Category: E-Readers

Mar 05

The Word Exchange by Alena Graedon

Dystopian, E-Readers, Mystery 9

Good Morrow, Bookworms!

Raise your hand if you use your smart phone more than you’re proud of. My hand is high in the air, y’all. (I blame Trivia Crack.) I remember hearing a whole bunch of folks talking about the awesomeness that is The Word Exchange by Alena Graedon so when it popped up as available from my library’s digital services, I had to download it. Because I’m controlled by machines. They’re becoming sentient. OooOOOOOooooO.

wordexchangeEnter the world of The Word ExchangeIt’s a few years in the future and a smart-phone-like device known as a Meme has become ubiquitous. The Meme ain’t your average iPhone though. This thing pretty much predicts your thoughts and behaviors. It’s more than a little creepy. It kind of makes me wonder why everyone is all kinds of surprised when things go terribly, terribly wrong. (Of course, the characters in the novel didn’t have the advantage of reading about the whole thing at a distance. Omniscience is a gift. Gosh, I love fiction!)

Anana Johnson works for one of the world’s last remaining dictionaries. When her father goes missing, she stumbles upon a conspiracy, a secret society, and contracts a potentially deadly plague. Makes your Friday night seem uneventful, doesn’t it? A “word flu” has begun spreading that’s causing people to speak gibberish along with a nasty case of physical flu-like symptoms. I’ll give you three guesses as to what creeptastic device is behind the spread of the plague, but you’ll only need one! Anana teams up with her colleague (and secret admirer) Bart in order to track down her father and try to save the day.

The Word Exchange is a fun, weird, ride. It’s not an especially lengthy novel, but I found myself taking longer than usual to get through it. I typically get most of my reading in at night before I go to sleep, and I found my brain rebelling when I hit passages where infected folks were speaking gibberish. And by “brain rebelling,” I mean I fell asleep. I wasn’t bored, I’m just really spoiled by standardized spelling. If you’re in the mood for a fast paced, semi-dystopian mystery with a side of word nerd (and who isn’t?) The Word Exchange is your book!

Sound off, Bookworms! Do you think that we as a society have become too reliant on our smart phones? Will it bring about the end of days? (I might be watching Doomsday Preppers. I can’t be held responsible for my alarmist tone.)

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*


Aug 08

No More Overdue Books: Getting Digital with your Local Library

E-Readers 41

Greetings, Bookworms!

I’ve told y’all a time or twelve how much I adore reading on my kindle. (Sorry physical book purists, this post will be of no interest to you. You have my full permission to daydream about unicorns and puppies and singing penguins.) One of the biggest drawbacks for me when I first got the kindle was that I had to pay for all my books. Sure, there were free classics, which is great, but a girl cannot live on classics alone. There are always free titles available too, but the only stuff I wanted to read I had to pay for.

Now that Oyster, Kindle Unlimited, and all sorts of other services claiming to be Netflix for books are floating around out there, it seemed a good time to remind the internet of an older, awesome service for free e-books. It’s your LIBRARY! Holla! My local library now carries an entire digital book list on their website that I can download straight to my kindle (and they have since like 2011.) The service is powered by OverDrive, which is compatible with most e-readers and tablet devices. The best part? You can NEVER forget to return your book. They’ll just take it back if you forget to renew or return it.

digital library

My friend Joules (of Pocketful of Joules, you should be reading her blog) asked me to put together something approaching a tutorial on the subject because she got confused and frustrated when trying to figure out how to get library books on her kindle. I am NOT an expert on the subject, and I can only speak for my experience with my library, but a little googling has revealed that OverDrive powers the majority of the e-book library programs, so I think the process is fairly uniform.

First things first, check out your library website. They may or may not have access to this service. My town, which, despite my claiming I live in a cornfield, has access to this. If you live in a super small town, you might be out of luck, for which I apologize on behalf of library kind. You will probably need a pin number in addition to your library card number, which you should be able to request pretty painlessly from your library. That’s it. I was going to put together a tutorial, but then I realized the folks at OverDrive have already done it and they did it better than I would have. CLICK THIS LINK! 

As much as I love this service, it’s not ALL sunshine and rainbows. My library doesn’t always have EVERYTHING I want to read. And, because they have to legally treat their digital copies like physical copies, there are often long wait lists for new releases. BUT.  Oyster and Kindle Unlimited have some serious limitations too (like the fact that some of the big fancy publishers won’t play nicely with them) so it’s all relative. At least the library option is free!

