Bitter to Receive

On the morning of July 3, 2024, our dearly beloved Lucifer, the cuddliest demon cat in the world, lost his battle with age, arthritis and as we discovered at the end, cancer. We knew he was getting older by the day, we knew his arthritis was slowing him down, but the cancer was a surprise – and a terrible one.

He just wasn’t himself when we got back from ALA late Monday night. It seemed like he perked up seeing us home, but that perk was brief and by the next evening it was clear that he wasn’t comfortable and couldn’t really get around under his own power.

Today he’s gone. I want to believe to the Rainbow Bridge, playing – or more likely sitting on the sidelines looking dignified as he always did – riding herd on the beloveds who went before him; Freddie, Mellie, LaZorra, Sophie, Erasmus, Zade, Jennyfur and my dearest Licorice.

Lucifer was the first cat I’ve had since Licorice who chose me – and not my husband – as his person. I’ve loved every single cat in between, but Lucifer was special, a heartfelt and now heartbreaking memory of just how marvelous it is to be loved so much by a cat who could – and once upon a time did – do fine on his own but choose to give his heart to a human instead of remaining a solitary soul.

More than one vet has told me that cats with demonic or evil-seeming names are generally sweethearts, while cats who have sweetheart names tend to be, well, less than sweet. Lucifer certainly wasn’t named for his demonic nature – but rather for his ability to deceive. The friend who rescued him from his feral life believed that Lucifer was a)female and b)in need of neutering when in fact he was the opposite in both cases.

When Erasmus lost his battle with cancer twelve years ago, the post about his passing was titled Not All Tears Are Evil, a reference to the parting at the Grey Havens at the end of The Lord of the Rings.

The title of this post also refers to The Lord of the Rings, specifically to the appendices regarding the death of Aragorn, when Arwen proclaims that “if this (death) is the gift of the One to Men, it is bitter to receive.”

When it comes to cats, the tragedy is always that our lives are so long, and theirs are so short. And it is bitter to receive. Lucifer will never sleep on my heart again. But he will sleep in it forever.

I Only Have a Sign Because It Came With the Kitchen + Giveaway

only have a kitchen sign

Not really. I bought this sign years ago, and have moved it from place to place, and kitchen to kitchen, because it summed up how I felt. But it looks like I’m going to have to take it down.

I used to tell people that I cooked “in my last life”. This wasn’t a reference to reincarnation, more a statement about the different lives that people lead, and the different people that we become, as time goes by and our experiences shape us.

There is a lot of freighted baggage involved in cooking in my “first life”, meaning my first marriage. Cooking and planning meals was always a fraught experience. It was never the right thing, it was never quite good enough, and it was always undertaken after a long day at work and a one hour commute home. These were not good times.

I arranged my life after that so that either someone else did most of the cooking, or the microwave did the cooking, or, as the saying goes, we made my favorite thing for dinner, “Reservations”.

But that was all a long time ago, and my world is a bit different. When we moved back to Atlanta, I was mostly home. It seemed like a good time to take up cooking again. But there were a different set of issues. It is hard to plan dinner when you aren’t quite sure when the other party will be home to eat it. And after a while, the things that we could easily or quickly make simply got boring. Often to the point where we’d ditch whatever was in the fridge and go out.

We spoiled a lot of food that way.

A couple of months ago I latched onto what seemed like either a brilliant idea, or at least a valiant attempt at one. Why not sign up for one of the recipe delivery services, and see how we liked it? We signed up for 3 dinners a week from Blue Apron, and waited eagerly for our first box.

The first box arrived late on a Saturday afternoon, and we had a blast opening it and organizing all the ingredients. We had Cuban Sandwiches, Cod Kedgeree and something good but considerably less memorable. And it was probably chicken.

Everything in the box was fresh. It was also well labeled. As it turns out, kale, collard greens and swiss chard all kind of look alike when you have no experience with them fresh.

