A Bibliophile’s Dream: Data Manager 2, Goodreads, and Library Thing

 

So, I’ve always been a bit of a bookish person.  Okay, who am I kidding, I’m an unabashed bibliophile–I love books in all their glorious forms.  Ebooks, print books, trade paperbacks, mass market paperbacks, hardcovers, books with dust covers, books without dust covers, magazines, graphic novels, comic books, spiral bound books, zines, etc.  If it has existed in printed form, I’ll probably love it if I get to see it. In fact, the first two places that I’m liable to visit in any new situation are the bookstores and the libraries of that town, place, or school.  Technology has made reading easier and disseminating print quicker and faster.  One day I might do a blog entry about that, but today I really want to turn my attention to the cataloging of books/media and some of the fun ways that I’ve done it over the years.

datamanager2_terapeak

Data Manager 2, Image Source: Terapeak

Data Manager 2

This is the first database program that I ever discovered.  I’d been using a pen-and-paper system before I discovered this program, but once I found that I could create record using the title, author’s name, publisher, genre, etc., I was in “hog heaven.”  I quickly converted my records into computer format and spent hours looking at the “Reports” function which combined the best of graphing functions of a spreadsheet program with a database program.  I loved comparing authors that I had, series, or most importantly genres to see where they ranked with others that I owned.  Great fun for a bibliophile!

Goodreads

After Data Manager 2, I flitted from database to database on the various computers that I owned, but none seemed as satisfying as DM2.  As much as rail against the whole Web 2.0 paradigm, it did bring in one good thing: Goodreads.  In many ways, it is a combination between a book database and a social networking site centered around books.  I have about half of my collection listed on GR along that with being a “GR Author” meaning that any of my works that are published in book form (not online) should show up (I say should because, with the variation on my name, some of the books that I’m listed in aren’t actually showing up–those periods and commas make a difference).  I really GR, but find that sometimes it is too “Facebook” for me and I actively resist all the social/community features that it pushes.  It has a yearly reading challenge that I like to participate in and you can really go in-depth on the types of books that you read at the end of the year with a year-end round up (pretty snazzy).  They also have an app that will scan your books’ barcodes and add them to your collection, but too be honest, I think the web interface is much more intuitive.

Library Thing

The second major site that I found is Library Thing.  It is also a Web 2.0 paradigm site, but it focuses (in my opinion) more on the books aspect rather than the social aspect.  Make no mistake, it has social/community features galore, but for some reason, whenever I’m there, I feel the focus is on books first, community second unless you really want to make it a community focused site.  I don’t have nearly as many of my books listed there, about a 1/10th of my collection, but I’m adding books there on a weekly basis.  I love that you can order the books by “shelves” (which you can also do on GR) and that you can print out a listing of books (or just the covers) by the shelves that you set up.  They also recommend books to read based on your shelves (again, GR does this as well).   One thing that I liked that came too late for me to use is TinyCat, a mini-library interface that you can checkout books with (sort of a mini-circulation module).  This would have been perfect for my classroom library when I was a 6th grade teacher, but it was implemented until the year that I left–I tried several systems (including GR shelves), but none fit my needs like TC would have.  Too bad, as even with the half solutions, I had a fair amount of buy-in with my students as “librarians.”  Imagine what I could have done with a fully fleshed out check-in/check-out database that the students could have used with their Chromebooks–I would have probably had what I was looking for developing as a 6th grade language arts teacher–a class of readers who would also share my love for books and reading.

Well, that’s all for today–have a good day!

Sidney



Advertisements

Mini-Review: Alien Legion, Vol 1, Issue 14

So, as I try to come to grips with the Ship of Shadows graphic novel that I am writing, I am trying to relearn many of the lessons about graphic storytelling by rereading my comic book collection that I amassed as a teen.  Unfortunately, I weeded the collection down back in the late 90s/early 2000s and lost quite a few issues that would have been good to have.  I kept what I considered were the essentials, however.  So, I decided what better way to wrap my head around writing a graphic novel than by revisiting the comics that I so loved (yes, I know there are books like Scott McCloud’s seminal work on graphic novels–and I even own a couple–but what better way than to actually read the works that I’m trying to write and breakdown what those successful creators have done to really learn the form).

I’ve always liked the concept of Alien Legion ever since I first discovered it in a comic book spinner at Waldenbooks.  The idea of a galactic Foreign Legion spoke to my inner child just coming off the high that was Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.  The characters are extremely captivating.  I guess the parallel that I could make would be to have intergalactic Fast and Furious.  Wait, I take that back–that’s not interesting at all, forget I said anything like that–that’s actually a very bad comparison (I say, as I hurriedly scribble down the idea to get it written before someone else does).

In all seriousness, it really is sort of like a “Dirty Dozen” in space.  You have a group of alien soldiers, mostly humanoid, who go on missions.  Being that this is an “Epic” imprint from Marvel (a “darker” imprint than normal Marvel comics published at the time), this allowed them to go into more adult territory.  This particular issue is really unique as it deals with domestic violence and   the effects that it has.  Yes, this is told in such a way that it can be digested in a YA comic, but for 1986 and for a medium that was often marketed to children, this one deals with some pretty revolutionary issues for the time.