Tell me Bookworms- do any of you utilize your library’s digital offerings? 


Dec 05

Digital Book Haul… Oh, the SAVINGS!

Blogging, E-Readers 50

Greetings Bookworms!

If you’re following me on Facebook (and if you aren’t, why not?!?!) you probably noticed that I have been freaking out over the Kindle deals this week on Amazon. Between Cyber Monday sales and Daily Deals, I’ve purchased SO MANY books this week! I think they deserve their own post, don’t you?

digital book haul

1. Fire from Heaven by Mary Renault: Cost= $1.99. Regular Price = $3.03. Savings = $1.04. I have heard so many amazing things about Mary Renault and her stellar historical fiction, but I’ve never read any of it. That’s all about to change!

2. Sophie’s Choice by William Styron: Cost= $2.99. Regular Price = $9.99. Savings = $7.00. Everybody knows the classic Meryl Streep movie… Even if they haven’t actually SEEN it (guilty as charged.) I don’t like the fact that big titles are floating around out there that I haven’t read yet.

3. Unclean Jobs for Women and Girls by Alissa Nutting: Cost = $1.99. Regular Price = $7.69. Savings = $5.70. Andi at Estella’s Revenge inspired me to tackle a confrontational read. For that price? I won’t feel badly if I have to DNF!

4. The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty: Cost = $7.99. Regular Price = $7.99. Savings = $0. Yeah, this one wasn’t on sale, but I got SO EXCITED when I read about Leah at Books Speak Volumes and her Jazz Age January event that I couldn’t resist!

jazzage5. North and South by John Jakes: Cost = $2.99. Regular Price = $7.69. Savings = $4.70. My friend Lauren from Filing Jointly…Finally has been telling me to read this trilogy of epic Civil War Novels since forever. Clearly I had to purchase the entire trilogy…

6. Love and War by John Jakes: Cost = $2.99. Regular Price= $8.54. Savings = $5.55. When I told Lauren I had purchased this series of books, her response was classic Lauren…

7. Heaven and Hell by John Jakes: Cost = $2.99. Regular Price= $8.54. Savings = $5.55. “Oh, you’ll like it. If you know what’s good for you.” Gotta love friends who don’t bother to veil their threats :).

8. Flight: A Novel by Sherman Alexie: Cost = $2.99. Regular Price = $9.99. Savings = $7.00. I haven’t read any Sherman Alexie, but if someone’s work manages to get itself banned, it’s usually worth reading.

Christmas Katoo

9 & 10. Exodous & QB VIII by Leon Uris: Cost = $3.99. Regular Price = $10.56. Savings = $6.57.  That’s right, guys. TWO books for the price of ONE heavily discounted book. My Mother in Law recommended Leon Uris to me. I figured it was worth a shot.

11. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt: Cost = $2.99. Regular Price = $7.99. Savings = $5.00. The book blogosphere has been BUZZING with praise for this chunkster of a novel. I hate being out of the loop!

12. Burial Rites by Hannah Kent: Cost = $2.99. Regular Price = $10.91. Savings = $7.92. This book is all over best-of-the-year lists. Plus, how often do you run across books set in Iceland? Not often enough, obviously. My only associations with Iceland are that impossible-to-pronounce volcano and Bjork.

bjorkLet’s recap, shall we? That’s a grand total of 12 books for the bargain price of $36.89. That’s an average of $3.07 per book. Total savings = $56.03. Merry Christmas to ME! 

Anybody else out there get some stellar deals Black Friday or Cyber Monday shopping? Now’s your opportunity to brag! Spill it! 

P.S. If you choose to purchase any books using the links on this site, I won’t see one red cent. Yeah, I bought my books on Amazon for my Kindle which I adore, but Illinois and Amazon just can’t seem to get along, so I can’t be an Amazon affiliate. Two states in the union with this restriction and I live in one of them. Grrrr, Illinois, play nice!


Sep 17

Falling for Fall: Top Ten Tuesday

Dystopian, E-Readers, Frightening, Mystery, Supernatural, Top Ten Tuesday 62

Good Day, Bookworms!

It’s the middle of September now, so I’m feeling very Autumnal. Luckily, the ladies of The Broke and The Bookish seem to be feeling this way, too! Today’s topic for Top Ten Tuesday listy goodness is the top ten books we plan to read this fall.