The recipes are reasonable for a pair of beginners to follow. And they feature ingredients we would never think of, producing food that we might not otherwise try but is usually anywhere from good to yummy. And occasionally we fill the kitchen with smoke, but when that happens it is no one’s fault but our own.

And we’ve discovered that the process of cooking together is a fun shared activity at the end of the day. We get to play with our food, and then we get to eat it. And we usually learn something along the way. Sometimes we learn a technique. Sometimes we learn that I actually like whole grain mustard, even though I still hate the yellow stuff. And we’ve learned that we both still dislike sweet potatoes, no matter how they’re cooked.

Whenever a recipe calls for sweet potatoes, we substitute red potatoes. The instructions all work perfectly, and we like the result a whole lot better. I may never eat those microwavable mashed potatoes in a cup again.

So, we’ve discovered a new activity. We’ve figured out that we both like cooking together. We’re having fun. That we also eliminated the decision paralysis was a side benefit, but one we liked so much that for a while we were actually getting two meals a week from Plated, just so we didn’t have to think about “what’s for dinner”.

We’ve accumulated enough recipes that we like that we’re starting to pick from previous favorites, We’ve repeated both those original Cuban Sandwiches and the Cod Kedgeree, as well as several other dishes. We’ve also bought cookbooks. And kitchen gadgets. We’re having too much fun to stop.

In fact, we’re having so much fun that I couldn’t resist writing about it. And I’d like to share. We’ve been doing this long enough that we get free meals to give away to friends. I’d like to give two of those free dinner kits away to lucky commenters on this post.

I hope whoever wins has a great time. I know they’ll get a good meal. And hopefully a lot of fun.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Note: This is not a sponsored post or a sponsored giveaway. I’m just having a good time with the service and I wanted to share. Every Blue Apron subscriber regularly receives free meals to give away. We’ve given some away to friends. But I just couldn’t resist writing about how much fun we’re having and giving away a chance to share in the fun.

Back on the Horse

After a week (a whole week) of flu-ishness. I will get back on the blogging horse tomorrow with the post-ALA edition of Stacking the Shelves.

It’s amazing how difficult it is to get back into a routine after a week of conference and trying (and failing!) to cough up a lung.

But life has to return back to normal. Thanks for bearing with me!

Sick As A Dog

I’ve always wondered why the cliche is “sick as a dog”. Being owned by cats, I can attest that cats “sick up” every bit as messily as dogs. At least for their size.

That being said, the blogger at Reading Reality, meaning me, came back from the American Library Association Conference sick as that proverbial canine.

Feels like the flu. You know the drill.

And since I love sharing, I’ve already given it to my husband. He still loves me anyway.

But that’s why there’s no bookish post today. We’ve been lounging on the couch watching DVDs. This is why I collect back seasons of TV shows I like.

We’ve blown through three seasons of NCIS so far. All puns intended.

Armchair BEA: Interview and Introduction

This is BEA week. Who or what is BEA you might ask?

BEA is Book Expo America, the show where book people do business. And it’s usually in New York in early June. It certainly is this year, although there are rumors about 2016 in Chicago.

Not all of us get to make it to NYC for BEA. Although many of us wish we could.

(Most years, for me, it’s a logistical problem. The American Library Association Annual Conference is in late June, and I am committed to attend that. Two conferences in one month is very expensive. There is overlap, but it’s not the same. I really want to go to BEA!)

Because so many bloggers want to get to BEA, and can’t quite manage, some of the enterprising among us invented the fantastic Armchair BEA! (There’s armchair football, why not Armchair BEA? I ask you?)

The kickoff event for Armchair BEA (see, see!) is an interview. Each participating blogger is supposed to interview themselves. (There’s a list of questions here, if you’re curious)

1.Please tell us a little bit about yourself: Who are you? How long have you been blogging? Why did you get into blogging?

I started blogging in April 2011. We were about to move (again) and were packing up our huge book collection, trying to figure out what to keep and what to weed. I’m a librarian and weeding books is hard. I thought I’d be writing a lot about libraries, and it has turned out that I’m doing a lot of book reviews. Which I love.