While the artwork is a little rough, it is still easy to read and follow the action.  The actual dialogue and story is also well done–I like how it establishes each on of the main characters through action and dialogue.  Captain Sarigar, a snake-like alien, is obviously the protagonist of the story, but I like how he involves two of the more hard-bitten Legionnaires in what is obviously a personal mission based on their reputations for being hard cases.  The story is very well done (for all of the “heavy” themes) and illustrates the dangers of domestic violence, both physically and emotionally to the victim.  For a comic book, it handles the subject matter surprisingly well and still manages to tell a strong story about a brother who, despite his obligations as a Captain in the Legion and a fierce warrior, only wants to protect his sister from an abusive boyfriend.

Overall Grade: B+

Sidney




Amazon Associate Disclaimer:
I earn a small commission on the purchase of these items.

What’s On My Bookshelf? The Belgariad Volumes 1 and 2 by David Eddings

Unknownbelgariad_vol2

Welcome to the (hopefully) weekly: What’s on My Bookshelf? This week it is The Belgariad, Vol. 1 and Vol. 2.

The Belegariad series is one of, if not, my favorite Fantasy series of all time–I go back and forward on this.  It is a little dated by today’s settings, but it acts as an apotheosis to the GrimDark series that are currently popular in today’s fantasy novels.  It has a Good Guy (Protagonist) and a Ultimate Evil (Antagonist), however, even though you know  who the antagonist is, you don’t actually get direct overt conflict for a while between the two.

Yes, yes, I know in the days of GrimDark and where “everybody” is a bad guy, even the “good guys,” this seems old fashioned, but I still feel that heroes (for fiction) are much more realistic because they always have the “hardest” road to follow and GrimDark characters take the “easy” way out–hence, the popularity of GrimDark and the Anit-Hero.  Easy is better more fun while hard means you have to work and sacrifice and who wants to all that in today’s world?

Belgariad_Vol_1

Belgariad, Vol. 1 (includes Pawn of Prophecy, Queen of Sorcery, and Magician’s Gambit).

Belgariad, Vol. 1 includes the first 3 books in the Belgariad series.  Essentially, it tells the story of Garion, a simple farm boy and scullion who may be more than he seems.  The early chapters talk about his time on Faldor’s Farm and foreshadow quite a few bits of information before uprooting him from his life and plunging him into adventure.  This is a great set-up for the protagonist as we get to see him grow and develop as the experiences his various adventures.  This is high fantasy at its best–pseudo-medieval world/technology level, magic, non-human races as “monsters” and antagonists, but only different “human” races (i.e., no elves, dwarves, etc.).  The world-building is extremely well done and so too is the magic system.  I read these as individual books, but liked them so much that I bought the trade paperbacks of the books.  These two books literally helped me to get through school and I try to read them once a year whenever possible.

belgariad_vol2

Belgariad, Vol. 2 (includes Enchanter’s Endgame and Castle of Wizardry)

Belgariad, Vol. 2 includes the last 2 books in the Belgariad series.  These two books tell the story of the protagonist who finally comes into his own, discovers his true heritage and sets out to meet and face the challenges of his destiny.  I like this one because it is the conclusion to the series, but it really pays off on the promises set up in the first volume.  It adds a love interest and it also adds in the “Big Bad” of the series and their ultimate confrontation.  To me, it is a satisfying conclusion to the series.

It is a good, clean read (gasp, in the days of the “Red Wedding” or “Negan Kills–both of which I only know through their infamous nature, the idea that something doesn’t have to be super violent or sexy to be fun is shocking, I know 🙂 , but it can be done and David Eddings proves it with this series).  While not written for young adults, it is also appropriate for young adults as well as adults, so this one could be for you or younger fantasy readers (not two young–I’d say Tweens and up as their quite a few double-entendres and mild (PG) thematic elements, but no explicit violence or sex scenes–its just good fantasy).  Anyway, here is a weekly peek into what’s on my Bookshelf.

As always, the links will take you to Amazon.com and if you purchase through these links, I get a small commission which will help me, so thanks in advance!  See you next week, hopefully!

Sidney



Amazon Associate Disclaimer:
I earn a small commission on the purchase of these items.

Bedtime Books: Legend of the Five Rings (RPG)

When I was a child, I had a curfew of 10pm, which meant that I had to be in bed by that time.  Luckily, I didn’t have to actually be asleep by that time.  I couldn’t watch TV (not part of the curfew), but I could read.  And so, like any enterprising boy who didn’t really want to lie down and go to sleep, I read . . . and read . . . and read.  I usually read for about 45 minutes to an hour, though sometimes I stretched it a little.  I can only remember getting into trouble one time for staying up too late as my family was huge on reading.

I relate this story because I discovered that I don’t really read at night any more–haven’t for a while.  I had a reading light when I was a child, but the overhead ceiling lights aren’t really conducive to reading in preparation for bed.  Luckily, over the past year I found a nice lamp that doubles as a good reading light so, periodically, I’ve been experimenting with reading at night like I used to as a child.  I haven’t been able to find the right book . . . until now.  Most of the books that I read are novels and I tend to devour them, especially now that I have so little reading time.  I tend to read too long and  stay up too late reading.

