Sunday, September 30, 2012

Banned Books Week Reading List

It's that time of year again: Banned Books Week. While I sincerely hope that all and sundry are reading banned books throughout the year, I fully support a full week highlighting what is one of the most odious things one could ever do to a book--deny people the right to read it.

I'll be taking the time this week to post about the topic so you'll have plenty of opportunities to hear me rant about it, but I wanted to share my reading list for Banned Books Week. I'm suspending my other reading activities from now until the 6th so that I can read and review the following books this week:

-Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger
-A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
-Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging: Confessions of Georgia Nicolson by Louise Rennison

If I have time for anymore I'll probably just pick one or two of the ones off of my shelf at home.

Hope that you all have an enjoyable Banned Books Week!


Bloggiesta is not going to happen, sadly. I'm having the busiest weekend of my life and it's not even over yet. I'm getting towards the end of my current read and have decided to eschew my "On Deck" books for another week so that I can do some Banned Book Weeks reading. I've already picked out the books (I'm trying for three) and will be revealing them either later today or tomorrow morning.


Saturday, September 29, 2012

Oh Dear Gods, What Have I Come Down With?

I'm currently sicker than a dog (despite the fact that I'm working two shifts today and one on Sunday) and didn't have time to schedule anything for this morning due to a bridal shower last night. I'm supposed to be doing Bloggiesta this weekend and I'm going to try to do as much as possible but having the plague is going to make it a much less pleasant experience. :(


Friday, September 28, 2012

Bill Moyers on Banned Book Week

Today's post is going to be short and simple. With Banned Book Week coming up next week I wanted to share this video that I found of Bill Moyers discussing the topic of banned books. It's a short video, but it says a lot in less than four minutes.

Take a look at the video and have a great Banned Book Week next week.


Thursday, September 27, 2012

A Little Hero Goes a Long Way: A Review of The Hobbit (Or, There and Back Again) by J. R. R. Tolkien

Title: The Hobbit (Or, There and Back Again)
Author: J. R. R. Tolkien
Edition: Paperback (Houghton Mifflin, 1997)
Pages: 272
How I Came By This Book: A few years ago a friend of mine was clearing out some of the books that she didn't want anymore and I ended up snagging a bunch of them. The Hobbit was one of them.

About the Author: "John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, CBE, was an English writer, poet, philologist, and university professor, best known as the author of the high fantasy classic works The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings .

Tolkien was Rawlinson and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford from 1925 to 1945, and Merton Professor of English language and literature from 1945 to 1959. He was a close friend of C.S. Lewis." (taken from GoodReads)

Synopsis: Bilbo Baggins, a hobbit with a penchant for eating and a dislike of adventure, sets off on the journey of a lifetime with thirteen gold-seeking dwarfs. He will outwit trolls, battle giant spiders, hold his own against elves, and face a fearsome dragon before his adventure is done. Here is the story of the reluctant Bilbo and his transformation from a mere hobbit to a great hero.

Review: While everyone else and their uncle is rereading this book, I had never read The Hobbit before. I picked it up to read because of the upcoming movie, of course, but I had gotten barely halfway through it when I knew that I'd be picking it back up to reread again and again in the future. 

The Hobbit follows the story of Bilbo Baggins and his unexpected journey to the Lonely Mountain to help thirteen dwarfs (led by Thorin son of Thrain son of Thror) retrieve the wealth stolen from their ancestors by the devilish dragon, Smaug. Tricked into the adventure by Gandalf the wizard, Bilbo finds himself swept up into a world of danger and excitement...both things that a respectable hobbit should despise. At first it is all too obvious that he has no business being on this trek and that he is no burglar, despite what Gandalf has told the dwarfs (can someone explain to me why the plural of that isn't dwarves????). After a while though, especially after he acquires a magic ring that allows him to become invisible, Bilbo becomes a valued member of this merry band of adventurers and gets them out of quite a few tough spots. And in the end he learns what he is truly made of.

I had read Fellowship of the Ring in high school and I remember that the book plodded along in some places (sometimes glacially slow). The Hobbit, however, started quickly, progressed quickly, and ended quickly. In fact, I'd say that the pace was actually too fast in some places. Rather than showing what was going on, Tolkien spends a lot of time telling things in one or two paragraphs, glossing over details and jumping ahead. It doesn't get to the point where important things are left out or where the reader goes "Wait, wait, go back and tell me more," but it does seem as if this book is written with an eye to only the really important bits of the really important bits. But maybe that's just me. 