The other things. I blog here at Reading Reality, sometimes known as Escape Reality, Read Fiction! I am also The Rocket Lover at Book Lovers Inc. My husband is the techie here at Reading Reality, although we are both die-hard geeks. Our cats otherwise run the house. Which moves frequently. Chicago to Anchorage to Tallahssee (FL) to Chicago to Gainesville (FL) to Atlanta. (I’m originally from Cincinnati, but that’s a whole bunch of moves ago!)

2. What are you currently reading, or what is your favorite book you have read so far in 2012?

I’m listening to The Scottish Prisoner by Diana Gabaldon and reading Deadly Secrets, Loving Lies by Cynthia Cooke. My favorite book this year is probably Blood and Bullets by James R. Tuck, and I need to get the review written.

3. What is your favorite feature on your blog (i.e. author interviews, memes, something specific to your blog)?

The feature that I’m proudest of is Ebook Review Central. Every Monday (except Memorial Day, so far), I cover the output of one or more of the ebook-only or ebook-mostly publishers for a month. Later today it will be Samhain who are ebook-mostly. I pull together all the reviews for their titles each month and highlight three with the most and best reviews. And I maintain a database with links to all the reviews. I also cover Carina, Dreamspinner, Astraea, Liquid Silver, Amber Quill, Riptide, Red Sage and Curiosity Quills.

4. Which is your favorite post that you have written that you want everyone to read?

There are two posts I would want everyone to read (yes, I know, the question said one). Back in February, the Oklahoma Chapter of the Romance Writers of America suddenly changed the rules of their writing contest to exclude same-sex entries. Not because they couldn’t find any judges, but because their chapter members felt “uncomfortable” with stories that had, in fact, won the contest in years past. My post titled Hot Buttons Popping was syndicated by BlogHer.

BEA is a book expo. And it is also an exposition of traditional publishing. My background is in libraries. One of the big issues facing public libraries is how to handle the ebook revolution when most of the “Big 6” publishers will not license ebooks to libraries under any conditions. But exactly who are the “Big 6” anyway, and what does that mean? I couldn’t resist an attempt at describing them in 9 Rings, 8 Planets, 7 Dwarfs, 6 Publishers.

5. Have your reading tastes changed since you started blogging? How?

It’s not that my tastes have changed, it’s more that they’ve expanded. Which is bad, in a way, because I have access to even more books than I did when I was working in a library. I get a lot of first novels and ebook-only books, because I promote them on Ebook Review Central, and because I get them through book tours for review. So many neat new authors and series. But I still love all the things I always have, like science fiction and fantasy, and urban fantasy. There are so many wonderful books, and I want to read them all.

(Banner design: Nina of Nina Reads; Feature image design: Sarah of Puss Reboots; Rainbow pencils photo credit Horia Varlan on Flickr)


Not All Tears Are Evil

The ghost of an orange and white kitty is on my nightstand this Sunday. And for all the nights to come.

Not exactly, because that wasn’t one of Erasmus’ places to be in our bedroom. He preferred the “kitty chaperone” position. That would be the spot right smack dab in the middle of the bed.

For an essentially not very bright cat, he could be clever when it counted. From the middle, he could get scritched by both of us.

On the other hand, he couldn’t figure out that he could totally wrap me around his paw if he would just sit on my lap every once in a while. We didn’t just have to move four times, we had to open up a particular room in a particular house to make that work. And he would only get in my lap from the left and never the right. I wasn’t allowed to type with Rasi in my lap. Ask me if I cared. Ask me how many hours I could last without caring.

We love them, and they never let us go.

Rasi delivered pens. He was always so proud of himself. He acted like he was bringing us the biggest, most vicious mousie the world had ever seen. All for us. Of course, this meant that neither of us could EVER locate a pen when we really needed one. I would, we would give up every pen we might ever own for the rest of our lives to have him bring us just one more pen. Just one more.

