Alchemical Thoughts

Archive for April 2016

I saw the question about finishing series you do not love over at Cornerfolds.

I have no problem dropping books I do not enjoy. Life is too short and there are too many good books out there to waste time reading something you do not like or enjoy. I firmly subscribe to the Reader’s Bill of Rights, one of which is the right to not finish a book. So I have no problem with skimming books or outright dropping them if the book is not for me. This includes series. If the series starts degenerating into a steaming pile of crap, I will drop it and consider it dead to me.

An example of this is the series The Walking Dead, both the graphic novels and the television series. I started reading the comics before it became a television spectacle, and I did enjoy the early work. However, once the series became nothing more than a paean for stand-your-ground asshole bullies with no reward in sight for the reader other than more grim pessimism, I dropped it. I do not regret that decision, and I have no intention of going back to the series no matter what fanboys or fangirls may say about it. I may check out reviews of it to see how it has progressed, but otherwise I stopped giving a shit about it. There are plenty of other horror works featuring zombies I can read instead.

I will also skip volumes in series. An example of this is The Horus Heresy, a series I generally enjoy. However, like many long term series, individual volumes can be hit or miss. Some volumes in the series have been great. The first three of the series are a good example of good volumes. Later volumes, as I said, can be hit or miss. Any volume dealing with the Dark Angels legion and their primarch, like this one,  is pretty much a disappointment. So while I am not giving up on the series, I know to skip any book in the series dealing with the Dark Angels. So, I probably will not read the complete series, but I will read enough of it to still get the basic story line and enjoy the series overall.

So no. If I am not enjoying something, I am not going to torture myself for the sake of reading a complete series. Life is just too short for that.

One reason to write about this is this post I saw a while back asking “how do you feel about audio books?” It struck me that the author of the post as well as the people who commented on the blog post were so negative and, to be honest, snobbish, about audio books. To them, listening to an audio book is not reading, which I wonder what would they say to someone who may be visually impaired, and their only or main way of reading is via having a reader read the book for them. Would they really go up to that person and just say, “you are not really reading”? Reading that felt very condescending and, as I said, snobbish.

A second reason to write about this is that I am doing an Audiobooks Reading Challenge this year. I am trying to read more books in this format, so I am trying to see how many I can get read in a year. Here is the link to my audiobook challenge page at The Itinerant Librarian (and if you are interested, this link takes you to my page listing all the reading challenges I am doing for 2016). As I wrote in my post for the audiobook challenge, I was exposed to audiobooks in library school. Back then, I took a course in Reader’s Advisory, and it included a segment on audiobooks. I dare you to tell one of those strong users of audiobooks in a library that they are not readers. Heck, I dare you to say that to librarians who do RA with audiobooks. And yes, I do get the difference between an audiobook and a radio drama, which seems to be one the commenters on that other post do not get neither (but that is another theme for another time).

As I mentioned in my challenge post, part of why I wanted to try audiobooks this year was to diversify my reading. I wanted to get some diversity in terms of format. I already read in print, which is my preferred way, and in e-book format, which has become more popular for me since I formalized being a book reviewer; I get a lot of my galleys for review as e-books. So I wanted to give audiobooks a chance. Now there are some small considerations I have when it comes to reading audiobooks:

  • I look for full unabridged versions. I want to read the book (or rather have it read to me if want to be picky), and that means I want to read it in full.
  • I tend to prefer audiobooks where the author reads the book. In some cases, this is because I may know an author from some other work, say a comedian, so I want to hear them read their own work. Now, I understand not all authors are good readers, so for them it is better to get a good narrator. I get that, and I am perfectly OK if the author does not read their work because they got a better narrator to do it. The author reading is just that: a preference. It is not written in stone.
  • I tend to prefer audiobooks on nonfiction. This is in part because I read a bit more nonfiction than I read fiction. It is also due to the fact I feel I can more easily drop or interrupt an audiobook if it is nonfiction than if it is fiction. In addition, when I am reading a nonfiction audiobook, if it engages, I am often taking reading notes and jotting down quotes and ideas from the book for my journal as well as to add content to my eventual review of the book. I think it has to do with nonfiction’s structure, which tends to be more lineal, than fiction which can be all over. Plus, last thing I want is to have to interrupt a fiction audiobook as the cliffhanger is coming. Again, this is not set in stone. If I found a good piece of fiction on audio, I would give it a chance as well.
  • Like other readers have said, I do like the ability to multitask with an audiobook. I can do something like iron clothes or fold laundry while I listen to an audiobook. Well, I can mostly do that. Last audiobook I tried it with, I did pause a couple of times in the laundry folding because I wanted to take notes. It happens.
  • A small challenge for me is that my local public library is seriously deficient in audiobook selections. I may have to give their Overdrive system a try as it has audiobooks as well (though I am not sure how easy to use or not they are. If I get to it, I will try to write about that experience).