Halloween is just around the corner, and this year to celebrate I thought I’d do some spooky reading. I know what you’re thinking. “Katie, you are afraid of everything and you are setting yourself up for a month of nightmares, you big chickeny chicken face!” You’re right. But I’m gonna do it anyway! Let’s get our creepy on!

1. The Passage by Justin Cronin. It’s October’s Fellowship of the Worms selection! Zombie/vampire hybrids? Yep. Nightmares. But at least we’re doing this TOGETHER!

2. Dracula by Bram Stoker. This is THE classic vampire novel. How have I managed this long without having read this book? It seems so terribly wrong…

3. The Walkng Dead: Rise of the Governor by Robert Kirkman and Jay Bonansinga. The new season of The Walking Dead  begins in October and I’m so excited! I got a copy of this book at BlogHer13 after watching Gale Anne Hurd’s kickass keynote. ZOMBIES!


4. The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins. I’m trying to incorporate some more classics into my literary diet and it’s spooktacular. (I know. I am already kicking myself for using such a dumb phrase. My shins shall be so very bruised…)

5. Feed by Mira Grant. ZOMBIES! I’ve heard great things about this series, so I’m pretty stoked about it. Braaaaaaaains. Om nom nom!

6. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. Halloween brings out the kid in me, why not indulge in a creepy kid’s story? Everybody loves the classic “kid raised by wolves ghosts” tale!


7. The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell. Aliens and religion. When you dig deep into religion you get into some secretive, scandalous, and mysterious tidbits. Add aliens?! Well. I mean, ALIENS! (I love ET. That doesn’t have a whole lot to do with anything, but that’s what comes to mind when I think of aliens. I cannot watch that movie without crying. He’s like a weird ugly otherwordly chihuahua.)

8. Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier. I’ve been meaning to read this for ages. I’m SUPER annoyed that I can’t get it for my kindle yet. Ugh. Seriously, people. I love me some digital books. I haven’t got the storage space to bring more physical books into my house. It seems exceptions will have to be made, but not without a little grumbling. Grumble grumble grumble…

9. The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux. Duuuuuuuuuuun dun dun dun dun duuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuun! Sorry, sorry. It just got a little Andrew Lloyd Weber up in here. I would like to read this ghostly little tidbit though. I hear that no one tells a story like Gaston, so…

10. The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker. What is scarier than the end of the world, dude?! Let’s do this thing!

What are your plans for the fall, bookworms? A little bit of frightful fare for the spooky season? Tell me about it!


Aug 20

Top Ten Tuesday: Tools For Easy Reading

Audio Books, Blogging, E-Readers 54

Howdy Bookworms,

It’s Tuesday! This week the ladies of The Broke and the Bookish have taken a new tack, I shall be listing the top ten things that make my life easier as a reader and blogger. Cool right? Here goes…


1. Kindle Paperwhite. I know that there’s still a lot of debate concerning “real” books vs. e-books. I think you should read whatever you happen to like. I will tell you that for me, the Kindle is delightful. My house is not huge so physical book storage can be a problem. I love that my Kindle easily fits in my purse (even if I don’t want to carry a gigantic bag.) It stores all the books I can handle and I love it! Plus, the e-ink they figured out looks a lot more like a book page than a computer screen. They’re magical.

2. Capital One Rewards Card. Why? I use the card for day to day expenses (yes, I pay it off every month. Geeze, Suze Orman, get off my back!) The points I accrue I cash in for Amazon gift cards. It’s how I fund my reading habit.

3. Digital Library Books. I was SO STOKED when Amazon began allowing Kindle books to be used as library books. There are some drawbacks, of course. Kindle library books are treated as though they’re physical books- if they’ve only got one copy of it, you’re going to have to wait. However. I can still take books out from my local library without worrying about picking them up or returning them on time. No late fees when the title simply expires on the expiration date. Plus, it’s one less errand I need to run. Ain’t nobody got time to run errands.

I love you, my Kindle!

I love you, my Kindle!

4. NetGalley– I’m sure you’ve noticed in many a post that I mention I’ve received a copy of a book via NetGalley. NetGalley is a service that provides “professional readers” (I know right?! I’m a professional reader?!?! Can I put that on my resume?) with advanced copies of books in exchange for reviews. I love this system because it’s very low pressure. I actually like the relative anonymity of the system. I want to be honest about books (though I do try not to be mean.) I find it harder to be honest if I’ve got a rapport going with an author and then the book falls flat for me. With NetGalley, you’re working with the publisher, and not directly with the author which is awesome, because I don’t like conflict. Eeep!