The writing is absolutely beautiful and it draws you in from the first page. Tolkien knows how to weave a tale and how to paint a picture with words. One of my favorite lines in the entire book comes at the beginning of Chapter VIII: Flies and Spiders:
Occasionally a slender beam of sun that had the luck to slip in through some opening in the leaves far above, and still more luck in not being caught in the tangled boughs and matted twigs beneath, stabbed down thin and bright before them. 
I'm not really sure what it is about it but the imagery in that sentence just stood out to me. Much of the book is like that, with descriptive passages and beautiful scenes painted with the brush of beautiful words.

The book's biggest strength, however, is its characters. Bilbo is an instantly likable fellow and his adventures and misadventures help him to grow as the book progresses. Some of the minor characters, like Beorn, are insanely memorable and Smaug is such a crafty and smarmy character that I wish there could have been more of him...even if he was the villain. 

Despite my first thoughts about Bilbo's fellow travelers (i.e., "How the hell am I supposed to remember which dwarf is which?"), I found that each of them was different from the next and that the dwarfs all had unique personalities or traits which made them discernible from each other. I came to like some more than others but in the end even the ones that annoyed me redeemed themselves. Gandalf isn't present for the entire journey, but his bits in the book are fun and help to move the story along. 

Upon finishing the book I'm still not quite sure how this is going to be a trilogy of films. I could see maybe two, but three is pushing it, even if they are adding in stuff from The Silmarillion and other bits of stuff from Tolkien's notes. I've been told, however, that a lot of the goings on in the book are going to be expanded with new characters being thrown into the mix and that characters from LoTR that don't actually show up in The Hobbit are going to make appearances. I guess we'll all just have to wait and see how this all works out but I'm actually looking forward to it. Martin Freeman seems like the perfect Bilbo to me (mostly because of his performance as Arthur Dent) and, as a recent convert to the cult of Sherlock, I'm eagerly awaiting Benedict Cumberbatch's interpretations of Smaug and The Necromancer. 

The Hobbit is an exciting, fun romp through Middle Earth and one that I would revisit again. Tolkien's pace may have been a bit too quick for me, but the book doesn't suffer from that fact. I'm giving The Hobbit five out of five Gabriels.


And, just because I can, here's one of the trailers for the first film in the trilogy, which everyone already knows comes out later this year. 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012


The more that I thought about changing the name of the blog/the more I looked at the name I had picked/the more I thought about how much I was going to have to do to change the rest of my online presence (Twitter, etc.), the more I realized that I didn't want to. The truth is out there now, people know that I'm not really a guy named Gabe, but that doesn't mean that I need to change everything about the blog as some sort of penance. There's been no outcry over what I said, which I take to mean that no one really cares either way. Besides, Tom Cruise's name isn't really Tom Cruise. And George Eliot was really a woman named Mary Anne Evans.

The nature of how I discuss books might shift a little (although gender RARELY comes up in my reviews), but other than that I'm still going to be the same reviewer you all know. You just know a little more about me.

Also, tomorrow morning at 8 my review of The Hobbit will be up. 


In Which I Am Honest and Reveal a Shocking Secret

I have a bit of an announcement to make. Some of you may have already guessed (or at least suspected) what I'm about to tell you all, but for those of you who had no clue, I hope that this doesn't make you rethink your support of me or this blog.

First, I'd like to give props to Jennifer over at The Relentless Reader for this post which made me realize that the time had come for me to be open and honest. As I was submitting my comment on what she had said, I realized that all the time that I've been blogging honestly I've still been lying to my followers. Every single opinion that I have had about a book has been true, but there's been a big glaring lie that I've been blogging under since the beginning and I want to come clean.

My name isn't Gabriel. I write under a pseudonym. Of course, lots of people do that every day. But here's the other part of the lie...and it's kind of a biggie. I'm actually not a guy.

The decision to write under a male alias was made right at the beginning of this blog and it never occurred to me that one day I might regret it. For one thing, there weren't many men who wrote book blogs so writing as a guy set me apart. For another thing, my real name is insanely common, especially among book bloggers, so I figured that the name Gabriel would be more memorable. It also allowed me to have a unique rating system and to write a book blog without being sent tons and tons of requests to read romance novels, which I really, truly despise.

As time went on, however, I realized the drawbacks of not being honest about who I was. I realized that book blogging meant more than reading books and talking about them. It meant conventions and meet-ups and interviews with authors and becoming part of a community. I think one of the main reasons why I started to slowly slip out of the blogging world at the end of last year was because I knew that I wasn't being myself and could therefore not truly be a part of the blogging community.