In the end, folks, read what works for you in the format that works for you. As a librarian, I will not judge you or put you down for that.

Any other folks out there listen/read audiobooks? Feel free to comment and let me know if you do or not and what kinds of books you read in audio. Heck, if you have any suggestions for audiobooks I ought to try, let me know.

Photo from Flickr user Raider of Gin (fairerdingo). Image used under terms of Creative Commons 2.0 Generic Attribution License.

Photo from Flickr user Raider of Gin (fairerdingo). Image used under terms of Creative Commons 2.0 Generic Attribution License.


This is the list of books I reviewed for the month of March 2016 at The Itinerant Librarian. It’s a small list this month, btu I did review some very good selections. Feel free to check these out, especially if you missed any before. Book links go to my review of the books. As always, comments are always welcome.

  • I got to learn about some bookstores around the world with The Bookshop Book.
  • I continue to enjoy the Palmiotti and Conner run of Harley Quinn in Harley Quinn, Volume 3: Kiss Kiss Bang Stab.
  • Here is a good one for the 2016 election season. Learn more about Bernard Sanders in the graphic novel Bernie.
  • John Lequizamo tells the story of his life in the graphic novel Ghetto Klown. For me, this and Bernie were the best books I read this month.
  • And ladies, get some ideas of what to cook for your man in Food Men Love. Yes, the book does a big play on the whole go through his stomach route.

Once again, I come across once of those frugality posts at Wise Bread that makes me question if the writers either really know how the world works, or I am just so out of the loop and mellow that I did not realize women in particular were so high maintenance when it comes to dating. But even in the day when I was dating the woman who became The Better Half, I did not go about spending a fortune on her, and lucky for me, she was a modest woman who was not expecting a man to spend a fortune on her. I know I am a lucky guy. If I had to go back on the dating scene, I might as well give it up, shave my head, and become a Tibetan Buddhist monk because the odds that I will be spending freely as their post suggests is just not an option for me. So, what does the author at Wise Bread have to say on how much you ought to be spending?

“Your paycheck should govern how much you can afford. Cosmopolitan found that men spend about $80 on a first date, on average. Other sources suggest that the typical person spends between $50–$100 on date night, occurring on average once a month. However, according to, 58% of women don’t even want an expensive date.”

Well, kind of duh. You cannot eat steak on a hamburger budget as the saying goes. However, funny how you never hear of that 58% of women who do not want an expensive date. If you believe Cosmo (not that you should, but humor me) or those “other sources” then you are looking at $50 to $100 bucks easily. I guess if you do the bar scene where each cocktail costs you $8 to $10 bucks a pop plus dinner could start getting you up there. Add a movie at a movie theater, and I guess you may be up to $100 by the time you do the tickets, the popcorn and pop you will have to buy while there.

You see, when I started dating The Better Half we were college students. In other words, we were mostly broke as college students are prone to be. A decent date night was a simple dinner at a local pizza joint she liked (in large part because they used to make the best saucy pizza with pepperoni and pineapple she’s ever had), and then a movie at the second run movie theater, where if you stayed up a bit late, movies could be had for .99 cents plus a little tax. Yes, you read that right, ninety-nine cents. If I spent $20 to $25 bucks, that was good, and she was happy. In the end I am lucky because we are both pretty modest and frugal in our tastes. Bar scene was not really for us. Sure, we had been to a college bar once or twice, but it really was not our thing. $100 date night? We’d both flinch at the idea of spending that much on a single date unless we were  going out of town, and it better include a hotel stay.

“Spending freely on your first date is a great way to show your date that you are serious, but it doesn’t mean that you need to continue spending the same amount on future dates. After all, you don’t want to be too frugal on the first date, which can make you seem cheap.”

Ah yes, the eternal dating challenge. Spend too little, and she thinks you are a cheapskate. But spend too much and then you end up building that expectation. Dudes, simple solution. Find women that have reasonable expectations.

“If you decide to go on a date during one of these expensive holidays, you can expect to spend more.”

Again, duh. By now, The Better Half and I learned to have those special dates around those holidays, before, usually after. In part because our work schedules are not always compatible. She often works on days like the Hallmark Holiday (Valentine’s Day). So we have adapted and usually go out the day after or a few days later. However, the secret is this: I take care of my honey, and I do so year round. I express love and romance  year round. That way, when the Hallmark Holiday rolls around I do not have to panic like those other guys to get overpriced flowers and pray to the deities that fancy restaurant will have a last minute reservation that should have been booked months ago, not the day of the holiday.  I took care of her, and she knows it.

