What Made (Makes) the Literary Hoarders Unhappy

sad-face-wallpapers_13395_1280x960-u32suyYesterday, our friends over at Typographical Era called our attention to a major news announcement made by Goodreads. You can see that announcement here in full.

While Goodreads may be celebrating, over here at Literary Hoarders we are not. ūüė¶

What we enjoyed most about Goodreads was their independence and autonomy from the giant corporations that dictate where, what and how you make your purchases, what you read and what is promoted or catalogued. It was an excellent book cataloguing system but also a tremendous way to independently share your thoughts and reviews about books that you loved, you wished to read, and the ones that you found didn’t float your boat. Also, it was a wonderful discovery tool to find that next great read, and it connected us to wonderful other bookish people and groups. To say that the Hoarders depended greatly on Goodreads is an understatement.

Unfortunately, with their major news announcement on now being¬†wholly owned by Amazon, it has caused quite the kerfuffle here at Literary Hoarders. ¬†It has caused us to run around and seek out alternative, independent online book catalogues, or at least haul ass and remove anything the LH’s have to do with Goodreads. Now, whatever we (and you!) post will be owned by Amazon. Your reviews and your friends and your information will be available to exploit by Amazon in any manner they see fit. No thank you.

Will Amazon have access to all of the Goodreads users’ data?
OC:
¬†‚ÄúGoodreads is or will be a wholly owned subsidiary of Amazon, so on one level, yes. Are things going to happen in the background without customers understanding it? I think the answer to that is no‚Ķ.We‚Äôll make it very easy for someone to say, ‚ÄėYeah, I‚Äôd love it if you could import all of my Amazon or Kindle purchases into my Goodreads shelf.‚Äô We‚Äôll make it very easy for people to do, but they‚Äôll be aware of what‚Äôs happening.‚ÄĚ
Users already have the ability to export their data from Goodreads, and they’ll continue to be able to do so.

None of us read on the Amazon-owned Kindle and none of us are interested in having Kindle-only books pushed at us. Amazon has Shelfari. They sucked at it. We fear they will now slowly drain and suck the life out of all that was great and wonderful with Goodreads. How unfortunate that the lure of the almighty dollar has enticed them to allowing for their being swallowed whole by a monster corporation. We simply fear that what made Goodreads so great will vanish in the coming months. What’s funny to note is that Goodreads was exclaiming from the rooftops around December 2012 about how much their membership increased. We could only stack that against the fact that they took on Amazon with this whole “book cover” debacle and maintained their independence. Thumbing their nose at Amazon be it as it may. I’m sure membership increased due to the fact that they were an independently run site. Now, they are jumping in to bed with Amazon. Tsk. Tsk. Like us, I’m certain there are many others that will now flee the sheets and find some new bed to snuggle in to.

You will notice that we have removed each of our Goodreads Reading Challenge over to your right. We have also gone in to our Goodreads profiles and removed anything with the Literary Hoarders stamp on it. We will no longer post our reviews on to Goodreads, linking you back to here. Why? Because what we write here at the Literary Hoarders is indeed that. It is what WE‘ve written, not Amazon. You’ll find, for now, that when we’ve completed the book and given it our 1-5 star ranking, we’ll post that information, but that’s about it.

We certainly hope you stay tuned to the Literary Hoarders site for reviews – we do love you – we just don’t love handing over our thoughts and words to someone else.

In the coming months, the Literary Hoarders will also unveil their own, independent website. We are incredibly excited about it and can’t wait to unveil a bold new look for us. We hope you stay tuned!

Sincerely,

The Literary Hoarders: Elizabeth, Penny and Jackie. 

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Book Review: Illuminations

illumWhen I picked this up, I had no idea how much I was going to be affected by Hildegard von Bingen (1098‚Äď1179) . ¬†Even now, I am haunted and inspired by my memory of her. ¬†She was, in every sense of the word, remarkable.