5. Book Lights- This is less of an issue for me now that I’ve got that glorious Kindle Paperwhite (which has a built in glow feature) but book lights are the best. I do the majority of my reading in bed and Hubs typically falls asleep before I’m ready to turn in. Having a light that doesn’t illuminate the whole room is the key to a successful marriage. Or something like that.

6. Goodreads Are you on Goodreads? It’s a social media site dedicated to book lovers. You can track the books you’ve read for the year, keep tabs on ratings, and chat with other users. Admittedly, I don’t do much on the social side of Goodreads. I mostly use it to keep track of what I’ve read, but I love that if I get off my duff, it’s got a ton of other options. (Want to be Goodreads friends? Search for Katie Kelly. Profile pic is Wormy McSmartypants!)

smarty mcwordypants

7. Feedly This is what I use for my RSS feed. It allows me to keep tabs on ALL THE BLOGS! It doesn’t matter the platform you’re blogging on, I see it all on Feedly. Sweet right?

8. My iPhone. I’ve got a WordPress app on my phone that allows me to do a lot of this blogging business on the go. Plus? It’s got an Alice in Wonderland cover on it.

9. Audio Books- It’s wonderful to be able to listen to a book while on a long drive. Radio stations can be unreliable when you’re driving a long distance. It feels like the ultimate multitasking. Yay audio books!

10. Penguins. Not really, I just needed a number 10. But seriously, how awesome are penguins?!?!

What about you, Bookworms? Are there any accessories, programs, or websites that make your reading life go more smoothly? Tell me about it!


Aug 08

Everything You Never Knew You Wanted To Know: A Bookish Q&A

Blogging, Book Club, Children's Fiction, Classics, Coming of Age, Contemporary Fiction, E-Readers, Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Humor 43

Hey Bookworms!

What’s this? Why it’s a survey about books! Why am I doing this? I may or may not be slightly behind in my reading. Plus, I like to change things up from time to time. So, I’d like to thank Rory at Fourth Street Review for inspiring Sarah of Sarah Says Read to complete this survey… I’d also like to thank Sarah for posting it so that I’d have something to jabber about today. My blog friends are the coolest.

Book Q&A Rules

1. Post these rules
2. Post a photo of your favourite book cover
3. Answer the questions below
4. Tag a few people to answer them too
5. Go to their blog/twitter and tell them you’ve tagged them
6. Make sure you tell the person who tagged you that you’ve taken part!

The octopus is a bookmark I got from a friend. Delightful, no?

Plus, my bookmark totally matched.

Your Favorite Book Cover:

I don’t think I can really claim to have a “favorite book cover.” Cover art usually isn’t something I get all swoony over. However, I really dug the cover of FangirlI’m in a coral and turquoise phase right now. Which leads me to this particular turmoil:

Katie: I really love coral and turquoise

Inner Snarky Voice: Oh really? You love coral and turquoise? Maybe you should move to Miami in the 80s and see if The Golden Girls need another roommate.

Katie: Ouch, Inner Snarky Voice. But kudos on working The Golden Girls into a blog post. Bea Arthur would be proud.

What are you reading right now?

I am currently ping ponging between Peter and Wendy by JM Barrie and The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Luis Zafron. (Fellowship of the Worms pick, you guys! Although, a little housekeeping. Instead of tackling this on Monday the 12th, we’ll be doing it on Thursday the 15th. The blogoversary is on Monday and I’ve got a SWEET giveaway I want to do.

Do you have any idea what you’ll read when you’re done with that?

Oh goodness, I’ve got quite a stack. It’ll just depend on how the mood strikes me when it’s time to pick up the next one.

What five books have you always wanted to read but haven’t got round to? 

Oh yes. These too.

Oh yes. These too.

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

Dracula by Bram Stoker

Yeah, they’re all classics. I need to fill in the holes left by my education.

What magazines do you have in your bathroom/ lounge right now?

We don’t get any magazines. Is that weird? And if we did, they wouldn’t be in our bathrooms. We wouldn’t want our reading material to be flagged, now would we?

What’s the worst book you’ve ever read?

