Posts Tagged ‘Project Gutenberg’

Free Books!

Tuesday, 25 January 2011
Eight Hamodia books

Eight Hamodia books

We just got our prize from a Chanuka raffle, and it’s a nice one. Expect reviews of at least some of these in the next few months.

As for free books for the rest of you, I just learned of new ways to access the cornucopia of material available on Project Gutenberg, Librivox and elsewhere. (I’ve recommended both of those sites here many times before.)

E.C. recently recommended a freely downloadable Kindle application for the PC, which you may find useful for paid products or free ones.

Somehow I missed it three months ago when it apparently started, but ChapterMe.com is now offering random rateable chapters of Librivox books to listen to. Each chapter has a link to the work’s info and download page so that ifwhen you find something you like you can listen to the whole thing. This seems like a great way to find new audiobooks (the RSS feed of what’s newly published is another), which I believe is the intention, but I also enjoyed just listening to what came up, hitting “Next” if I wasn’t interested in what came up. For me, poetry and chapters of old favourites were best for this, but some new random chapters were good to, even without knowing what came before. (This works better with non-fiction than novels, in my opinion.)

Reading Update

Sunday, 28 September 2008

Not entirely sure why this has taken me so long, but here we go. It’s been quite awhile since I actually finished some of these (a couple of weeks), so they aren’t all immediate reactions.

253. The Son of Tarzan by Edgar Rice Burroughs

I’ll actually be interested to see what Burroughs does to get himself back to Tarzan and Jane after this installment that largely ignores them, in favour of sending their son to discover the jungle for himself. Just as implausible and stereotyped as the others, although with Meriem we do get a woman who can hunt, fight and live the life these men are constantly pulled back to.

254. The London Eye Mystery by Siobhan Dowd

Ted (who has an unspecified syndrome that reads like Aspergers) and his older sister Kat welcome their aunt Gloria and cousin Salim on a flying visit (literally – Gloria and Salim are about to emigrate to New York) by taking them to the tourist sites of London. Due to the queues Salim goes up the London Eye alone while Ted and Kat watch his capsule round to greet him when he gets off. Except he doesn’t…

This book has obvious links to The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, but is its own tale, as well as being a well-crafted mystery. In fact, it’s one of the few such where I would actually have liked to see further mysteries for the sleuthing team, but unfortunately Dowd died shortly after this book was written. I’ll have to get hold of some of her prior works.

255. Cite Them Right by Richard Pears and Graham Shields

Yes, it’s a guide to citing and referencing correctly (not how I do it here!) but I actually did read it cover to cover, and it’s far more readable than might have been anticipated.

256. The Garbage King by Elizabeth Laird

This tale of two young Ethiopian boys from Addis Ababa who end up running away from difficult situations after the sickness of their mothers turns their lives upside down is quite fascinating, well written and feels real. Dani is a shy boy from a well off family who does not get on with his self-made father and feels he cannot stay at home when his mother goes to a hospital abroad, while Mamo has to grow up very fast when his mother dies and his older sister cannot afford the rent for the shack they live in. The boys link up, grow and discover themselves, each other, and different ways of life.

257. In Black and White by Dov Haller

I really enjoyed this anthology of several short stories and the title novella. Haller has a grasp of human emotion and how it interacts with our ideals and the way we live our lives.

258. The Wonder Stick by Stanton A. Coblentz

It’s taken since March for this whole book to be read over on Forgotten Classics, (Julie often features other extracts on alternate episodes of the podcast) and at first I wasn’t convinced I liked it much, but it has grown on me a little. It’s not going to be my favourite book ever (I’m far more likely to revisit The Garbage King) but Julie reads well, and makes it worth listening to. Ru is not an especially heroic hero, since he can be vindictive, but then the society of his tribe (this is set in Stone Age pre-history) is not one that shares our morals, nor even those of classic sagas. Ru is clever and inventive, but not at all respected by Grumgra, the Chief, with whom he quickly develops a personal vendetta.

259. Almost A Man by Dr Mary Wood-Allen

I just formatted (in F1) this whole book/long pamphlet over on Distributed Proofreaders and read it as I went, out of a perturbed fascination. (Currently linking to its DP Project Page, but will change that once it’s up on Project Gutenberg.) Anyway, Wood-Allen seems to have made a bit of a name for herself by writing “moral” and “scientific” works for adolescents and their parents about puberty and how teenagers should behave. I wouldn’t say that this book actually tells an adolescent boy anything that’s worth knowing about puberty, because it doesn’t have many facts in it, but then perhaps it was really meant as a way for parents to open up a discussion. It is very clearly pushing a moral point of view, and is open about that.

