Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Clarity by Kim Harrington

Well, this is bewildering.  Here I am having had my Kindle for almost a year, and I think....I think this is going to be my first legitimate review of an ebook.  LOL!  It turns out if books aren't taking up a significant amount of real estate on the surface of my desk, I kind of, um, forget to review them.  I managed to finish Clarity by Kim Harrington in the last moments before falling asleep during the Readathon, so I'm going to attempt to review it real quick before it falls into the sad abyss of (e)books I've forgotten to review.

Okay, so, Clarity "Clare" Fern has kind of an unusual family life.  You see, she, her older brother Perry, and her mother Starla all have some form of psychic gift, and they make their living selling readings to the tourists that frequent the Cape Cod town where they live.  Perry's a medium who can sense the presence of dead loved ones, Starla is a telepath who can read the thoughts of her customers, and touching recently touched objects communicates visions of the past to Clare herself.  It's a nice normal summer where Clare only has to worry about keeping her remorseful cheating ex at bay and Perry has only to consider which tourist girl to bed next, until tragedy strikes and Clare and her gifts are pressed into service in an investigation of the first murder to take place in Eastport in years, a murder for which her womanizing brother has become the primary suspect.

Wow, did I have mixed feelings about this book.  I'll start with the bad so we can end up on a good note.  The love triangle reveals itself within the first few chapters.  Meh, love triangles.  Suspension of disbelief is at a premium here, too, as we're supposed to believe that the mayor's son, Clare's ex Justin (hot, sweet, and still clamoring to have her back), the newly arrived detective's son Gabriel (hot, mysterious, and cynical about Clare's gifts but also, of course, totally attracted to her), and psychic Clare are practically independently being given the reins of a behind-the-scenes murder investigation.  Clare and Gabriel are poking around crime scenes and dead bodies all on their own with only a passing nod to the danger of the situation and very little consideration for the vagaries of, you know, procuring actual admissible evidence.  Also, I prefer my mysteries just a tiny bit less contrived, but maybe it all boils down to Clarity being just a bit too Y for my A. 

Enough complaining, though, because there are plenty of things I really liked about Clarity not the least of which is Clarity herself.  Clarity is a fierce heroine with a wicked temper on her.  She's loyal, protective, and not afraid to unleash an angry retort or a sharp elbow on somebody who's harassing her for her "freakdom."  She doesn't always make the best decisions, but she's usually got her heart in the right place when she's making them.  They mystery itself did have me absorbed, and Harrington does a great job of introducing her entire cast of characters such that any of them could be sketchy enough to be the sort that commits a murder or...they could be totally normal decent people!  Even Clare's sweet, if a little foolish, lady's man of a brother doesn't escape legitimate scrutiny.  Harrington had me going until the bitter end making me think it might be this person or this other person when really it was that person (er, behold the wonder of the spoiler free review! LOL), and I really didn't see it coming until a page or two before Clare saw it coming.   

All in all, Clarity had its weaknesses, including a kind of weak series-starter ending, because it's YA, of course it's part of a series, which I wish I would have remembered before I started because I am so bad at keeping up with series.  That said, I was totally involved in the mystery and *mumbles* maybe the love triangle, too *grumble, grumble, cough.* It made for a very quick and absorbing Readathon book, and I'll surely seek out the sequel, a few years after I've forgotten every important thing I need to remember about this book because I'm good like that ("Hi, my name is Megan and I suck at series books.").

(Muah!  No disclaimer, for I surely have purchased this during one of my cheap ebook buying sprees of which there are a great many!)

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Readathon Wrap-Up

Read:  Clarity by Kim Harrington

It's been __149__ pages and __9__ cheers since my last update.

Total Cheers: 23

Cumulative Pages Read: 301

Books Completed: 1

Eating?: Probably more of those tiny candy bars.  They might be worse than crack, if only because they're so easy to acquire.  =P

Despite my lack of updates, I actually persevered almost through Hour 17 (I think?).  I actually finished Clarity by Kim Harrington despite my having already come to terms with how I probably wouldn't finish a book since I wasn't being very book monogamous and was cheering and may have gotten distracted by watching the last few episodes for The Walking Dead so I could be ready for the new season tonight.  So, I think, for the first time in my personal Readathon history, I actually did better than I thought I would, so here's to having lower expectations and having more fun on Readathon day.  In the end, it all works out!