The article does give some tips on cheap dates, although given how they seemed to poo poo the idea of being cheap on a first date specially I honestly wonder why bother with the suggestions. Still, some of the ideas are things we have done at home:

  • “Go to a food, film, music, or art festival.” When we can, we get in the car and drive out a bit to some local festival. A nice way to be outdoors usually, see a few things, and not spend a lot.
  • “Show off your cooking skills instead of dining out.” We have done this as well. We both can cook, so it means we get to show off to each other. And hey, cooking together can be a very nice bonding experience.

However, the article did have one good line: “You should find a partner that is worth your time, not just your money. ”


Overall, the article had moments that seemed a bit contradictory. Yes, be frugal, but do not be cheap. Spend more on that first date because you need to impress her. But try not to break the bank neither. So, in the end, take it with a big grain of salt, preferably cheap salt from the grocery store and not fancy organic rock salt.

On a side note, the article also reminded me of this old Tom and Jerry cartoon. I will warn you, if you have not seen it before, it is a seriously dark one.


I saw this prompt over at Based on a True Story, and I decided to try it out. Picking out five books was not easy for me, and though I picked out five for this post, if you ask me again a few months or years from now, the choices might change.

  • Cien años de soledad (title in English: One Hundred Years of Solitude).  You can find various editions in WorldCat in Spanish and other languages. This is the Argos Vergara Libros DB edition that I have that my mother passed on to me telling me that I had to read it, and so I did. This novel is my all time favorite book, and it is one I tell everyone they need to read if they wish to understand a bit of the Latin American experience, especially as it relates to the United States. But the novel itself is so much more. My copy is now tattered, falling apart, and while I could replace it with a nicer edition, say the Real Academia’s academic edition, well, it was my mother’s copy, and it is one of the very few things I have of hers, and in time I may pass it on to my daughter.
  • James Alan Gardner’s novel Expendable. From the book description, “On any given planetdown mission, there’s always someone whose job it is to walk into danger and get killed. What must it be like to be him, knowing your lifespan is as short as a fruitfly’s?” The main character, Festina Ramos, an expendable member of the Explorer Corps is quite admirable and tenacious, which inspires me. In many ways, I feel like a member of an explorer corps. Plus, unlike certain so-called “rock star” librarians, I have no illusions about being expendable.
  • El Alquimista (title in English: The Alchemist). You can also find various editions of this in English and other languages in WorldCat. Paulo Coelho is Brazilian and writes in Portuguese. Personally, I prefer to read his works in Spanish translation, as that feels much closer to his original language than English. I first read this book when I was about to embark on a new adventure. I had just finished library school, on the basis of a little faith (faith in my myself and the faith of others who believed I could do it), and I was seeking my first professional librarian position. Much like the boy in the story, I was in search of my dream, and I had faith the world would come together to make it happen. I have been a librarian for over a decade now, and it has been a great joy to be a librarian.
  • Las Venas Abiertas de América Latina (English title: The Open Veins of Latin America). You can find various editions in WorldCat. One of the few books I read in college early on that was actually worth a damn. For me, one I would recommend people to who wish to understand the Latin American experience, thus help understand me a bit as well since I was shaped by a big part of that experience. In college, for me, reading and discussing this in a class on Hispanic Culture, Language, and Identity was truly eye opening, and I wish I could tell that teacher thank you for the experience, an experience that shapes me even today.
    • Tied with Galeano’s book is a recent reading, War Against All Puerto Ricans (link to my review). This is a must read to understand the Puerto Rican experience, especially as it relates to the exploitative colonial relation it has to the United States. This is the history my parents and their parents lived, and that I still lived and was influenced by.
  • The Ciaphas Cain novels (Warhammer 40,000. The first three have been collected in an omnibus edition, which I own). From the book’s description, “In the 41st Millennium, Commissar Ciaphas Cain is looking for an easy life, but fate has a habit of throwing him into the deadliest situations and luck always manages to pull him through.” I have a bit of Ciaphas Cain, looking for the easy life, but that is not always an option. Sometimes fate just has other plans for you, and you have to move onward and make things work out. Now, Cain is no coward. He is actually a very skilled fighter and swordsman; he just prefers the easy life. I’d rather have things easy at times, but hey, I’ve got to work for a living.
    • Tied with the Ciaphas Cain novels are the novels of Captain Uriel Ventris and the Ultramarines (Warhammer 40,000. The first six novels of the series are collected in an omnibus and a second omnibus, which I own). Captain Ventris of the 6th Company, like his Ultramarines brothers in arms, lives by the rules. Of the Emperor’s Space Marines, the Ultramarines take the idea of “by the book” to the extreme. So when Ventris bends the rules and succeeds in battle, what do his brethren do? Why they send him to exile to some hell hole to “redeem” himself in their eyes. Because apparently he did not kick enough ass and do it by the rules. Ventris is a guy with integrity who is also practical, honorable, and perseverant, which is why I like him so.


April 2016
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