At the age of eight, Hildegard was given to the church. ¬†Being the tenth child in her family (tithe), she was offered by her mother as an¬†oblate¬†to a monastery (much to the child’s horror). ¬†While there, Hildegard was to be the handmaiden of a very disturbed creature by the name of¬†Jutta von Sponheim. ¬†For terrible reasons of her own, Jutta chose to devote her life to prayer by anchoring herself to the monastery. ¬†Being anchoresses meant that Jutta and her eight-year-old handmaiden were bricked in to a small 2-room dwelling at Disibodenberg in¬†the¬†Palatinate Forest (Germany). ¬†There was no way out. ¬†Their basic needs were delivered to them by the monks through a small window. ¬†Their “outside” was a little courtyard. Their interactions with the world were limited to the monks, and those who sought the blessings of Jutta, who became increasingly well-known across the land.

What simmered in Hildegard’s soul, even before she was forced to live with Jutta, were vivid and incredibly powerful religious visions. ¬†Some of them would seize her with excruciating pain and terrible illness. ¬†Talking of these visions when she was very young frightened her mother greatly, so Hildegard learned not to speak of them. ¬†She kept her secret from Jutta for many years.

As Jutta grew in her piety and her mental illness, Hildegard longed for escape.  She dreamed of the forest, of seeing her beloved brother, of being free.  She found solace in the books that Brother Volmar brought to her.  She became well versed in everything from scripture, to Latin, to the healing properties of nature. While loyally serving her Magistra, Hildegard increased her knowledge.

As time crawled along, two new novices joined them in their anchorage.  Hildegard watched over both closely, choosing to protect them over any chance of her own liberation.

30 years.  This is how long Hildegard spent in anchorage.  Jutta, after years of asceticism and self-flagellation, finally passed away at the age of 45.  Her passing was marked holy by many in the religious community, and she was revered.  At this time, Hildegard was 38, and she became the new Magistra of the younger nuns.  It was time to put her visions to paper.

With the help of her beloved friend Sister Richardis and her confidante Brother Volmar, Hidegard began to share her gifts with the world.  The creation and illumination of the famous Scivias, a tome which described 26 of her visions, is still regarded as a remarkable work today.  (Albeit the original version appears to have been misplaced.)  Scivias took ten years to complete.

vision

Meaning filled me.  For more than three decades I had studied the holy texts, but now I understood them.   ~Hildegard von Bingen

Not surprisingly, there were those who condemned these writings, and called her a heretic.  She persevered.  She found her voice, and her calling.  During a time when many women became nuns to protect themselves from the atrocities of the world, Hildegard von Bingen became a leader.  She designed and created a new monastery for women on a mountainside in Rupertsberg.  She preached, educated and offered her blessings.  By devoting herself to her calling, she became a source of unparalleled female inspiration.  She was remarkable.

This novel was written with great affection by author Mary Sharratt. ¬†Sharratt brought these historical figures to life with majestic imagery, and wonderful character insight. ¬†From the pain of Jutta to the pining of Volmar, Sharratt’s writing was beautiful. ¬†It takes great skill and greater heart to breathe life into historical figures, and Sharratt has done so in such a way that I’ll not soon forget any of them. Illuminations is as elegant as it is significant. ¬†I’ll certainly seek more work by this author.

4.5 stars for Illuminations.

Audiobook Review: The Gilly Salt Sisters

First off thanks to Audio Jukebox, once again, for allowing us to listen and review this book as part of their Solid Gold Reader program. I enjoyed the narration by Angela Brazil and I think that Tiffany Baker’s writing is top-notch. Unfortunately, the story just didn’t do it for me. I really wanted to like it– I thoroughly enjoyed The Little Giant of Aberdeen County and am usually a fan of the ¬†“magical realism” genre. Unfortunately, this story was full of hateful characters who basically got what they deserved and, as much as it was mentioned, I didn’t really buy that the Gilly Salt was all that magical. By the end I was literally shouting “OH! Come ON!!” at my CD player and was anxious for it to be over.image

The Gilly sisters, Joanna and Claire, grew up living with their mother in the Cape Cod town of Prospect on a marshy land where they harvested salt (of all things).¬†Jo is the¬†stalwart, hardworking sister and Claire is the frivolous beauty. The Gillys have a sordid history with the town– most suspect they are witches (every year on December’s Eve one of the sisters tosses a packet of Gilly Salt into a public bon fire to tell the fortune of the town; businesses who refuse to serve or sell the Gilly Salt do not thrive; people leave Gilly Salt packets as offerings to “Our Lady of Perpetual Salt”, the strange faceless paining of the Virgin Mary that the town seems to be obsessed with; everything Claire bakes with the Gilly Salt turns out to be the most delicious thing anyone has ever tasted).¬†Claire wants nothing more than to escape the life of salt and Jo wants nothing more than to ensure the salt thrives.

