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There are two online library catalogs that I have found and used: LibraryThing and Goodreads.

[Note: I was recently introduced to Shelfari, but I've never used it (those of you who have, feel free to comment!).]

LibraryThing (LT) and GoodReads (GR) are very different products. Both have pros and cons -- if this were Utopia, I would smack the two together into one product. So, for those of you who are interested in catalog / bookshelf websites, I thought I would review the two in order to help you make a more informed decision.

In general, I like LT more than I like GR. LT has superior functionality, superior organization, and a wider variety of neat-o options. But, that's not to say that GR is completely worthless. GR's strength is in its communicative "feed" functions. Its similar to livejournal in that you can "friend" someone and have their updates pooled into your own feed on your own profile / GR site. Also, GR is more aesthetically pleasing to look at; it is clean and crisp and shiny. LT, on the otherhand, is in need of a SERIOUS skin makeover. Its just ugly, IMO.

So generally, which one you choose is going to be dependent upon what kind of site you're ultimately looking for.

ONWARD!Collapse )

As I said, overall, I like LT better than I like GR. But, GR has some really great "community" aspects that I really like (and wish that LT would incorporate). If you are looking for a site that is more interactive, GR is probably the better choice for you. If you're looking for a site that has better organization and more options, then LT is probably the right fit.
Community Post Time!

Topic: Authors you Loved, but Now Dislike.

You know what I'm talking about. The author you followed religiously for years, until all of a sudden, their product turned to crap.

Who is on your list? Why did you stop reading them? What was the turning point for you? Was it a switch in genre (i.e., romance to mystery), or a change in writing style? Or, did they just start to bore you?

Spill it!

Blood Dreams by Kay Hooper

Blood Dreams by Kay Hooper.

Blood Dreams wasn't a disappointment, but it wasn't THRILLING either. And, I expected more out of Kay Hooper.

Backdrop: Blood Dreams is "Issue #1" of "Volume 4" of the Bishop / Special Crime Unit Trilogies. I got hooked on Kay Hooper by reading Stealing Shadows, and I've kept track of her ever since.

The Bishop / Special Crime Unit Trilogies deal with psychic FBI agents (I know, I know...) that track serial killers and other domestic boogie-men (she has yet to dab her toe into the pool of foreign issues like terrorism). And, like a lot of authors, her first few started out really good, and the series has slowly puttered down to 2-3 star status.

I liked the book. I just didn't love it.

Unlike the previous installments in the trilogies, Blood Dreams deals with a private company off-shoot of the Bishop team (because not EVERYONE can be an FBI agent, yo). Some of the characters were interesting. But, spoilersCollapse ) It was a fun read, but it definitely wasn't worth $27.00. Which is what Barnes & Noble charged me. (I should have pre-ordered on Amazon.)

I don't know if it was the new formula or a drag in her writing style that has been in the works for the last few years, but Blood Dreams rates a 2 1/2, maybe 3 star rating. Wait for paperback. And, for the love of God, do not let it be your first experience with the series. Please go back to the beginning. Those books are good.

Hot Ice by Nora Roberts

Hot Ice by Nora Roberts.

Random Side Note: I'm always surprised at how minimalist and poorly executed Nora Robert's website seems given her popularity. Eh.

Hot Ice was written originally written in 1987 (I linked to the re-print edition). And, boy, oh boy, is it obvious that Hot Ice is "not of this time." Not only is the 70s mentioned (oh the horror!), but everyone smokes. Its a little bit jarring, actually, and reminiscent of a time when smoking was "cool" and "hip."

Its an entertaining book. Well written and amusing. I'd rather read it than watch a crappy television show; which, given the current writer's strike, is a stellar endorsement. ;)

It has some glaring grammatical errors that can be distraction ("crocks" for the shorthand crocodile instead of "crocs"), and its predictable. Then again, its not as if the reader doesn't know what s/he is getting her/himself into when you pick up a Nora Roberts book. If I wanted to read a gloom and doom ending (and, at times, I do), then I most certainly wouldn't read a Nora Roberts book.