And the end of a event meme, of course...

  1. Which hour was most daunting for you? - 17, I was definitely falling asleep, but I propped up my eyelids open with a few toothpicks and finished my book in the end. 
  2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year? - Clarity by Kim Harrington made for a great 'thon book.  Very quick read, engaging mystery, fun premise!
  3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year? - Nope, I think I may have had one of my best 'thons ever this time around, so keep on doing what you're doing awesome organizers! :D
  4. What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon? - The cheerleading seemed to be very well organized to help every reader get at least a little encouragement, at least from what I can see - I hope it's true! 
  5. How many books did you read? - 1 and a....quarter? 
  6. What were the names of the books you read? - Clarity and some of Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman
  7. Which book did you enjoy most? - Both were great, but Clarity's the only one I finished.  Neil Gaiman's short stories were great for an occasional change of pace.
  8. Which did you enjoy least? - n/a
  9. If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders? - Um, keep being awesome?  All the cheerleaders I interacted with as a cheerleader and as a reader were very enthusiastic and committed.  I guess each cheerleading team had its own captain this time, and in my team (Go Team Fox!), Michael from Buried in Print did a great job getting us organized and keeping the participating reader list updated so we could maximize our time cheering.  My advice?  Sign up to cheer - it's fun and rewarding!  I "met" lots of people and lots came to visit me!
  10. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time? - Extremely likely, and I think I'd sign up to be both again.  It was a nice balance!
Thanks again to the organizers of the Readathon for honoring Dewey and for giving us all a chance (or an excuse!) to do what we love together for a day.  And thanks again to everybody who stopped by to cheer me on while I was reading yesterday, you all made a great day even greater! 

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Readathon Hour 12 Update

Reading Now:  Clarity by Kim Harrington and Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman

It's been __85__ pages and __9__ cheers since my last update.

Total Cheers: 14

Cumulative Pages Read: 152

Books Completed: 0

Eating?: Oh, lots of junk.  Leftovers for lunch, potato chips, fun size candy bars, and a delicious shish-ka-bob and a few butter garlic wings for supper.  

I got a bunch more reading and cheering done this afternoon compared to my dysfunctional morning.  I read a few stories from Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman and continued on with my YA selection of the day, Clarity by Kim Harrington, both of which are great Readathon picks!

Took a break for dinner and to watch a little Walking Dead while I write up my post, then it's back to cheerleading and then back to reading!

Mid-Event Survey

1) How are you doing? Sleepy? Are your eyes tired? 

Doing pretty good.  Had a little nap this afternoon, so I'm going strong.

2) What have you finished reading?

Er, nothing.

3) What is your favorite read so far?

Both Clarity by Kim Harrington and Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman are treating me well.

4) What about your favorite snacks?

The big bag of Fun Size candy bars are quite delightful!  Mmmm, Twix. 

5) Have you found any new blogs through the readathon? If so, give them some love!

 Quite a few, but The Overstuffed Bookcase  is the one that's sticking out to me at the moment.  =)

Keep on keeping on fellow Readathonners! 

Readathon Update Hour 5

Reading Now: Some amalgamation of The Revisionists by Thomas Mullen, Clarity by Kim Harrington, and Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman (Indeed I am fraught with indecision.)

It's been __67__ pages and __5__ cheers since my last update.

Total Cheers:5

Cumulative Pages Read:67

Books Completed: 0

Eating?: Raspberry Jam and PB toast for breakfast.  Then a couple of those aforementioned salted caramel chunk cookies.  More recently a couple of fun sized candy bars.  Methinks it may be time for something salty.

Okay, yeah, so I'm off to a stellar start.  My computer mysteriously restarted itself while I was working on the kick-off meme.  After that I was interrupted ad nauseum.  Shortly thereafter I decided that The Revisionists, while a very promising read in general, is probably not a good Readathon book.  Then I pored over my YA-filled Kindle for a while until I chose Clarity by Kim Harrington and read about 40 pages of that.  I think it'll work for the rest of my day probably, so I'm letting Kindle charge while I update and check in with all the unfortunate souls I'm supposed to be cheering for. 