But it’s not meant to be. Our sweet, sweet baby boy lost his battle with cancer. And we let him go while he was still having some good time, before his world became all pain.

Even though we had a vet come to the house to take care of him, Sophie is wandering around looking lost, looking for her daddy-cat in the places he used to be. She watched them carry him out the door, but she wants him back.

We do too.

For now, we both cry. We miss him. I keep expecting to see him at the foot of the bed, waiting for us to come to bed. Or on the table in the afternoon, catching the sun.

This is the sorrow of parting. At the end of the Lord of the Rings just before Bilbo and Frodo board the ship at the Grey Havens, as they are about to leave, Gandalf tells Sam, ” I will not say do not weep, for not all tears are an evil.”

They may not be an evil, but they hurt like bloody hell.

Rest in catnip, Erasmus. My sweet Rasi boy.

Guest Post: Schrödinger’s Ebook Box

For Marlene’s birthday I got her a new iPad.  Since her work involves reading and reviewing ebooks, and since the iPad has become her primary ebook reader, transferring the books from her old iPad to the new one was critical.  Since she uses a number of ebook apps, this gave us an opportunity to answer the (not-so) age-old question: when you open the new box, are the ebooks still alive and meowing?

We set up the new iPad using one of the recommended approaches:

  1. Sync the old iPad with iTunes.
  2. Make a backup of the old iPad using iTunes.
  3. Hook up the new iPad to the computer and choose to restore from the backup.
  4. After the restoration, wait for iTunes to finish syncing apps and content to the new iPad.

How did the the various apps do?

  • iBooks — success.  All of the titles came over.
  • Amazon Kindle for iPad — success.  The list of titles came over.  It was necessary to re-download them, but that came as no surprise.
  • Barnes and Noble Nook — success.  The list of titles came over; as with the Kindle app, it was necessary to re-download the books.
  • Bluefire Reader — success.  Everything came over, although it was necessary to re-enter the Adobe DRM credentials.
  • Google Play Books — success.  Same story as the Kindle and Nook apps.
  • Kobo for iPad — success.  At least, apparently so.  The default titles came over, but this app is one that Marlene looked at but never actively used.

However, there was one failure: the OverDrive app for iPad.  When we opened it on the new iPad, the bookshelf was empty!

Of course, the primary purpose of this app is to display ebooks and audiobooks from OverDrive’s library service, but it will happily store and open EPUB files, and you don’t even need the OverDrive Media Console application on your PC.  You can just download an EPUB from Safari on the iPad and open it in OverDrive.  Because of apparent capacity issues with Bluefire reader, there was a period of Marlene had started using the OverDrive app to handle some of the overflow; in particular, she used it for non-DRM EPUBs.

But therein lies the rub… as near as I can tell, the OverDrive app turns out to be the Hotel California of iOS EPUB readers.  Since the restore and iTunes sync obviously hadn’t brought the ebooks over, I started looking for ways to manually transfer them.  The first place I looked was in the File Sharing feature in iTunes:

If OverDrive supported app file sharing, I could have used iTunes to copy the ebooks from the old iPad to the new one.  Unfortunately… it doesn’t.

My next step was scanning through the OverDrive app to see if it offered a way to download or email the files.  I came up with nothing.

Finally, I turned to my favorite reference librarian Google… and came up with a lot of folks complaining about how iOS5 and the recent update of the app apparently don’t play well together for audiobooks, but nothing relevant to my efforts.  So, if you’ve made this far into the post and have ideas about how to transfer the books… I’m all ears.

Ultimately, if we don’t find a way to make the transfer, the effective loss will be small, as Marlene has current files for all of the titles in the OverDrive app with the exception of three titles she had downloaded via iOS Safari from NetGalley that have since been removed from the active download list.  One irony is that those three ebooks are in open EPUB format; if only we could get to the files, any EPUB reader app could display them.