That’s a bit of a sticky question, now isn’t it? There’s plenty (and I mean PLENTY) of books that I don’t like, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have merit. To somebody. Somewhere. Who has terrible taste… Nah. Really, I can’t think of one. I’m going to abstain.

What book seemed really popular but you didn’t like?

A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan. I just can’t. I don’t understand what all the hoopla was about. I’m either not smart enough or not cool enough to appreciate it. Probably a little bit of both. But. Meh.

What’s the one book you always recommend to just about everyone?

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. (Sarah and I concur on this one!) Seriously, I do recommend this to just about everyone because it’s got a little something for everyone. Sci-Fi? Historical Fiction? Romance? Naked Time? Trauma? Family Relationships? Practical applications of leeches? I’m telling you. Ev. Ry. Thing. And it’s completely amazeballs. So there’s that too,

Mmmm. Jamie Fraser... (Source)

Mmmm. Jamie Fraser… (Source)

What are your three favourite poems?

I don’t read a whole lot of poetry. It’s not that I don’t appreciate it, it’s just that… If poetry were music it would be classical. I prefer my music to have guitars and lyrics. That said, Emily Dickinson is my homegirl.

Where do you usually get your books?

Most of the time I order titles for my Kindle from Amazon. I do occasionally get books via NetGalley, and the library, of course.

When you were little, did you have any particular reading habits?

None that I remember. I do recall climbing trees a lot and wanting to drag a book up there with me, but a tree limb isn’t a comfortable lounging situation for more than a few minutes. Even a 10 year old backside could tell you that.

Gratuitous cute childhood photo.

Gratuitous cute childhood photo. I am like 3 or 4 here. Not 10. Late bloomer I was, but not THIS late.

What’s the last thing you stayed up half the night reading because it was too good to put down?

I stayed up way too late finishing Fangirl last week. What can I say? I HAD TO KNOW THINGS.

Have you ever “faked” reading a book?

Sometimes when I take those “have you read this” quizzes and they list “the collected works” of someone, I’ll go ahead and mark it if I’ve read  a handful of their stuff. No, I have not read ALL of Shakespeare or Edgar Allen Poe or Oscar Wilde. It seems unfair to have to have read the ENTIRE catalog to get credit. Humph.

Have you ever bought a book just because you liked the cover?

I barely notice covers these days thanks to my digital predilections. I have, however, bought plenty of books just because they were on sale. I’m a sucker for a bargain bin.

What was your favourite book when you were a child?

When I was really small, we had this book about an owl. I remember it had a dark purple cover. No idea what it was called, but that was a frequent bedtime request. Once I could read to myself, I dearly loved pretty much anything by Beverly Cleary.

MORE gratuitous cute childhood photos...

MORE gratuitous cute childhood photos…

What book changed your life?

Changed my life? That’s a tall order, now isn’t it? I don’t know that it changed my life, but Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret soothed my tortured tween soul in ways nothing else could have.

What is your favourite passage from a book?

I’ve always loved Alice’s famous line “Curiouser and curiouser.” Because she was always messing up her words. Much like Amy in Little Women. I have a fondness for reaching beyond one’s vocabulary…

Who are your top five favourite authors?

Tough call but… Diana Gabaldon, JK Rowling, Rainbow Rowell, Jojo Moyes, and Margaret Atwood. Aaaaand basically the only thing any of them have in common is that they’re female. Which is unintentional, but whatever. High five to my literary ladies!

What book has no one heard about but should read?

Fall on Your Knees by Ann-Marie MacDonald. Yes, it was an Oprah’s book club pick, but it’s one that’s sort of been glossed over. I don’t hear much about it and it’s one of the most amazing books I’ve ever read.

What books are you an ‘evangelist’ for?

Uhhh… I kind of hate the term “evangelist” because it has negative religious connotations for me. Although, since we’re on the topic of religion, let’s talk about ladies and their roles in it. How’s about The Red Tent by Anita Diamant, Pope Joan by Donna Woolfolk Cross, and The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood? All awesome.

My brother got a Broadway musical, and all I got was this (awesome) book.

My brother got a Broadway musical, and all I got was this (awesome) book. Nobody bought me a technicolor dreamcoat.

What are your favourite books by a first time author?

Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt. Go read this right now. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.

What is your favourite classic book?

That is a tough call, because I love me some classics. Probably Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.

Five other notable mentions?