Jo’s childhood was difficult. She starts working in the salt at a very young age and witnesses her twin brother drown in one of the salt pools (tradition dictates that men do not thrive on Salt Creek Farm so you saw this coming a mile away). She is devastated and vows not to let the same thing happen to Claire. Jo does Claire’s share of the work which turns her into a bit of a spoiled brat. While Jo works her fingers to the bone Claire spends her time going to school, socializing and hanging out underneath the pear tree making out with her “betrothed” (town hottie Ethan Stone). Jo’s one and only friend is Whit Turner– the only son of the richest family in town. An age-old Turner/Gilly feud is implied but the only standout reason for hostility has more to do with their mothers than family history (and this “doozy” of a secret is another that can be seen a mile away so is not all that shocking). Whit is wild about Jo but Jo only loves the salt (and she accidentally finds out their mothers’ big secret while praying to “Our Lady” so is totally turned off of being in any kind of romantic relationship with Whit and tells him so).

harvesting-saltClaire eventually does get off of Salt Creek Farm, but not the way she expected. She patiently waits for Ethan to propose and take her away but Ethan has other plans– he is going to join the priesthood (which he tells her about AFTER he takes her virginity on graduation night under the make-out tree– how romantic!). Claire is devastated– so much so that she accidentally starts a fire in the salt barn. Jo sees the fire and rushes in to save her sister. Claire escapes without a scratch but Jo is burnt to a deformed crispy mess (she is left with a terrible limp and needs a glass eye which further perpetuates the witch myth). Claire is overcome with guilt so what else can she do but run off and marry Whit (WHAT?). She knows that Whit is only marrying her for revenge and is fine with it as long as it gets her off Salt Creek Farm forever. She tries to forget Ethan and that she was ever a Gilly. She becomes a whole new person– rich, snobby and mean.

About 20 years later the mothers are dead, Jo has solely inherited Salt Creek Farm and Claire and Whit have become the town bullies. Whit has bought up half the town and Claire spends her time riding her horse through town trying to¬†ruin her sister’s business by telling everyone that Gilly Salt is toxic, not magic (HUH?). We meet Dee, an annoying trash-bag of a gal who comes to live in Prospect with her father. She is only 18 and becomes weirdly obsessed with Claire. She learns that Claire could never have children (lots of miscarriages), that Whit wants to own Salt Creek Farm and that they¬†live a life apart and out of love. She uses these facts as an excuse to sleep with Whit, who also a notorious womanizer. Eventually, Dee gets knocked up and kicked out of her father’s home. Claire finds out about their affair when she sees Whit trying to choke Dee to death– a.k.a. taking care of his “little problem”. Claire bonks Whit in the head with a shovel (like a freaking cartoon!) and she and Dee escape to the only place they can be safe– Salt Creek Farm.

So, if the eye rolling hasn’t already begun this is where it will start. Jo mercifully gives Dee and Claire sanctuary and they become a strange little family unto themselves. Claire and Jo mother Dee during her pregnancy and they all work together in harmony farming the Gilly Salt. There is a resurgence in its popularity because Claire has rebranded it as a gourmet product (and she is no longer bad mouthing it to the whole town!). Dee eventually has the baby (who they call Jordan– “after the river” = cheesy) and Claire falls in love with him (“We’ll call him Jordy” = more cheese). They bring him home to Salt Creek Farm and Claire begins to take over as the mother. Ethan Stone has also returned to town as the new parish priest (which makes Claire extremely “happy”). He begins to frequent Salt Creek Farm and is also charmed by Jordy. Dee, even though she is a borderline imbecile, thinks there is something unnatural about the situation and decides that she must leave as soon as she has the strength (it was a difficult birth and Dee almost dies– of course). Before she goes, though, she gives Whit one more chance to raise the baby with her. Whit secretly comes to meet Dee in the salt barn on December’s Eve (when Jo and Claire are away tending to the town bon fire) and it “mysteriously” catches on fire (again).

