Monday, May 26, 2008

New York, New York

My youngest sister, who never graduated from high school but did graduate with honors from Augusta College, treated my daughter to a graduation trip to New York City, and invited me to come along. A word of warning, this is a long entry, but you’ll know what we did and have links to lots of pictures along the way.

From the minute we left our jet at LaGuardia, we saw the I Love NY logo everywhere— on shopping bags, coffee cups, and tee shirts. The taxi ride resembled the last time I was in a bumper car ride, but the driver didn’t actually hit anything. The Hilton at 1335 Avenue of the Americas is upscale and in a great location; theatres, Times Square, and many restaurants were within walking distance. Don’t do NYC without good shoes and some stamina for walking, however. We took one of those “pedicabs,” a rickshaw with a bicycle front, to dinner at an Italian restaurant recommended by the hotel concierge. The ride was hilarious, with my six foot one sister perched on my lap, as the seat is for two and not three. The driver said he was already off duty, so he took us for a tip; we walked back to the Hilton. After picking up a coat, we walked to Rockefeller Center and bought tickets to see “The Top of the Rock” which is the observation platform. This is really incredible, and the view of all of those lights reminded my daughter of Christmas. It is interesting to see the Empire State Building all lit up, surrounded by a city of lights. It is hard to describe but very much worth seeing.

On our first full day we had trouble getting daughter up; then we wandered the streets, seeing Pershing Square and walking by Grand Central Station and when we needed to sit and rest, having lunch at Johns’ Pizzeria. That food was good, but not up to the rest of the trip. After all that walking and eating, we ended up doing the wax museum in the afternoon instead of the morning; this attraction is great for teens; however, since may of the figures are modern entertainment celebrities rather than the historical ones I expected. We got a lot of pictures and enjoyed the attraction quite a lot. That evening, we had tickets to one of the hot plays on Broadway, Wicked. As daughter said during our walk back to our hotel, once you have seen it, you’ll never view the Wizard of Oz the same way. The play was stylish, funny, and reflective of the pinnacle of theatre in America. The lights and set design were particularly well done, although I could not fault any aspect of the production.

Day two, we still had trouble getting teen-aged daughter awake, so we were barely able to get to the Circle Line Cruise dock on time, and that with the help of a taxi driver that sister flagged down near Times Square. The boat left promptly at eleven, about five minutes after we boarded, and we had a scenic tour of the area near Ground Zero, plus a ride by the Statue of Liberty. Picture perfect weather helped us enjoy the entire trip, but it was especially helpful on the seventy-five minute boat ride.

Another taxi driver provided transport from the dock to a row of restaurants across from the Majestic Theatre, where we had a fantastic lunch at Sardis, with caricatures of famous entertainment figures surrounding us. After jaywalking across the street, we were in the Majestic Theatre, which is not misnamed, for the longest running Broadway show, Phantom of the Opera. Although I have been a fan of Webbers’ music for a long time, this was my first opportunity to see a live version of one of his musicals, and it was not a disappointment. The orchestra was superb and the actors were not wearing microphones, which was remarkable in such a large theatre.

We wandered amongst the wares on the streets as we strolled back to the Hilton and had dinner from the street vendor across from the hotel; I stayed in after dinner while sister and daughter rambled around the street vendors and had dessert at Lindy’s, which claims to have the best cheesecake in NYC. I really could not hold another bite of food and was glad for a chance to rest and chat with hubby in private. During the trip, daughter bought two handbags, sunglasses, an iPod case, and souvenir tee shirts from the street vendors. Sister bought a handbag, sunglasses, and a scarf. Our last day, which was only a partial day due to an afternoon flight, was spent at Central Park, after a subway ride to 72nd Street. We rode another train back to 50th, and daughter made her final purchases from the street vendors.

One more taxi ride got us to LaGuardia with lots of extra time, and the Air Tran jet not only was on time, it was half an hour early, so we had to wait a couple of minutes for another plane to leave the gate so we could disembark. As we came home, we stopped at a Cracker Barrel, since we needed some fried chicken and sweet tea to help us know that we were really back in Georgia.