Notable classics I actually enjoyed? Sure. Tess of the D’urbervilles by Thomas Hardy, Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, and A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.

Right. Now I’m supposed to tag people or something? Well I’m not doing that. But if you’re a blogger and you need a topic one day, I recommend this survey. Fun times, I tell you. Fun times. 

Anybody have anything to add to this list of goodness? Another question to me to answer? Your own answer to some of these? Talk to me, Bookworms!


Jan 15

Holly Daze: Underachiever Extraordinaire (Life Well Blogged)

E-Readers, Humor 20

Hidey Ho Bookworms!

So. Here’s the thing. I’m about to review this book, right? But I’ve got to give you about a mountain of full disclosure here… One of my blog posts is FEATURED in the book! I’M IN A BOOK! Clearly, this isn’t going to be a terribly objective review. So sue me.

Life Well Blogged is a series of blog anthologies that are organized around a particular theme. Holly Daze: Underachiever Extraordinaire is a book highlighting blog posts about holidays. My piece is about my quest to find an appropriate container for my wrapping paper, which, in case you missed it, can also be found HERE. Also featured in this book are two of my favorite people EVER, Chrissy the giant pink ball of crazy behind Quirky Chrissy and Lauren the brilliant, whimsical, and moderately insane voice behind Filing Jointly…Finally. (Coincidentally, one of my OTHER favorite people, Joules of Pocketful of Joules was featured in one of the earlier editions of Life Well Blogged.)

holly daze

Aside from the name dropping, what do I think of this collection? I’m not going to claim it’s brilliant classic literature or anything… I mean, it’s blog posts. Some of the blog posts are pretty funny. Some of them are hysterical. Some of them might not resonate with you. However, if you like to read blogs (and that’s a safe bet given that you’re here right now, reading my blog post) I think you might enjoy the book.

You should also know that I’m not going to profit from the sales of this book or anything. My payment for my contribution to the book was a free kindle copy. It retails at $2.99. You know what the means?! I GOT PAID TO WRITE! Sort of. I’ll take it. Also. A portion of the proceeds of this book are going to Superstorm Sandy relief. I mean, come on. Even if you buy this and don’t completely love it, you’ve helped a whole bunch of bloggers get a big fat ego boost AND you’ve helped your fellow human beings. How can you lose?


Jan 07

On Gold Mountain by Lisa See: A Lesson in Reading the Synopsis Before Purchase

Asia, E-Readers, Family, Non Fiction 24

Hey Bookworms,

How is everyone doing today? I just finished slogging through Lisa See’s On Gold Mountain. It taught me a very important lesson. You should always read the synopsis of a book before you click purchase. This was on sale for the kindle so I snapped it up thinking, “Oh Lisa See! Always such great tidbits on Chinese cultures- quick reads too!” No. No, no, no.

This book was not fiction. It was the geneological account of Lisa See’s family. It wasn’t historical fiction. It was just history. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, it’s just that you don’t get to take liberties in well researched factual accounts. While there were parts of this book that were enthralling, I found myself picking up bits and pieces of trivia that I’ve gotten out of See’s fictional work, and thinking, “Oh. That’s where she got this! Yeah. Works better when you can edit…”


This book was published in 1995 (which I discovered after-the-fact) which is well before most of the novels I’m familiar with by See. I really enjoyed Snow Flower and the Secret Fan I liked it so much that I picked up Peony in Love. That one was probably longer than necessary, but by the end I felt like I finally understood some of the Chinese religious traditions I’d learned about in college. The book brought them to life for me and I was pleased. Then I tackled Shanghai Girls a few years later and devoured it in a few days.

There’s so much in On Gold Mountain that I could see in the other books- the destruction of Chinatown and construction of the doomed China City, immigration fraud and paper sons, racial bias, religion, foot binding- it’s all there. It’s just not NEARLY as entertaining. Truth be told, I was into the book for about the first third of it. Once we started hitting the 50s and there was business launch after business launch, I started losing interest. The second half of the book was a slog. I just wanted to finish it so I could read something else since I’d already made it more than halfway through (that’s my DNF threshold. If I make it to the halfway point, I must finish it.)


The business launches and moves from one part of the city to another were lost on me. I have zero concept of the layout of San Francisco, Pasadena, Sacramento, Los Angeles, or any of the surrounding suburbs. Moving from one street to another meant ZERO to me. Also, there were a CRAP TON of characters. I’m not judging here, I get that Chinese tradition was different, but dude. Fong See had 4 wives. And 8 zillion children. And we learned every one of their stories. Plus uncles and cousins and then the Caucasian relatives? Spinning head.