The main thing that really bothered me about it, though, was that I had to be sort of dishonest when I was reviewing books about certain topics. I couldn't say, "Oh, this appealed to me because I know exactly what this woman went through." I had to tip-toe around subjects with a dismissive, "I have no idea what's going on because I'm a guy," which is so completely false that it made me feel guilty.

My review of Bossypants is a glaring example of that. I didn't like the book and I do feel like it's inaccessible to the male population in some ways and I don't want to read about periods and breastfeeding,. But writing under a male pseudonym made that review slightly difficult to write because there were a lot of things that I could identify with her about (parenthood not being one of them) and I couldn't come out and say that. I've always had to be really careful about what I wrote in order to keep up the pretense of being a guy, making every word I write important, and keeping me on my toes as I edited. It got exhausting after awhile, to be honest.

After my boyfriend coaxed me back into blogging I kept saying things to him like, "I feel like I need to say something about this," or "Maybe I should just tell the truth." His reaction was to say, "Do what you feel is right." At first I thought that that was going to be just writing under this assumed identity for the rest of time and never saying anything. But when Jennifer's post came in my reader today I realized that the time had come to step forward and say something before I slipped...or before I signed up to do something in real life that would have revealed my true identity anyway.

I feel bad that I misled people. With all of the outrage last year over the "lesbian bloggers" who were really men and the public outcry over Greg Mortensen and James Frey being less than truthful, is it any wonder that I feel like a heel admitting to everyone that I'm not who I've been saying that I am? Do I think that what I did is horrible? No. My reviews are always truthful and honest (with the exception of anytime that I've ever said something like, "As a guy..."), as are the stories that I've told about my life and the opinions that I have about the world. My writing was just colored by the alias that I had assumed in order to write this blog.

I'm terrified that I'm going to lose followers over this, but I'm asking my readers and my fellow book bloggers for forgiveness. I'm still the same smart-ass reviewer that you know and love. That's never going to change simply because I've admitted that I have different body parts than you've been led to believe. I feel sort of free now, like a weight has been lifted off of my shoulders. I'm just hoping this doesn't came back to bite me in the butt.

Now about the title of this blog and everything that goes along with it. I like the title. And I like the way that I review books (i.e., the Gabriel Scale). One of the main reasons why I chose to write under an alias in the first place was because of the fact that I talk openly about a lot of things, including my job, and I didn't want the hassle if someone found out who I was. And I'm serious when I tell you that pretty much every third person in the world shares my real name. But I also really want to be able to do things like BEA without people going, "Wait, who are you? No, really. Who are you?" So I was torn between leaving things the way that they are or changing this blog to reflect who I truly am.

In the end, the best thing for me to do is, of course, is to change the blog. Not the structure of it or the way that I write or anything like that. I'm currently looking for a new blog title (all of the clever ways to use "bibliophile" are taken) and will be changing the way that I rate books. If I don't get that done before this weekend's Bloggiesta, then that'll be added to the list of things to do. There's a lot of stuff to do in order to right all of this, but in the meantime stick with me. There are reviews coming (I've already scheduled my review of The Hobbit) and I have plans for where I'd like to take this blog in the future.

Again, I apologize for my dishonesty. I truly value each and every person that I've met through this blog and I hope that you will understand what I did and why I did it.

Sincerely (and honestly),

Jen (see, I told you it was a common name!)

In Which I Set Some Goals

In an effort to focus/motivate myself, I've decided to revisit the goals that I first set for myself when I started blogging back in March of 2011.

These were the goals that I had back then:
1) Get people to read my blog.
2) Help make the comments section a place where people can discuss and debate.
3) Use blogging as a way to legitimize my reading addiction.
4) Read/review 1-2 books a week.
5) Post something every day.
6) Meet new people/find readers who have similar interests.

I ended up meeting all of those goals and exceeding some of them. They were, however, the goals of a new book blogger, someone who was attempting to get started on a new adventure. Now that I'm coming back to blogging with the full knowledge of what I'm capable of and with evidence of how much people actually enjoy reading what I write, I want some new goals. Goals that are more concrete and that are aimed at becoming a better, more organized blogger who won't give up like I did last December.