260. The Girl’s Guide to Being a Boss by Caitlin Friedman & Kimberly Yorio

This is a fun (the cover is Very Pink) but informative little book, that tries to demystify management for those of us who didn’t enter our careers wanting to be managers, but for whom the career path entails a certain amount of it. I amn’t sure how much I’ll really be able to quote it in my management module, but I think it was still worth reading! It is confidence building, which is good.

261. Adventures of a Brownie by Miss Mulock

Another audiobook, from Librivox and this is a sweet and simple series of six adventures of the Brownie and the six children (three girls and three boys) of the household he lives in, during which they veer between the good and bad sides of the Cook, the Gardener, and his wife. It’s short and worth the listen.

Slow words for speed

Thursday, 4 September 2008

Excuses again: I’m working on my mother’s birthday present (which will be late), and so don’t want to put pictures up until she has it. The tablecloth is commuting with me, but hasn’t changed much in the last few rows.

A couple of funny books:

244: Free Air by Sinclair Lewis

This is the book I was Smooth-Reading for Distributed Proofreaders. (I’m linking to the project page for now – you can download it even without being a member – and will link to Project Gutenberg page once it’s up.) Its plot has a good bit in common with the romance in the first two Tarzan books, in my opinion, although the setting doesn’t:

[What follows is most definitely in the class of SPOILERS - no complaints now!]

  • Cultured, gently bred young woman (heroine) goes with her father (who she has to look after) on what for them is a very adventurous journey.
  • Reasonably educated but uncouth-looking young man (hero) sees, falls for, and repeatedly rescues her from trials and tribulations.
  • She repulses his affections for social reasons.
  • Her socially superior (near) fiance publicly stakes his claim.
  • Hero takes pains to learn the skills, clothes and deportment of her social milieu.
  • Heroine’s social conscience still says she can’t be with hero.
  • He saves her once again.
  • She changes her mind.

To be fair, of course, there are an awful lot of other romances out there with the exact same plot, and where they are well written (and preferably contain other interesting plots and subplots) I don’t mind that; it’s rather a classic, after all.

This is a good, light and funny version of the tale, and if I had the time I might consider recording it for Librivox myself.

I don’t, of course, with study beginning again in a couple of weeks, work being hectic already, Braille to continue, crochet to do, and now moderating the European Travelling Teddy Round that is about to begin on Ravelry. (Sign-ups are now closed, I’m afraid.) I’ll let you know when Luna is off!

245. Pugs: G-d’s Little Weirdos by Dave Kellett

The brand new Sheldon book, and I got an Artist’s Edition (with a sweet hand-drawn picture of Oso, of course, on the inside cover). Since this book focusses on pugs, and Oso in particular, some of the cartoons have appeared in the sequential books, but it’s fun seeing them together. I laughed and giggled lots, both of the times I’ve read the book since I received it yesterday!

You’d think…

Sunday, 31 August 2008

It’s been the holidays (back to work in the morning!), so it would make sense that I’d do more crocheting, reading, and, um, blogging, than otherwise. Right?

Apparently not. Actually, I have been reading, just not whole books. I’ve been reading/proofing/formatting pages of books, stories and other works over at Distributed Proofreaders, still. I am Smooth Reading one whole book, which I’ll let you know about shortly, when I finish it. It’s another of those somewhat-silly-but-fun light romances that come up on Librivox regularly, although it’ll be awhile before this one gets there.

Anyway, the tablecloth has slowed down, but will probably become my commuting piece, at least until I decide it really is too bulky, which will get it going again. And I do have four books for you:

240. The Beasts of Tarzan by Edgar Rice Burroughs

So I seem to be in a phase of really silly old stories, and I think I’ll be working my way through all of the Tarzan books on Project Gutenberg. This may or may not be the most ridiculous yet. It’s certainly the one where I began noticing that Jane doesn’t have a defined character or personality for Burroughs – she simply plays whatever female role he wants in the particular story. In the first she was beautiful, and the first woman Tarzan had been attracted to, and so he falls in love with her, but she feels honour-bound to another. (Just the first of her bizarre senses of the honourable course.) She’s mostly passive. In the second she can’t speak her mind until the very last moment, and so makes everyone involved unhappy for months on end. In the third – this one – she suddenly goes all mother-bear, active and willing to do whatever. I’m currently reading the fourth, and in the beginning, at least, she’s spent years forcing her husband and son into the restricted role in society she thinks she wants for them. Instead of her being a growing, important protagonist, she’s a foil to make Tarzan do stupid things.