My sister, who graciously paid our way to NYC, did a great job in planning our trip, getting tickets to shows we really wanted to see, and guiding us around the city. Certainly, she deserves kudos for wanting to treat daughter to a trip she’ll always remember, and I was most fortunate to be along for the ride.

Labels: , ,

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Hot off the press

Readers of Pam's Pages may remember a couple of references to Susan Grant's science fiction romances. I have loved most of her books, especially Contact, which I put on my list of books I can (and have) read again and again. The opening of that book grabbed me, and I think anyone who has boarded a big plane for a long trip can identify with the situation. As an airline pilot, Grant puts in enough details to make the story authentic without overpowering the human side of the story.

When I wrote about books I began but never finished, I listed Grant's Your Planet or Mine among the books that I never finished. She commented on that entry and generously offered to send me a copy of her latest release, Moonstruck. I just got an autographed copy, straight from the author, and I will be sending her thanks via a private email. However, I wanted to publicly thank her for the book and for her interest in me as a reader.

As a small press author, I have been on the same program with more successful authors. Some of them are gracious toward readers and other writers, while others are arrogant, haughty, or even angry that they must waste time with promotional activities.

Obviously, Grant is a classy writer, and I appreciate this book and the body of her work.

Labels: , ,

Friday, May 16, 2008

Graduating (and graduating some more)

My soon-to-be eighteen year old daughter is graduating today. While she knows it is an important milestone, the idea of graduation has been cheapened by all the previous ones. Nowadays, in our neck of the woods, children graduate from preschool, kindergarten, fifth grade, eighth grade, and now high school. Hopefully, there will be a couple more, for we expect her to finish college and graduate school. For her, this graduation is bittersweet, in that she leaves behind some friends, but she will also leave behind a school that she has outgrown, intellectually.

We live near the local schools, and traffic was a bit of a mess this morning as parents and grandparents were making their way to the high school gym, where the kindergarten ceremony was about to take place. The fifth grade graduation will take place today; the middle school held their ceremony last night. Indeed, folks who have several children or are related to those who do, have to shuttle around to several of these events. As a teacher, I attended quite a number of high school graduations, and as a parent, this makes seven graduations.

The ceremony tonight is almost secondary to all that goes along with it— establishing a bank account to deposit monetary gifts and to pay bills in college, going to goodbye parties, attending the senior breakfast, going to “Intro,” which is the program for incoming freshman at her chosen post-secondary school, and then moving out of our home. These transtional months are a pivotal time, and much of her future happiness and success will depend on what happens as she begins college.

Like Janus in classical mythology, this is a time to look forward, and to look back. We’ve gone through some pictures and other memorabilia, to decorate for her graduation party. As we looked though the boxes, we laughed at her kindergarten class picture and put back some really embarrassing yearbook mug shots. My daughter may not realize the momentous aspect of this hour of her life, but hubby and I do, so we will no doubt be a bit misty eyed, as we watch her pick up the diploma that acknowledges thirteen years of her life, and of ours.

Labels: , ,

Thursday, May 08, 2008


Do you ever buy a book, thinking it will be just what you want to read, then put it aside, just because it didn’t live up to, in your mind at least, the rest of the author’s works?

Before trading books in at the used bookstore, I snapped the photo which accompanies this entry. Each of those books I did read, in part. Sometimes more, sometimes less, but each one is only a partial read, and therefore, a disappointment.

I’ve enjoyed most of Sharon Lee and Steve Miller’s Liaden series, but I did not realize that Tomorrow Log is a compliation of short stories that they chose, but did not write. I did read one or two stories before consigning that book to the trade in pile.

Many reviewers and some publishers cite Dara Joy as one of the early writers of science fiction romance, but I have tried twice to read her work, and I really don’t like it. Her characters don’t seem real to me, and some of the settings and situations seem more artificial than imaginative.