So, my new set of goals are:
1) Gain at least 300 new followers in the next six months.
2) Have something scheduled to post every day but allow myself some time off every once in a while to avoid burnout.
3) Participate in a reasonable number of challenges and only participate in ones that I know I can finish.
4) Read and review books that are sent to me in a timely fashion.
5) Be conscientious about what I sign up to do so that I don't abandon projects I've told other bloggers I would help them with.
6) Participate in discussions on other blogs. Book bloggers are a community and I need to start acting like I'm a part of that community.
7) Have a weekly plan for reading set out ahead of time that reflects what's currently going on in my life so that I don't give myself too much to handle.
8) Be open to genres that I don't normally read and don't dismiss a book before I read it simply because I don't *think* I'll like it. Some of the books that I've absolutely loved have been books that I didn't think I'd be interested in.
9) Remember that blogs take time and effort. Plan out time each week to devote to reading/blogging/participating with other bloggers.
10) Have fun. Seriously. Blogging is a blast. Don't act like it's a 9-5 grind.

How have your goals changed since you started blogging?


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday

Getting back to blogging again means getting back to doing Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by the girls over at The Broke and the Bookish.

Every week TB&TB posts a different prompt and asks bloggers to make a top ten list of their answers to that prompt. This week's prompt is: Top Ten Series I Haven't Finished.

Here, in no particular order, is my list:

1) The Dante Valentine series by Lillith Saintcrow: I've read the first two books in this five book urban fantasy series, but I haven't yet read the other three (even though I own them). I attempted a reread of the ones I have read shortly before I stopped blogging last year but didn't get even halfway through the first one due to burnout. I still plan to read them. Someday.

2) Dune by Frank Herbert: I loved the first book in this series and own all six of them. I just haven't gotten around to reading the rest of them. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that I've heard people say that the first one is the best, the second one is okay, and the rest of them just go downhill from there. I've heard others say that the whole series is fantastic so part of me is looking forward to them but the rest of me is wondering if it would be worth it.

3) The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien: I've read Fellowship but that's about it. I know, crazy, right? I've seen all three films but I know that that doesn't count. Again, I own them all, I just haven't sat down and read them. That's going to change soon, hopefully. I'm currently reading The Hobbit and will be attempting to read the Rings trilogy after that (maybe one per month?).

4) Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery: Own them all. Only read the first one. My gods, I'm sensing a pattern here.

5, 6, & 7) Baby-Sitter's Club by Ann M. Martin, Goosebumps by R.L. Stein, & Fear Street by R.L. Stein: There were just too many books in these series for me to read all of them before I eventually grew out of them.

8) Discworld by Terry Pratchett: I'm so close to having read all of the ones that are out but I want to savor them like a fine wine because I know that there probably aren't very many more left.

9) Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy: You all know that I have an obsession with this series but it's inconvenient and expensive to have them shipped over from the UK so I'm behind on them. I haven't read books six or seven although I managed to get my significant other into them so we'll hopefully be getting them as soon as we have some extra cash to spare. Now if the US would just get its frakking act together and start selling the rest of the series here I could read them in a timely fashion.

10) Twilight by Stephanie Meyer: Read the first one. Hated it with a passion. Will forever refuse to read the rest of these "books."


Monday, September 24, 2012

Bloggiesta Fall 2012

Marie from Burton Book Review suggested that I look into doing There's A Book's upcoming Bloggiesta next weekend as a way to get back into blogging and I think it's an amazing idea. I don't know exactly how much time I'll be able to devote to it as I have a lot going on next weekend, but with the Significant Other out of town for a few days and me having the place to myself, I might actually be able to do quite a bit.

Bloggiesta runs from the 28th through the 30th of September and gives book bloggers a chance to focus on some of the little things that they don't get to do very often due to busy schedules. For me this weekend will be a chance for me to get organized, get focused, and get ready for the future of this blog (now that it has one).

I plan to:
-Go through and delete my old e-mails (there are a lot of them)
-Finish filtering my inbox
-Fix some broken image links on old posts
-Come up with a basic reading list for the month of October
-Create a few more pages
-Write up my review policy
-Clean up my list of people I follow on Twitter
-Pre-schedule Top Ten Tuesday posts

Thankfully most of these are things that I can do while I'm at work on Saturday and Sunday and some might not take more than a half an hour at most.

So, thanks again to Marie for the suggestion! Go and sign up for Bloggiesta if you haven't yet.


Regarding Review Requests; Or, ZOMG I'm So Sorry I Never Replied to You...

I've been going through my e-mail. My significant other showed me how to filter my e-mails which cleared out a lot of the stuff that I didn't want in there. Come to find out I have had a multitude of review requests just sitting in my inbox. And now I feel kind of like a jerk.