However, after much trial and error, I’ve finally found (hopefully) a genre of books that seem to work as bedtime reading–not too boring that it will put me to sleep immediately and not too dramatic that I stay up too late reading: Role-playing Games (RPGs).  The one I’m reading now is called  Legend of the Five Rings and it is a Fantasy RPG that merges a fantasy land with martial arts and magic.  Right now I’m reading the “history” of the world, which is a fantasy mash-up of the long history of countries like China and Japan.  It is interesting enough as I’m a History minor and love the history behind the world, but not riveting enough to keep me from putting it down when I finally feel tired.  I’m able to get ideas for future stories while reading, but I’m also able to rest as well.  It will be quite a while before I finish it–it is after all a 338 page book with double columns, but hopefully it will help me both sleep and be productive with story ideas at the same time.

Sidney
Read Skin Deep for Free at Aurora Wolf
Read Childe Roland for Free at Electric Spec

Finished Goosebumps

So, for Halloween, I thought I’d mention that I finished Goosebumps over the weekend (well, not really–it turns out that GB is on the list to go away from Netflix’s library in Nov).  As I had seen about ⅓ of the movie, I wanted to finish it before it left, so I watched it over the weekend.  I have to say that I liked it.  It was more fun than I thought it would be.

It is the quintessential Young Adult movie with a few scary elements.  It actually reminds me a lot of the Spiderwick Chronicles and Inkheart.  It has a lot of heart and isn’t a cynical cash grab like some other “YA franchise films.”  Some of the students at my old Middle School really loved this film, but it has enough for adults too.

Without spoilers, basically, the movie is a “What if?” scenario:  What if R. L. Stine was real (well, he is real, but real in the movie’s world) and the monsters in his books were also real and can literally leap off the page?  It takes some of the most famous characters and books from Stine’s work and creates CGI monsters to bedevil our protagonists.  There’s not a lot of teen angst and the love story is “sweet” (not saccharine, but really nice one that actually has a basis in the plot of the movie).  That being said, there are a couple of cringe-worthy moments that kids won’t mind, but adults will roll their eyes at, but on the whole it is a fun movie.  And, to be honest, the movie earned major cool points with me for having Jack Black’s R. L. Stine character take on Stephen King on who’s a scarier writer and a better bestseller.  The scene is small, less than two minutes of screen time, but it was a nice Easter Egg for a former Bookseller/Librarian Assistant like myself who sold/checked out countless Goosebumps books.

Overall Grade: B (Above Average)

Here’s hoping everyone has a fun (& safe) Halloween!

Finished The Green Rider by Kristen Britain 


I finally finished the novel The Green Rider by Kristen Britain and I liked it.  It wasn’t my favorite fantasy novel ever but it had enough characterization and and action that I forgave some of its flaws. 

According to Wikipedia, this book is a first novel and I could tell.  Not to be disparaging, but there were elements that seemed out of place.  The meeting with sisters early on in the book seemed to exist only to give the protagonist items she would need later on in the story–a la Tolkien.  Her desire to ignore the repeated attempts to get her to believe that she had the necessary talent to be a good “Greenie” based on all that she had gone through was also particularly irksome.  But overall, I’d say it was pretty good.  Will I read the sequels? Probably, just not right away.

Yet, Kristen Britain did in 1999, what I haven’t yet found a way to accomplish yet in 2017.  She wrote, finished, and published her first novel.  This is the goal I’m working towards.  I hope one day (soon) that I can also reach this milestone myself.  Fingers crossed! 😀

Overall Grade: B-/C+

Leave It To Chance: Monster Madness and Other Stories

Leaveittochance_vol3_Amazon

Leave It To Chance: Monster Madness and Other Stories is the third book (Vol. 3) to the Leave It To Chance  series (yes, I know I’m out of order, but Vol. 2 was longer than I had time to read this week with grading and all) that I reviewed last week.  While I like this volume, I don’t like it quite as much as I liked Volume 1.  It tries to do something fairly unique, but the story (as presented) doesn’t quite work as well as it should.

Monster Madness takes the idea of what would happen in “movie monsters” came to life in the “real world” of Devil’s Echo (the city where the Chance stories take place).  However, it seems to focus more on Chance’s interaction with a “mysterious” character named “Lightfoot” than it does with her actually trying to solve a crime.  In fact, her dragon is knocked out for most of the story, and she is relegated to the sidelines while her father does most of the sleuthing/fighting the bad guys.  It doesn’t help that while Lightfoot is intended as a “possible” love interest in that Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys way of dropping similar characters of the opposite sex together and watching the sparks fly as their similar ways cause conflict (and interest), Lightfoot is drawn in such an unappealing manner that I (for one) was actively routing against Chance having anything to do with him.

I think Monster Madness (and the other story, which has heart, but still isn’t as good as the first volume’s story).  I think that while this was a good volume, Chance’s strengths are when she’s the center of the action, doing the sleuthing, rather than as a standby character who merely interacts when the action comes to her.

OVERALL GRADE: C+