This is all a perfect storm of circumstances that could drive somebody who is unlike me (by expecting that software will actually work all the time) back into the comfortable but heavy arms of physical books:

  • Ebook DRM can punish the reader.  Marlene and I are perfectly willing to pay for ebooks (though of course, most of the time she doesn’t have to because of the number of egalleys and ARCs she reviews), but in the case of the OverDrive app, were I to make a charitable guess, DRM inspired a design compromise for the OverDrive app that lead to app file sharing not being enabled, even for non-DRM ebooks.
  • Apple’s iOS backup and syncing model has pitfalls for the unwary.  In particular, backing up to iTunes does not back up everything, and syncing with iTunes does not necessary cover content that wasn’t purchased via iTunes.  Want a real full backup of your iOS device?  It seems like you can get one only if you jailbreak it.  By the way, I really hope to be proven wrong on this.
  • It’s a truism that preserving ebooks require the reader to work harder.  You can leave a physical book sitting around and expect it to stay put (and even a very industrious cat isn’t going to push a book very far); one has to actually think in order to keep one’s ebooks available as time, hardware upgrades, and fashions in digital format pass.  But it’s even harder if one has to work to get one’s hands on the ebook file.
  • Using apps for anything other than their exact intended purpose can have unexpected pitfalls.  As an EPUB reader, the OverDrive app is arguably decent, but at the moment I can no longer recommend it for any purpose other than using OverDrive’s service.  I hope future updates of the app will make it easier to transfer titles to new iOS devices and to back up any non-library ebooks that a user chooses to read in OverDrive.

In conclusion (and to further inflict quantum mechanics metaphors on the reader), despite all of the advantages of ebooks, ebook users must still keep the Ebook Uncertainty Principle in mind: without care (and ideally access to discrete, non-DRM ebook files that you can back up), the long-term availability of ebooks that you purchase is at best a little uncertain.

Help Wanted at Reading Reality

Reading Reality wants YOU!

To become an associate reviewer at Reading Reality.

It’s time! I need help. I’m looking for at least one, and maybe two or three people to become Associate Reviewers.

Please keep in mind, being a book reviewer is a labor of love. You’ll get a lot of interesting books to read, often before they’re available anywhere else and all you’ll spend is your time. Probably a lot of it. But you’ll only be paid in free books and sincere thanks, not in money.

Would you make a good Associate Reviewer? Do you:

  • love to read and talk about books
  • have an ereader or an ereader app
  • enjoy trying new authors and new genres
  • preferably not have a book review blog of your own
  • post your reviews on Amazon and Goodreads (or are you willing to)
  • have (or can you get) access to NetGalley and/or Edelweiss

If you’re interested, there are a few things to keep in mind before you apply

  1. You will have some responsibility for obtaining books to read and review. It is much easier to get eARCs than print ARCs.  You will also get books directly from authors and publicists, and I will refer some of the ones that come to me to my associate reviewer(s).
  2. The ability to meet deadlines is a must. We will need a lot of coordination to make sure we don’t review the same book and that there is something on the blog every day.
  3. You must be 18+. Reading Reality reviews everything from YA to erotica.

Anyone who is interested in helping with the compilation of Ebook Review Central, please let me know in your application. That thing is a bear.

If you would like to be an associate reviewer at Reading Reality, please fill out this form. I’d love to hear from you!




Blogo-Birthday, Day 2

There are no calories in a picture of a birthday cake. The only problem is that there’s no flavor, either.

Notice that it’s a picture of a VERY chocolate cake. When I think birthday cake, I think “chocolate”.

I remember laughing out loud, and for quite a long time, the first time I read Sandra Boynton’s famous book Chocolate: The Consuming Passion. There’s a page about white chocolate, where she describes the taste of white chocolate by telling the reader to cut out a page of the book and eat it. That’s her opinion of white chocolate. Mine too.

This is a book that seriously needs to be back in print.