241. The Illustrated Guide to Massage and Aromatherapy edited by Catherine Stuart

Yes, I’ve read it right through, and I’ve also tried out some of the suggestions for massaging one’s own feet, hands, neck and back. There’s lots more than that in the book, of course, and it is very well illustrated with clear photographs and captions. It is good for explaining what is likely to happen in a professional session of Indian and other head massage, ‘general’ body massage, Shiatsu, pedicures, manicures, aromatherapy, reflexology, Reiki, and more, as well as explaining how an amateur can try many of them out at home. It also talks about how each of them should and should not be used by people of different ages and medical situations. I especially like the foot massage before going to sleep, which has you squirt whatever light cream or whatever on, and then have the feet massage each other, so you don’t have to get up again to wash your hands.

242. Understood Betsy by Dorothy Canfield Fisher

I have to wonder just how many orphaned girls really did get passed around between relatives and others (many of whom didn’t want them), considering how much of a staple of classic children’s (especially girls’) literature it is. (I’m thinking of Pollyanna, Anne of Green Gables, Eight Cousins, The Secret Garden, A Little Princess off the top of my head, but there are plenty of others. Note that most of these have sequels.)

Anyway, this is not so well known an example of the genre as those others, but it certainly has its merits (this reading not the least of them! – There is apparently another on Librivox, which I haven’t heard and so cannot comment on.) In this case, Elizabeth Ann, later known as Betsy, thankfully does have at least two sets of relatives who do want her, so that when sickness in the family she has grown up with until age nine means she must live elsewhere for a time, she can go to the Putneys, where she has a very different life from the very sheltered city existence she had experienced so far. She grows to enjoy living on the farm, and eventually must decide where she will stay.

243. Moby Dick by Herman Melville

I finally finished it, and although I do appreciate it a little more than I did before, I amn’t convinced it will be often reread by me. The reading is very good, but I just amn’t clear what Melville was trying to do, and therefore amn’t enthralled by it. A lot of the dialogue sounded to me like a play script. It’s late, and I amn’t really doing this justice. Most of what I said before stands.

Images of Ireland and fictions of Africa

Monday, 25 August 2008

The weather was finally good enough to go for an outing yesterday, and Luna came along. On the way, she helped me work out my filet pattern.
Luna bear with crochet pattern
Luna on tree branch
From the car park of Malahide Castle we walked across the park, and Luna took the opportunity to get a good view from a handy tree.
Malahide Castle
It’s a pretty and interesting place, but pictures aren’t allowed inside.
Malahide Castle
We were though.
Wooden door at Malahide Castle

238. The Return Of Tarzan By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Otherwise, well, I continue to have qualms about it, but I’ve just read the second Tarzan novel, this time direct on Project Gutenberg, as the Librivox version isn’t finished and doesn’t look to be any time soon. It’s just as silly and implausible, with just as many horrendous stereotypes and negative generalisations about (often imaginary) groups racial, national, or whatever (it often is imaginary whatevers, with Burroughs) of their time, as the first in the series, and as the rest of them probably do. The groups aren’t always African, either, but that is where most of the action takes place.

These are light melodramatic little stories, which to the modern ear are generally cringeworthy, and yet the hero continues as a part of the common culture.

239. Last Orders at Harrods: An African Tale by Michael Holman

I happened to finish this book today as well, and a very different take on Africa it is. Kuwisha is a made up country in modern Africa, where President Nduka mesmerises the overseas journalists, politicians, aid workers, etc who try to make him give more than lip service to a completely free democracy, end corruption and end human rights violations, while everyone else tries to get on with their lives, and a few try (more or less officially) to improve the lot of those around them. The doers are the ones who succeed in the task here, rather than the talkers, or those who try too hard to bring everyone else their way.

Here everyone is part of the international community, affected publicly and privately by lawyers, editors, activists, bankers and politicians from all over. This is a funny and provacative book, which has left me thinking about the state(s) of modern Africa, and whose role it is to affect change there.

Hm, can we find an African connection for Niccolo Rising chapter 13? Well, the time is going to come when Loppe will say what he thinks of the various bits of Europe he’s been dragged to (and which part of Africa he was dragged from), but Milan isn’t it.

Reading bits

Sunday, 24 August 2008

I’ve been avoiding the boring part of my filet pattern (I do more when travelling to outings or sitting about with people) by doing a good bit of proofreading (and some formatting) over at Distributed Proofreaders over the last few days, increasing my skills and pushing through some slow-moving French works. I don’t usually read much directly from Project Gutenberg – mostly I listen to Librivox works that use texts from PG, but as I don’t want to commit to recording, this is still a good way to give something back. I’m also enjoying actually using my French.

I couldn’t do that over Shabbos, however, so instead I retreated into nostalgia, reading through a gorgeous book my grandparents gave me on my third birthday.

237. Baby Animals by Jane Burton

As the introduction admits, this is really about baby mammals, rather than animals in general, but it’s no less informative or cute for that. Burton is a great photographer, and I rather like how she’s themed the pages. I’m presuming I’ve read the text cover to cover before, at some point, but I really couldn’t swear to it!


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