Rebel Ice
is an installment in S. L. Vielh’s “Star Doc” series, which I have enjoyed, until this volume. The main thing that kept me reading the series was the fiesty main character, Cherijo, whose thoughts are revealed via a vivid first person POV. Alas, in this one, she has lost her memory, so she doesn’t remember to be fiesty. All of the books in the series are filled with multiple conflicts, but watching Cherijo spar with adversaries makes them entertaining. Rebel Ice, which lacks that element, depressed me, so I never finished it.

Suzanne Brockmann’s romantic suspense books are favorites of mine, especially the books with Navy Seals as heros. Hawken’s Heart just didn’t catch my interest the way her later books have, and a quick look at the copyright page reveals that this is a reprint of It Came Upon a Midnight Clear from her early career. Writers do get better, for the most part, and Brockmann’s later works are wonderful, but I will steer clear of her first efforts from now on.

The first book by Sarah Zettel that I read was Fool’s War, and it is an uneven but fascinating thriller with artificial intelligence as its sci fi theme. I also read another of her serious science fiction, Playing God, which mentioned in a previous entry. Reclamation is her first published work, I believe, and I tried to get through it, but I just couldn’t. Zettel is really smart, and Reclamation is just too complicated for my tastes. I read for fun! Nowadays, she is writing fantasy for the Luna line, so I may not ever read her again, since I really don’t like fantasy.

Susan Grant is one of my favorite authors. I absolutely loved her first book, Once a Pirate, which is a lighthearted time travel romance. Her next books, a series which I’d classify as sci fi romance, begins with The Star King, and is enjoyable. A stand alone, Contact, is my favorite of her works, and I listed it in a previous post as one of eight books I can read again and again. Her two novels in the 2176 series, The Legend of Banzai McGuire and The Scarlett Empress, were also fun reads. Her latest series, for a new publisher, began with Your Planet or Mine, and it was almost like reading a screenplay instead of a novel. I haven’t made myself finish it, and the sequel is languishing in my “to be read” pile.

I’m off to trade in more books, and some of the ones pictured are in the pile, so they will remain “unread” by me.

Labels: , , ,

Friday, May 02, 2008

Free Ebook Reads

I have bought quite a number of eBooks, roughly a couple of hundred. My favorite vendor for those is Fictionwise, which has a website that is easy to use, offers many books in various genres, and has many different formats, such as pdf, mobipocket, and html. Thus far, the “bookshelf” has kept every book I have purchased available, so if I lose one due to a technology breakdown, I can download it again. That has happened to me a couple of times, so I like that feature best of all. Fictionwise isn’t a good deal for authors, so I shouldn’t plug it, but I can’t help but like the service to readers.

However, some people don’t want to buy books or can’t afford to pay full price, even when that price is relatively low. Also, those who have never read an eBook might not want to risk much cash on this new technology. With the novice eBook reader in mind, I am going to list some links for free eBooks. I haven’t tried all of these, but I have visited the websites. Most of the sites offer downloads, which I prefer, and but one only allows readers to view the books online. [This may be the best deal for those who want to download books. The home page touts having over 20,000 books in a variety of formats. A cursory tour through the collection revealed a combination of classics which are public domain, plus freebies from new authors hoping to build an audience. I especially like the way this site is organized, with many genres and sub-genres.]

Arthur's Classic Novels [This site has about 4000 classics, in a format which works with a web browser, so you’ll need to read these online.]

Ebook Giant [Over 17,000 eBooks, in a compressed zip format for readers to download, make this a site worth visiting. Again, classics reside with modern titles, all categorized by author.]

Publishers are beginning to use the eBook format to entice readers to purchase print books. One of the best freebies around is at Tor. Just send them your email addy, and they’ll send a weekly newsletter with a link for a new release in eBook form.

Finally, if you are still wondering about the whole eBook concept, here’s a link to a column in the New York Times about eBook readers and why you might want to try this new way to read.

Labels: , , ,