But, all that said, the characters and dialog are funny, if a bit contrived. The plot is at least mildly interesting. The bad guy is bad, and the good guy is an interesting shade of gray. The book's plot revolves around French Revolution treasure buried in Madagascar, with the bad guys hot on the tails of the good guys. The female protagonist is a tad bit unbelievable. This has more to do with the "off" balance between naïveté and guts, but its a fun book.

If you're looking to be entertained without having to use your brain cells, this is a great read. Though, unless you're largely interested in reading as pure entertainment, I would stick to a library copy, as opposed to a purchase.

Shadow Music by Julie Garwood

Shadow Music by Julie Garwood.

I'm usually entertained by Julie Garwood, but her last three books have been a disappointment. Unfortunately, Shadow Music has done nothing to change the current slump.

It was poorly written, boring, unfunny, and predictable. Its not even worth a paperback purchase (it is currently out in hardback). Even if I had checked it out at the library, I would still feel that it was a waste of my (very precious) time. And, I'm definitely adding it to my stack of "Sell to Half-Price Books."

Ironically, its her first "historic romance" novel in years. I became a fan of her romantic suspense novels a few years ago, and I've followed her ever since. But, the last few romantic suspenses she released were boring and not up to par. I had hopes that returning to her "original genre" would save her writing style, but alas it didn't.

Her characters were 2-D, and the plot was slow as hell.

SpoilersCollapse )

It wasn't entertaining, which....why the hell else would you read a romance novel if not to be entertained? (Note: It wasn't even that porny and the porn that was in it was BORING PORN. HOW DO YOU MAKE PORN BORING?)

In sum, don't buy. Don't buy it in hardback. Don't buy it in paperback. If you're a Julie Garwood fan, and you just *have* to read it, check it out from the library. Trust me. It'll save you money -- money that could be spent on better and more entertaining books.
The Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a Small Town by John Grisham.




If you believe that in America you are innocent until proven guilty, this book will shock you. If you believe in the death penalty, this book will disturb you. If you believe the criminal justice system is fair, this book will infuriate you.


Ron Williamson was a deadbeat. He was useless. A drain on the system. An alcoholic, and a petty criminal. But, he wasn't a murderer.

Williamson and Dennis Fritz were convicted of murdering Debra Sue Carter in 1988. Williamson was given the death penalty, and Fritz faced life in prison. Of the two, Grisham chose to focus his book on Williamson -- a local baseball hero turned mentally disturbed small-town criminal. Though, I found the story of Fritz more compelling (Fritz's wife was murdered several years before he was accused of killing Carter, and the killer was never captured), in hindsight, I understand why Grisham chose Williamson.

Williamson was everything a jury could possibly dislike about a defendant. He was a burden on his family. A burden on his town. A burden on what few friends he was able to make and keep. He was loud, obnoxious, and irritating. Mentally disturbed and lacking treatment for a majority of his life - both in and out of prison. (Note: The book is also an interesting study on the problems with the mental health care system in the United States.) His behavior was awful, and at times, it was almost impossible to sympathize with him while reading the book.

He's exactly the kind of person an individual sees and thinks, "Why isn't he in prison."

But, even the town drunk deserves a fair shake. Even the town deadbeat deserves justice. Even someone you hate, loathe, and despise, doesn't deserve the death penalty for a crime he did not commit. And, in between the shock and horror you feel when reading about how badly the police and DA botched the investigation, how disturbing it is that one could be sentenced to life in prison and death on such flimsy and circumstantial evidence, that's the message Grisham is sending.

The book starts out as a very slow read. I'm a very fast reader, and I found myself having to trudge through about the first half of it. The trial and the rendition of the evidence begins about halfway through the book, and that's when the pace really picks up. I zoomed through the second half of the book in one sitting.

The lack of evidence against Williamson will appall you, particularly when you consider the fact that he was sentenced to die for his "crime." The lack of evidence against Dennis Fritz was even more grotesque.

Throughout the book, Grisham makes no attempt to hide his bias. Then again, I think anyone that wasn't involved in the initial investigation would be biased against how it was conducted. The details paint a horrific picture - no embellishment is needed or necessary. And it shows just how wrong the justice system can be when the individuals charged with finding justice are more interested in obtaining a conviction of the person they deem guilty, despite everything the evidence is telling them.