Granted, the fact that I hadn't posted anything on the blog in a while maybe should have made a light bulb go off. You know, like, "Oh, maybe he's not blogging anymore?" Regardless, I'm now back and want to apologize to those of you whose requests went unanswered.

I'm going to be working on my review request policy so that people understand why I will or will not read/review a certain book but for the moment, keep sending me requests and I will answer with a yes or a no.

And if anyone has a good resource on how to craft a request policy I would be so grateful to you. I've never done one before, but I think it's needed.


Sunday, September 23, 2012

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Getting back into the groove of blogging means that I've been going back and reading old posts just to see what I had accomplished and what I could improve upon. As I was doing that I remembered this gem of a meme and how well it could keep me on track (or not, depending on the week/how much of a reading workload I had given myself). I decided that I was going to restart this blog the right way, by doing some of the things that I loved to do. And IMWAYR was one of those.

Hosted by Sheila at Book Journey, It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is a way for bloggers to share what they read the previous week, what they are reading now, and what they plan to read in the near future. As I didn't actually read/review anything last week, I'm going to skip that first bit and just share my current and future reading lists.

What I'm Reading Now:
-The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

What I'm Reading Next:
-Pick Your Poison: How Our Mad Dash to Chemical Utopia is Making Lab Rats of Us All by Monona Rossol.

What I'm Reading This Week/Next Week If I Don't Get to Them This Week:
-Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein
-The Star Diaries by Stanislaw Lem

I'm really glad to be back and am flattered by all of the "OH MY GODS YOU'RE BACK" reception that I've been getting from people. That having been said, I'm going to ease myself into this, especially since I've just started working a second job (finally). Having a baseline goal of two books a week with the option of a few more in case I finish those two for the next few weeks seems like a good plan until I get back into the swing of things.

Anyway, what about it, folks? What are you reading?


Books Can Take You Anywhere

I found this picture on Imgur yesterday and knew it deserved a spot on this blog.

If anyone knows the source I'd love to be able to link to it.

Also, did that signpost remind anyone else of this signpost?:


Saturday, September 22, 2012

Brand-Spankin' New Look

I know what you're thinking. Don't worry, you've come to the right blog. Well, that is, unless you weren't looking for Gabriel Reads. In that case you can go back to looking for whatever it is you were trying to find.

If you were trying to find me, then don't panic. I know, I know. It's colorful. There's pretty much no brown to be found anywhere. For the first time in the history of this blog my prerequisite for a blog template wasn't just "Whatever Looks Good in Tan." Put away the thermometer; I'm feeling just fine. I guess I just figured that since I was giving this another go that I was going to make a big change in how the site looked.

You'll also notice that a lot of the pages that I used to have are gone. The "Challenges" page became the "Reviews" page, although I'll be putting up a new page for challenges once I decide that it's a good idea to do some. The "Bookshelf" page is no more and so is the "Extras" page. My "TBR" page has gone the way of the dodo. And don't even get me started on the "On My Shelf" page. That one had to go simply because I moved in August and in the process I ended up donating almost 200 books to the library.

I heard that collective gasp. Yes, it's true. I actually got rid of books. A lot of them. I see that you've put down the thermometer and are now reaching for the straight jacket. Let's not be too hasty.

Sadly I've given up on the idea of hosting Wild Card Wednesdays. It was just too much for me to come up with something that creative every week. I don't know how meme creators do it but my hat goes off to them.

At the moment I'm just regrouping, figuring out where I want to go from here. My inbox is overflowing with unread e-mails (about 15,000 of them), so I'm thinking of changing my e-mail address for people to send requests to so that they don't get lost in the major inbox purge I'll be doing whenever I feel like driving myself up a wall for a few days. Plus, it'd be nice to have a place for people to send official e-mail that won't get buried under all of the other e-mails that I get.

I've honestly not read anything in a while with the move and how busy I've been with my current relationship (yes, I actually have one now!), trying to find a second job (got one of those now, too), and various other things that have gotten in the way. I'm looking forward to getting back on the wagon, both in terms of reading and reviewing. I've missed the hell out of you guys and it's good to be back.

Let me know what you think of the new look. I'm curious to get your opinions. And, as always, leave comments. I frakking love comments.


Sunday, September 16, 2012


Gabriel Reads is coming back soon! Honest! Check back later this week for a new look and new content.(And, yes, I know it's been far too long.)