I swear, I will get this train back on track, right after I hunt down something salty to eat.  And I'm totally going to take a picture to put in my next update. 

*wanders off distractedly*

Keep up the great reading, readers!

Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon!

Greetings, all!  It's time for the greatest of October traditions, Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon (what, you thought it was...Halloween?  Nope!).  On this day on a nearly yearly basis I stun all my subscribers by posting more posts in a day than I have in the last...month or so?  So...uh, sorry about all that.  I promise the abject chaos won't last but hopefully a more consistent blogger will emerge in its wake.  I mean, one can hope.  Anyhow, that's enough chatter, I need to be reading or cheering or something, so take a gander at this kick-off meme while I get down to business!

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today?

Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania

2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?

Actually, I didn't even make a stack this time because usually I end up reading one book and then having to put the rest back.  I'm starting out with The Revisionists by Thomas Mullen that I was already reading, and I think it shows great promise! Though it will probably turn out to be too long and, you know, not YA enough....  

3) Which snack are you most looking forward to?

I got these new Chewy Chips Ahoy salted caramel chunk cookies and they are just perfect for Readathonning.

4) Tell us a little something about yourself!

Let's see, I'm almost 30, my TBR pile surpasses one thousand, and I am slow reader.  Does not compute.   I've been book blogging for just over 6 years (!), and the very first of Dewey's Read-a-thon is where I met a bunch of my earliest blogging buddies. :)

5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to?

Actually, this is the first time I've signed up officially as both a read and a cheerleader for the same Readathon, so that should be interesting.

Happy reading, all!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America by Barbara Ehrenreich

Non-fiction?  Who let non-fiction into the reading pile?  Well, it was bound to happen, my little trick that I use to choose my next read finally chose for me a non-fiction book from my collection.  What's more shocking, though, is that I didn't cheat and say "eh, not that one, maybe I'll just try and draw another number.  No one has to know."  Nope, I actually read the non-fiction book chose from my LibraryThing.  And I read it relatively fast.  And it was really good, if a little outdated because I should have read it years ago (but probably still truer than ever).  Thanks to Barbara Ehrenreich for showing me, yet again, that there's a non-fiction lover lurking within me!

Nickel and Dimed is a work of investigative journalism in which author Ehrenreich travels to a few different American locales under contrived circumstances to discover what it's like to live on the almost poverty-level wages many American workers earn at their occupations.  During stints as a waitress in Key West, a maid in Maine, and a Wal-Mart "associate" in Minnesota, Ehrenreich discovers that even given an edge of a lump sum of cash to start with and a car, living on the poverty-level wages millions of Americans are expected to subsist on is no easy feat.  Lodged in pay-by-the-week motels, suffering from the prodigious aches and pains that accompany low-wage labor, sometimes with hardly enough food to get by, and often even in fear for her safety, Ehrenreich offers a very enlightening look into the lives of the working poor.

The book itself is compelling.  Ehrenreich's writing style is extremely engaging and has such a great flow to it that it's actually hard to put down, a quality I'm always looking for in non-fiction and rarely finding.  The book is also peppered with footnotes elaborating on Ehrenreich's experience in the low-wage world with hard data related to low wage workers both in the locales in which she works and across the United States.

As for the content, some of it is truly eye-opening while some of it is borderline offensive to anybody who is working or ever has worked a low-wage job.  Ehrenreich exposes the pitfalls that come with having to take a job that is nearby even if it pays peanuts because you don't have a car (and likely never will at the wage you're making).  She reveals that many low-wage workers, because they don't have a month's rent and security deposit can't ever get a real apartment and are forced to rely on flea-bag pay-by-the-week motels, sometimes cramming whole families into a motel room or even a car if funds for the motel run out.  She shows how hourly employees are subject to the whims of mostly useless middle managers who demand a level of work that is practically slavish.  She delves into the demeaning world where drug tests are required, there is constant (often unwarranted) suspicion of worker drug use and theft, and worker belongings are subject to search when they are on the premises all for a paltry $7.00/hour, if that.  Ehrenreich discovers that low-wage workers are virtually invisible to the people they're serving as waitresses or maids and almost hopelessly trapped in a hamster-wheel of never having enough to get by, much less any savings to rely on in times of crisis.