The second half of the book details Williamson's and Fritz's life in prison, their appeals, and eventually, the involvement of The Innocence Project. [Side note: I'm actually working at an actual innocence clinic in the Innocence Network next semester.]

And, it closes with details about Williamson's & Fritz's life after prison and exoneration.

Local reaction to the DNA exoneration seems to range from embarrassment, anger (at Grisham), disbelief, a continuing belief - despite DNA evidence - that Williamson and Fritz were guilty, sadness, and outrage.

If you are interested in the reaction of the locals to the book, you can find some at the following links:Collapse )

Overall, Grisham did a bang-up job telling Williamson's story. And, despite the early pacing problem, this is definitely a book that everyone should read: "If you believe that in America you are innocent until proven guilty, this book will shock you. If you believe in the death penalty, this book will disturb you. If you believe the criminal justice system is fair, this book will infuriate you."
The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards

The Memory Keeper's Daughter is 401 pages long, and it could have been written in 150 pages. Kim Edward's is a descriptive author——she likes to describe everything, and her personal writing style really contributes to the word count, making the book somewhat tedious. I liked it enough to finish it, but I definitely didn't have a problem putting it down for a while.

The story is interesting, but it is not unique or that original.

It begins in 1964, when a blizzard forces one of the main characters (Dr. David Henry) to deliver his own twins. His first twin, a boy, is perfectly healthy, but when David delivers the second twin, he discovers that she has Down's Syndrome. David asks his nurse, Caroline, to take his daughter away to an institution, and he tells his wife that their child died. Instead of following David's instruction, Caroline disappears into another city and decides to raise the child as her own.

The Memory Keeper's Daughter is a study of the human condition - how a single decision can alter your life and the lives of others. David's decision haunts him, and cripples his ability to form and maintain a meaningful relationship with his wife and son. Caroline's brings both joy and an unbelievable (and somewhat life consuming) responsibility.

It demonstrates the debilitating nature of the secrets we keep from those we love. The lies we tell. And, it has an interesting perspective on how we view ourselves, how our loved ones view us, and how strangers view us. David had this all-consuming and horrific secret. He gave his daughter away and told his wife that she was dead, but he also volunteered at a free clinic, providing medical care for the poor and needy. With Phoebe, the daughter, you observe how she is treated by those who love her, how the world treats her, and how she considers herself. Its an interesting study in characterization.

The temporal leaps and the way the book jumps from one story (David & Norah) to another (Caroline & Phoebe) can be confusing, particularly at the beginning of the book. And, its really distracting because I intensely dislike books that cut-off a story. But, it also has a very real (and good) message about how society tends to treat the mentally disabled - particularly before the ADA was passed.

If you enjoy reading about families and all of their glorious dysfunctions I would put this on your "to read list." Otherwise, I wouldn't be in a rush to read it. Its one of those books that you can eventually get to as the wind takes you.

FAQ!

Books are uniquely portable_magic. -- Stephen King

THE RULE:


I really only have one rule. The rest of this is just “the way it’s going to be unless someone comes up with a better idea.” [Note: Any recommendations on changing "the way it’s going to be" are welcome. You can e-mail me at jennem.livejournal@gmail.com]

So. The Rule is: do not be an asshat. That’s it. Do not be an asshat. I created this community because I wanted a fun-space where friends and friends-of-friends could recommend "good reads." I’m not interested in babysitting someone who is incapable of acting like a mature and reasonable person.

The definition of what constitutes an asshat is determined by me: your benevolent dictator. If you don’t like the way I run things, then you are free to go and create your own community and coerce your own friends into joining it. Don’t let the door hit you on the ass on your way out.

Edited: As a courtesy to other members, if a book you are posting about has been published for less than 6 months, please place any spoilers behind a cut-tag.

SCOPE & TOPIC OF THE COMMUNITY:


I created this community because I couldn't find what I was looking for in any of the other book communities on livejournal. Believe me. The last thing I was interested in doing was starting / running my own book community. Especially since there are some rather large book communities that already exist on livejournal. But, throughout my search I noticed that most book communities fell into one of two categories:

Category 1: Book communities that were constantly spammed with rendition of, "THIS IS THE BOOK I AM READING RIGHT THIS SECOND."