Bottom line here? If you’re not a member of the See family or have an intense interest in the history of Chinese immigration and LA’s Chinatown, just don’t bother. You get all the juicy highlights of the family’s experiences in See’s fiction, and it’s a lot more concise and entertaining. There are some 450 page books I can read and not even notice the length. This felt like a thousand pages. Learn from my mistakes! Read the abstracts before buying the sale books!


Oct 12

Confession Friday: I Don't Finish Reading Everything I Start

Book Club, Classics, Dystopian, E-Readers 32

Welcome to the Confessional, Bookworms! Let’s talk about my secret shames, shall we? Ordinarily, I am a stubborn book finisher. There have been occasions where I power through a book where I hate the characters, hate the situations, and sometimes talk back to characters… Loudly. It makes me feel powerful to “not let the book win.” The books that have won haunt me. Let’s talk about them!

I started reading The Fifth Book of Peace by Maxine Hong Kingston because I had read her book The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of Girlhood Among Ghosts in college and really liked it. Woman Warrior was all about Chinese girls growing up in America and the cultural mish-mash they encountered. So, when I was in Barnes & Noble with my graduation gift cards burning a hole in my pocket, I saw The Fifth Book of Peace on the clearance rack and bought it excitedly. Unfortunately, I made it halfway through the novel and gave up. It starts off with Kingston lamenting the loss of one of her books and her home to wildfire. (Terribly sad for her, I’d absolutely lament too.) Then she started reconstructing what she remembered of the original novel. A Chinese American artist, his wife, and their son run off to Hawaii during the Vietnam era to avoid the draft. They lived off the grid in a squatters village and… I have no idea because I stopped reading. Reading this felt like a chore, and there are so many FUN things out there. I took a break from it, put it on a shelf, and never went back to it. To this day, it taunts me from the bookshelf…

Stop judging me, book!

Sons and Lovers by DH Lawrence is next in my little walk of shame. I really liked Lady Chatterley’s Lover, so I figured another Lawrence tome was a safe bet. Back in the days before I had a Kindle, I carried handbags of epic proportions. I went to visit my Slaw (short for sister in law, for those of you who aren’t up on my lingo. Jenny smells nothing like cabbage and I actually hate coleslaw, but my brain does stupid things with letters and this is what it spit out) in Chicago one weekend and had perhaps one adult beverage too many. At this point, I started hunting for my lip balm, thus scattering the contents of my ginormous handbag on a table in a bar. Photographic evidence below… I should really stop using that bookmark. That’s the one I was using on The Fifth Book of Peace too. Maybe it’s cursed. I read a little bit more of it on the train back home, but that was the end of that. I was expecting some Lady Chatterley flowery smut and I got a carnival and some weird dating stories. Then I fell asleep. Narcolepsy, I guess. Or a mild hangover. Tomato, toMAHto.

Of course there were cameras that night! Of course there were.

Our last stop on the walk of shame is 1Q84. Oh boy. So I’ve mentioned that I only speak English right?  The title of this book apparently means something funny in Japanese, but something is lost in translation. The number nine and the letter Q? Yeah. Not funny. How I came to be reading this in the first place is an embarassing story. I’m apparently an accidental cultural bigot. My book club (Wine and Whining) read Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro and I loved it. Yay dystopian clones! One day, I was hunting through the books available for Kindle from my local library. I saw 1Q84 by Hakuri Murakami and I thought “oh! I liked his book about the clones!” Because if you’re me, those two completely different Japanese names are the same?! You are welcome to judge me harshly for this- I deserve it.

Murakami is more the sort of novelist that fancy people pretend to like- nothing about clones (sad face.) The problem with Kindle books is that you can’t see the, uh, girth of the novel. I’m also lazy and I never look at the approximate page numbers when choosing books, so I didn’t realize that trying to read a 928 page novel on alternate worlds set in Japan wouldn’t be possible in the span of my two week lending period. The book went back to the library (no late fees = digital lending perk) and I never checked it out again. Woops.

Maybe one day I’ll get back to it. Maybe.

There you have it, Bookworms. Katie’s walk of shame- books I didn’t finish. Happy weekend!