, I don’t really mind but there have been a few extraneous purchases that I later regretted. And one physical purchase that happened accidentally and left me with two copies of a book I didn’t particularly enjoy.
  3. Libraries are starting to do this already, including my local library. Though, I believe they using the Nook.
  4. Reading for free does lead towards more book buying. At least it does for me. But mostly, it’s reading for free and free is always better than not free!

More than a year after my initial purchase, I must say I am very satisfied with my Kindle. It’s quite literally the best $150 I’ve ever spent on myself. And was worth dealing with the few bumps in the road with defective and damaged devices at first. But I’m also pleased to see the continued expansion of the Prime membership. I more than utilize the $79 in shipping alone throughout the year, but the addition of more and more free streaming and now this new lending library are really turning this into a well-rounded service.

“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2”

Uschi and I are both sick. It is not how I wanted to spend my three-day weekend, but I did finally get to see the last HP film. [Read more…]

In Print

I’m very passionate about literacy because books are a wonderful gateway into so many things. As an avid reader it might surprise you to learn that I didn’t first learn about guide dogs between the cover of a book.1 It wasn’t until I was training with Dolly that I even heard there were any books related to guide dogs! Below are several titles that you might be interested in checking out. This is by no means an exhaustive list (and if you’ve any suggestions of ones I may have omitted, feel free to share).

[Read more…]

  1. Actually, it was a clip on Sesame Street that first introduced me to these wonderful animals.

“Bloodlines”

Richelle Mead is one of my all-time favorite authors. In particular, I’m quite a fan of her Vampire Academy series. So, even though I’m generally approach spinoffs with a good deal of trepidation, I was very excited about the news that VA would continue on. Bloodlines is the first in the titular series and picks up where Last Sacrifice, the sixth and last VA book, left off. The main characters of the original series move into the background while Sydney and several other side characters take center stage.

Book cover

I’ve become quite cynical of spinoffs because they generally don’t live up to their original source. Being quite fond of the Vampire Academy series, I was very wary of this new series. This was only compounded by the news that books would be told via Sydney rather than in the third-person as was originally planned.1 Obviously, since her story is completed Rose is no longer an option to narrate, but I wasn’t convinced Sydney would be interesting enough and I hadn’t found her particularly likable in her previous appearances. Mostly, I was apprehensive because of the many dangling plot points from Last Sacrifice, which at the time of my initial read felt almost arbitrary. I try to approach every book individually and without any preconceived notions or expectations, but honestly the simple fact is that this book had a lot to live up to for me.

As it’s only the first book, I can’t say that Bloodlines has or will surpass VA, but I think it’s a worthy followup. More importantly, it picks up those loose threads from Last Sacrifice in such a seamless way that I actually want to read the VA conclusion again just to see if I still find those lingering plot points as jarring as they initially came across to me. My one quibble is that it’s such an easy transition into this new series that I wonder how accessible it would be to someone that isn’t already invested in the prior series. No matter how much I adore the series, it’s hard to recommend a book that requires so much advance reading. The biggest surprise for me was how smoothly Sydney’s narration comes across. Mead’s explanation sums up the differences between the two perspectives quite well:

[Sydney] gives us a human take on the Moroi world, which isn’t something we’ve really seen yet. Vampire life, through Rose’s eyes, is a very normal thing. For Sydney? Not so. It’s made worse because she’s been raised to believe vampires and dhampirs are wrong and unnatural, but spending time with them in Palm Springs begins to change her mind . . . What’s also interesting is that Sydney has a much more analytic view of the world than Rose. Sydney overthinks where Rose rushes in, and both styles are fun to watch. Sydney’s super smart and can memorize reams of material—but is a little oblivious to how a normal social life works.

I expected a bit of an adjustment to Sydney as the narrator. Her prior appearances via Rose’s perspective made her seem very standoffish, almost snobby at times. In comparison to Rose’s effervescent personality this came across as a bit cold. (I concede that I may have interpreted that incorrectly and it’s yet another reason I’m curious to do a reread of the original series.) Through her narration, Sydney reveals a different person than that and even shows us why it is she acts as she does. It’s also thoroughly entertaining to see someone else’s view of Rose! By the end of the book I was totally smitten with her and I’m deeply curious to see how things unfold for her throughout the series.

Beyond my initial qualms my feelings are somewhat conflicted. I’m inclined to think I almost psyched myself out of fully enjoying the book because of my expectations much as I tried to ignore them. The one comparison I can’t help but notice is that the story itself is much less driven, almost weak, than the typical VA book. I missed that sense of urgency that the prior books had and found myself wishing that someone would pull a Rose and just randomly punch someone to get things going. That isn’t to say I was exactly pining for action, but when it finally does surface — practically at the end of the book — it’s present in such a blasé fashion that it was like seeing the scene through a film of water. It also seemed far too obvious right from the start and so I found myself slightly irritated that things didn’t click into place for so very long. Even when Sydney started piecing things together there was no momentum to the story, in fact she actually stalled the plot a bit by sitting on her discovery! I also found it very hard to keep track of time. What felt like days, even weeks, was described as happening in the span of a week. Specifically, I can’t believe that in this economy a person could find three job interviews in (I think?) a day and moreover have them scheduled in the same day. And, while it’s only a little thing in the book, I’m absolutely disgusted with the hang up Sydney has over having to wear size 4 clothes — and that she mentions needing to diet her way back to a size 2. Not at all what I’d expect from Ms. Mead. Very disappointing.

What saves all this from a complete downward spiral is that the characters that take center stage in this new series are almost as fascinating as Rose and Lissa. It’s a different view of the Moroi world in several ways. As I mentioned before, Sydney gives us an “outsider” view, but in their own way each of the four is kind of on the outskirts. In fact, the entire location of the book puts them outside of the goings-on of the Moroi. It’s a completely different dynamic than the first series and it’s the perfect venue for these characters. Adrian has never been much of a draw for me, but he’s started to pique my curiosity. Personally, I’m most intrigued with Eddie and where his story will go.

In the end what it all comes down to is that I don’t really know how I feel. I enjoyed the book, but I’m not entirely sure if that feeling isn’t colored by my relief that my wariness was unfounded or my previous love of the original series. I do feel a bit letdown by some small elements, but I think they’re minor enough to be forgivable. So, for what it’s worth, I’m reserving final judgment until I read a bit further into the series.

  1. I’ve since read the original first chapter, though, and I think the change was a wise one. At the very least, I think it would have been confusing.

July 31, 2011

Today is my grandmother’s birthday. Happy birthday, Nanny!

It is also officially my first day of summer break. I have five weeks of freedom stretching out before me and after the hell that was this last week I think it’s quite well deserved. I plan to make the most of it in as many fun ways as possible. Not the least of which shall be to read the many books that are piled on my nightstand and queued to download to my Kindle. Pleasure reading always falls by the wayside during school and it’s a sad thing.

For now, I’m having a grand time rewatching Wonderfalls and am thinking I may follow this up with some Pushing Daisies. :-)