Category 2: The intellectualist book communities, where the only books people were comfortable discussing are either classics, non-fiction, or a "modern" classic.

I wasn't interested in joining a community that fell into either category. I have no desire to see my friend-list spammed with posts that lack substance or substantive discussion - particularly if it requires me to skip 200+ if I join and add the community, and I'm interested in more than just the intellectualist side of reading.

Thus: portable_magic. So long as you follow The Rule and make substantive posts, anything goes. Young adult fiction, hot-viking-sex fiction, non-fiction, biographies, true crime, historical fiction, fantasy, and the classics are all welcome here. I (and, I'm hoping others) want to know what you like and why you like it.

Books are supposed to be fun. They're supposed to be entertainment. I want to know what's funny. I want recommendations for well-written hot-viking-sex fiction. And, I want recommendations for your favorite young adult book. I've noticed that a lot of people are either embarrassed or shy about what they are reading (if its not an intellectualist book), and I want to break that barrier down. [Hint: Someone who comments and makes fun of another member’s choice for genre reasons is a total asshat and will be booted faster than they can blink. Trust me. I'm a law student. I am always online.]

Book recommendations, book reviews, book critiques are all welcome. If someone posts a book that you contemplated destroying because you hated it so much, then by all means comment and tell us. Different strokes for different folks. People like different things. People have different levels of tolerance for grammar and style. No two people are ever going to agree on everything. Dissent is more than welcome, so long as you aren’t an asshat. And, if you happen to be the person that gets dissent, remember. It’s not personal. The world is not ending because someone on Livejournal didn't like a book that you liked. Act accordingly.

MEMBERSHIP & COMMENTS:


Membership is open——anyone with a livejournal account may join the community. Anonymous comments are turned on (which obviously means that you do not have to be a member of the community in order to comment). The second this feature is abused is the second that it is yanked and comments are closed to community members only.

POSTING:


Posting will be moderated. I'm moderating submissions, not out of a desire to control content, but to ensure that only a few submissions are posted to the community per day. I hate communities that permit users to spam-post a member’s friends-list. I, personally, like to have all of my communities "friended" and then "filtered," but I hate communities that require me to skip 200+ just to get out of it. Posting is moderated in order to control the number of posts posted to the community each day. That doesn't mean I will be rejecting posts; it means that your post will eventually be accepted on a "convenience" basis. This has the added bonus of facilitating comments and discussion on the posts that have been posted to the community. Yea!

Posts re: other community recommendations, website recommendations, announcements about book signings, etc., will be approved on a case-by-case basis.

TAGS:


Tag creation will be controlled by the admin/moderator, but members can (and are encouraged) to mark their posts with pre-made tags. Tag creation is limited in order to facilitate and optimize their search functionality. I believe that tags are only as useful as the system that manages them, and I want people to be able to find past-posts with regards to a particular genre easily.

Tags will be made on a day-by-day basis, mostly because I hate the fact that tags with zero posts are shown in the sidebar. I don’t want a lot of pre-made tags hanging around with nothing substantive to show for clicking on it.

ADMIN POSTINGS:


Guilty Pleasures: Once a month, I will make a "Guilty Pleasures" post. Anonymous comments will be turned on (even if they are later turned off for the regular posts), and the IP function will be turned off. I'm hoping that people will jump in the water without being embarrassed or shy about their book recommendations, but even if you are embarrassed, I still want to know what you're reading. This let's us have the best of both worlds.

Suggested Reading List: A suggested reading list will be maintained by the benevolent dictator admin, listing, in alphabetical order, all of the books that have been suggested by members of the community. The list will provide links to popular websites where books can be purchased or found for free (if they are in the public domain).

Book Club: If I can garner enough interest, we'll start a monthly book club. Members will select the month's book from a poll post, and at the end of the month, we'll discuss the book in a post created by the admin.

The FAQ and the Suggested Reading List will be linked in the profile of the community.

Thoughts? Comments? Suggestions?

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