A 2.5 for me– I could not stand Claire and I am still not sure if she was supposed to be a hero or a villain– she did all kinds of nasty stuff to her sister (like deform her with fire, marry her best friend, try to ruin the family business) and in the end got rewarded for it all (got her man back, “inherited” a baby , thrived as a gourmet baker and artesian grocer). The descriptions of Salt Creek Farm and the actual harvesting of the salt was quite interesting (all except for the detailed descriptions of drowning feral KITTENS! So unnecessary!) and I do look forward to see what Tiffany Baker’s next book will bring.

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Quick Thoughts: LoveStar

13533771¬†Let me first clear the air… I did not finish this book.

That is my confession, so you know now, this will not be a “review”. These are my thoughts only.

LoveStar was the March book club pick for our participation in the Critical Era book club.

LoveStar is a novel firmly placed in the science fiction genre. I knew that going in. Completely.¬†I continue to say that I appreciate and lovingly participate in the Critical Era book club. Many, many times they have expanded my reading list and some of those times the choices have been a fantastic and surprising success, others, not so much. LoveStar falls in the “not so much” category for me this time around.

As a very young reader, fantasy and/or science fiction never appealed to me. Especially those futuristic fantasies warning of impending doom or end-of-the-world stories that took place well, well¬†off in to the future. I just never got in to it. But I also have to say, knowing this, I did pick up 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami for what was then called Opinionless book club. It was bizarre, absolutely, but I enjoyed much of it, truthfully. And the discussion following was some of the best and funniest talks we’ve had in the club. So again, knowing this, it was not that difficult for me to attempt LoveStar.

The underlying, dooming message of the book¬†emerges easily from the start. Yes, our dependence upon technology and our ever increasing obsession with consumerism is nothing but to our detriment.¬†Absolutely.¬†I was readily willing to discuss and interpret these opinions and warnings, however,¬†it was the presentation¬†of these warnings that for me, were just far too outlandish and downright silly for me to wish to continue to the novel’s end. From the ability to “rewind” your children for better efficiency, to growing new body parts for special occasions and hooking oneself in to the REGRET machine and some such I could not¬†proceed further. This presentation only reaffirmed¬†my dislike¬†in reading from this genre. It began to feel like an obligation to continue. That’s not a good approach to my reading.

So, this is not a “review” of LoveStar, no, not at all, this is merely¬†my putting my thoughts down and a way to, I suppose, make myself feel at rest with my decision to put it away (far, far away). You may wish to read very convincing and wonderful reviews, you know, ones that did make me feel a (very brief) twinge of doubt about putting the book away…but I do encourage you to read Karli’s and Aaron’s reviews from Typographical Era.

Jackie, I believe, is perservering and will continue to the end, so perhaps more positive thoughts will follow next week from a different Literary Hoarder. But for this Hoarder, there is no love for the LoveStar and I’m moving forward with my reading schedule. (Already, a dozen more have appeared like shiny objects to distract me, but I will beaver on with the original list first!)

From Goodreads: LoveStar, the enigmatic and obsessively driven founder of the LoveStar corporation, has unlocked the key to transmitting data via birdwaves, thus freeing mankind from wires and devices, and allowing consumerism, technology, and science to run rampant over all aspects of daily life. Cordless modern men and women are paid to howl advertisements at unsuspecting passers-by, REGRET machines eliminate doubt over roads not taken, soul mates are identified and brought together (while existing, unscientifically validated relationships are driven remorselessly asunder), and rocketing the dead into the sky becomes both a status symbol and a beautiful, cathartic show for those left behind.

Indridi and Sigrid, two blissfully happy young lovers, have their perfect worlds threatened (along with Indridi‚Äôs sanity) when they are ‚Äúcalculated apart‚ÄĚ and are forced to go to extreme lengths to prove their love. Their journey ultimately puts them on a collision course with LoveStar, who is on his own mission to find what might become the last idea in the world.

Steeped in influences ranging from Italo Calvino, Jorge Luis Borges, and Kurt Vonnegut to George Orwell, Douglas Adams, and Monty Python, Andri Snær Magnason has created a surreal yet uncomfortably familiar world, where the honey embrace of love does its utmost to survive amid relentless and overpowering controls.