I got here from chocolate cake. Honestly. The strangest things remind me of books, and often by the most twisted of paths. (Birthday to Chocolate Cake to Boynton)

Just as the blogoversary was a time to reflect on a year of blogging, my birthday is a time to reflect, But then I changed my mind. Why reflect when I have so many wonderful books to escape into?

Instead, earlier this week, I sort of got a different kind of present. As I might have mentioned (a few dozen times) I’m a librarian. Not just because I’ve worked in libraries, but because I have a Master’s Degree in Library Science.

My MLS is from a little school in Kentucky. Yes, the University of Kentucky, who won the NCAA Basketball Championship earlier this week. This may be one week when if I say I went to UK, no one asks what I mean, even in Atlanta.

Since this is a hobbit birthday, and I am giving presents (don’t worry, I will get at least one very nice present from my husband), there is a giveaway for all of you who have patiently read to the end of this post.

Or maybe you just skipped down to the Rafflecopter! The question to enter the giveaway is a birthday-related question, since this is a birthday-related giveaway. What was your favorite birthday present?

(There is still plenty of time to enter yesterday’s giveaways. You can take your chances on a $15 Amazon GC here and an ebook copy of Heather Massey’s fantastic erotic clockpunk romance The Watchmaker’s Lady here.)

This drawing is for a USD$20 Amazon Gift Card. The giveaway will be open until 12:01 a.m. EDT the morning of April 8, 2012. I will announce the winner on April 9th.


a Rafflecopter giveaway


It’s a Blogo-Birthday!

And what’s that, you might very well ask?

On April 4, 2011 this blog was born. The first version was Escape Reality, Read Fiction! Courtesy of The Wayback Machine, here’s what it looked like, back in the early days of…last year. (My own birthday is tomorrow, so blogo-birthday)

Escape Reality, Read Fiction! is still on the masthead, but now it’s under the bar. For anyone who wonders where that phrase came from, like so much wisdom, I got it off a t-shirt–which doesn’t make it any less true. I firmly believe that you can escape reality for very large periods of time by reading fiction. And that’s a good thing!

I’m equally firmly of the opinion that you can’t judge a book by its movie. Also from a t-shirt. There’s some great stuff on t-shirts, if you look for it. Especially if you like pithy.

So, about last year. April 4 was a Monday. My first post was published that day, after a weekend of Galen and I setting things up. There was one absolutely paralyzing bit about selecting a WordPress theme from the zillion and one options I still have nightmares about.

I knew I would write about books. Not a big surprise. I expected to be writing more on the, I guess you would say meta-level, about the business of books, or the business of libraries, rather than book reviews.

I never expected it would be quite so easy to get books to review. I thought I’d be reviewing from my already large TBR stacks. Instead, the TBR stacks are getting bigger by the day, but mainly in the virtual sense. I get most of my review copies in ebook form, with the exception of conference ARCs.

A year means it’s time to reflect a little bit. That’s why there have been a few changes in the last month.  I’ve added features to bring in more traffic. I’ve discovered that writing the blog, even every day, isn’t the hardest part. Getting people to come and read it, the promotion, that’s the more difficult bit. At least for me. As the saying goes, YMMV.

So in addition to regular features like Ebook Review Central, it’s time for Reading Reality to participate in a couple of memes like In My Mailbox and On My Wishlist. On My (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand turned into a meme itself this past weekend. I’m also participating in some blog tours and blog hops, like the Where’s That Bunny? hop hosted by Reading Romances this week.  (By the way, Nat at Reading Romances designed the Blogo-Birthday graphic. Thanks, Nat!)

But I want to make sure that the loyal readers of Reading Reality keep reading. So, as I start my second year, I want to hear from you. What do you look for in a blog? What keeps you following? Comments please!

This is a Blogoversary Celebration, so of course there is a giveaway!

Here are the steps to enter the drawing for a USD$15 Amazon Gift Card. This giveaway will be open until 12:01 a.m. the morning of April 8, 2012. I will announce the winner on April 9th.

a Rafflecopter giveaway