On the other hand, PhD-holding Ehrenreich seems to need her book as much as any of the rest of us privileged folks.  If you've ever had to take a job as a waitress or a maid or a big-box store employee in your life, you might find yourself more than a little offended by Ehrenreich's surprise at the fact that "even" low-wage workers are smart, capable, and take pride in their work.  While it's easy to relate to Ehrenreich's bewilderment that a co-worker is continuing to work despite injury, she's obviously looking at it from the perspective of someone who has a cushion to fall back on rather than a worker who faces the very real possibility of being out on the street if she can't recover enough to keep her job.  Especially irritating to me, however, is Ehrenreich's account of her time working at Wal-Mart, where she flounces in, attempts to stir up some pro-union sentiment, suggests that low-income women all have the same sad haircut, engages in some vaguely patronizing speculation about the lives of the customers who frequent her department, and then seems to more or less glibly return to her life of privilege.    

Despite its flaws, though, Nickel and Dimed is a very compelling book and one that everybody in a America whose income allows them some measure of comfort and safety needs to read. If nothing else, it will make you think twice about leaving that bigger tip, not taking the maid that cleans your hotel room for granted, and maybe not wreaking thoughtless havoc on the shelves of the store where you're shopping.  More than that, Ehrenreich's book helps us to become re-acquainted with the people our incomes allow and encourage us to ignore and is the kind of book that can and should drive change in a "prosperous" country that is leaving a huge segment of its population behind.

 (No disclaimer required - I bought it!)  

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Hey, I Think It's My Blogiversary

Not that I deserve a blogiversary.  I'm pretty sure blogiversaries are for people who actually blog, and it would be generous to say that I've blogged, uh, sparingly this year.  That said, today marks six years worth of blogging for me, and considering I'm still surprised that I made it past the first year, it seems a shame to let it go by without any fanfare at all.  Not that the first year was bad or anything, I just have commitment issues when it comes to saying I'll do something next week, much less, you know, three years from now.

This year has been kind of sad year for me, blogging wise.  I've seen my own interest in blogging wane quite a bit in favor of travel, television, and spending more time with friend and family (er, not necessarily in that order).  In fact, there are days that I don't even turn my computer on, much less concern myself with a blog post.  My job sucks up a lot of my energy, and after a full day spent with a computer, the thought of looking at the computer yet more is less than alluring.  Blogging has changed a lot, and so many bloggers are stretched so thin over about a zillion types of social media that the community is very different than the one I enjoyed so much as a "young" blogger.  That and so many of the people whose blogs I've been reading forever seem to be actively throwing in the towel or just slowly fading away from the blogs I've loved for a long time.  I've been reluctant to change with the times, and I am nostalgic for the old ways, if you will, but I'm still hanging in there (despite the fact that this is a more or less melancholy blogiversary "celebration").  And, as ever, I thank all of you who are still hanging in with me! 

I'm as enthusiastic about reading as ever.  I've set a fairly good reading pace (for me, the turtle reader) this year.  Plus, I'm on a great reading streak, and I really need to share some reviews of those titles with you.  I mean, Brewster by Mark Slouka?  So heart-breakingly fantastic.  Rules of Civility by Amor Towles?  The narrator - best ever.  1930s New York - pitch perfect.  I'm getting into books I loved so much that they're hard to talk about with any coherence.

Recently, I took my commitment-phobe self over to Twitter to see if I should participate in next Saturday's Dewey's Readathon, and was strongly informed that I (obviously) should participate on both the reading and cheerleading fronts.  I'm a big people pleaser, so obviously I've since signed up for both.  I'm looking forward to re-connecting with some old friends and discovering some new (to me) blogging faces, and, obviously, getting in some good reading.  I hope to see your face at the Readathon.  It'll be that much more fun!

So, what's new with you?  Will you be Readathoning?  And if you're getting to be an oldie blogger like me, how has blogging changed for you?  (I'm very inquisitive today.  ;-))