Writing book reviews.

I’ve recently started getting paid to review ebooks. I question whether this is a good thing to do because I’m reading books I would never think to pick up on my own so I don’t feel my reviews are accurate. If I don’t normally read mysteries I don’t have anything to judge or compare to. Some books are torture to read but some people might enjoy their particular genre.

I try to write fair reviews based on the writing ability not the subject matter but some are just so hard for me to read. Others have surprised me because the synopsis sounds so uninteresting but the book ends up being completely different.

I’ve only refused to read one book and that was because I had read two of the authors previous books and knew that he needed a good editor to trim down his 700 page manuscript. I did not want to waste my time in order to make $5.

Yep, that’s what I make to do these reviews. Not exactly a fantastic career choice. I just figure, if I’m not doing anything else, then why not? Of course I don’t read every word or do research into the author or topic, but I get a fair sense of the mood and tone of the book and whether I like it.

The main dilemma for me is that people are reading these reviews and possibly basing their purchases on what I say. These aren’t books I’ve chosen to read or genres I necessarily enjoy so I don’t think my judgements are accurate.

Also, there are certain tricks such as purchase times and endorsing other reviews that are used to boost ratings that aren’t exactly honest.

I will eventually get tired of giving up my reading time for these books but for now it at least pays for my eBay shopping habit. It has opened up my range of titles that I’ll consider when choosing a book for myself but considering the level of writing that most of the books I’ve written about, that might not be such a good thing.

 

New water fun – prone paddle boarding.

I’ve been having fun this summer exploring handicap possible water activities. There’s a lot to explore here in Hawaii and with a little or sometimes much help, I’ve found new sports to try.

It started back in March with AccessSurf. This is a great organization that brings a wide range of people with various physical challenges out into the ocean to swim, surf, paddle board and kayak. They have two gatherings a month, one for all challenged athletes and one for Wounded Warriors.

My first day with the group, they escorted my out into the water on a big-wheeled chair and guided me in swimming. It was my first time in the ocean in probably fifteen years. The volunteers were great, very responsive to any special needs. I didn’t actually do much of anything. They suspended me in the water and let me float. Truthfully, it was pretty uncomfortable since the life vest forced my neck into an awkward position.

After the swim came the part I was really looking forward to, SURFING! Okay, I won’t be standing up on a board anytime soon, but riding tandem on my belly out into the waves was exhilarating.  We caught three 3-4 foot waves before I had to let someone else have their turn. So much fun! I’ve wanted to surf since I was a little girl. Dream come true.

I now try to make it out every month. Last month they changed it up and had kayaking, canoeing and prone paddle boarding.

What is prone paddle boarding? It’s also known as traditional paddle boarding, which is what the Hawaiians originally did before stand-up paddle boarding (SUP). The board is more like a surf board but you lie on it and paddle with your arms. It’s a sport that I can do solo once I’m in the water, so for that reason, I really like it.

AccessSurf prone paddleboarding

AccessSurf prone paddleboarding

The guy that taught me, Mark Matheson, is a paraplegic who competes in long distance races with his team. His boards are customized with handles and an extra large wedge of foam to lean on and prop the neck up. We both went out and it felt so good to be doing something all on my own in the water.

Since then, Mark has offered to let me use his extra board to see if this is really the sport for me. He introduced me to a friend that he paddle with and the friend asked how my swimming skills were. Whoops. Not great.

So, last weekend I tried ocean swimming for the first time in probably twenty years. It took a lot of assistance to get me into and out of the water, but in the water wasn’t so bad. I wouldn’t want to be in the water without either a floatation device or life vest but I didn’t feel completely out of control. I did take my life vest off and let go of the boogie board for a minute or two. Swimming definitely uses body parts I haven’t been using for a while. It’s something I’ll have to do though if I do take up prone paddle boarding.

My life has been quite busy with beach activities, farmer’s markets and local events this summer. The thing is, this is Hawaii. I can to do these things year round.

Surfing rocks!

sand Kailua

You my not know it but I have a disability that prevents me from doing most activities that require leg strength. I get around with a walker or mobility scooter which separates me from people. My forays into nature are quite mild these days – reading in the park, gardening on my lanai. I rarely have the opportunity to absorb myself deep into the natural environment.

Last weekend however I had the chance to participate in AccessSurf’s program. I was escorted into the ocean by two friendly volunteers who helped me float among the waves. I think it’s been at least twenty years since I’ve been deeper than me knees into a body of water other than a pool. It felt wonderful to just feel the wawes rushing around me.

But the best part was the surfing. Yes, it was a modified version of surfing aided by a whole team of instructors and volunteers but it was a blast. I laid down on a very long surfboard modified with handles on the sand and the team lifted me and carried be into the water.

My instructor Chris hopped on the board behind me and paddled out into the waves. It was a decent surf day at White Plains Beach with waves of 4-5 feet. Because of the size and weight of two people on a big board, I had to take the brunt of the waves as we splashed through to get out far enough. Luckily another surfer had loaned me his surfing sunglasses so my contacts stayed put. The water was so clean. I’m used to New Jersey water. This was totally different.

Just the ride out was fun but once we turned around and caught a wave, I was in love. It was so fun. Powering through the foaming aqua water was exhilarating. Floating on top of a massive expanse of liquid with some control but just letting the wave take you was so empowering.

AccessSurf provides this program once a month for disabled people of all kinds and also a separate program for Wounded Warriors. Through donations and volunteers participants are provided with equipment, instruction and even a picnic.

Here’s a video of my day at the beach. I hope to return soon.

Books about Hawai’i

As I settle into Hawaiian life, I find myself wanting to learn more about the history and culture of the islands. When I was preparing for the move I turned to several guidebooks to research where to live and what to expect but didn’t have the time to explore the rich history of Hawai’i. So here are a few books that are primers for living the aloha way.

Moving to Hawaii: A Step-By-Stp Guide by Michele Meyer was my go to guide for all questions moving related. Michele has a well-orgaized website and clearly written book that addresses many aspects of daily life in Hawaii such as cost of living, finding a home, enrolling in school, and questions you should ask yourself before you make the move. The link below takes you to the author’s website where you can start answering these questions yourself.

Moving To Hawaii

Now, moving on to the more classic, traditional Hawaiian books.

James Michener’s Hawaii is a book that I’ve been aware of my whole life since it sat on my family’s bookshelf but I never gave it any consideration until I moved here. It’s length is intimidating and I admit that I’m just getting started with reading it.

This book of historical fiction takes you through the geology, evolution and cultural development of the islands. This book was first published in 1959 and there is some cultural insensitivity within the story that may not be for everyone. Just because it’s dated doesn’t mean it’s not a good read. I’ll let you know once I’ve finished it.

Until then, here’s some quick quotes of reviews posted on Amazon.

“Wonderful . . . [a] mammoth epic of the islands.”The Baltimore Sun

“One novel you must not miss! A tremendous work from every point of view—thrilling, exciting, lusty, vivid, stupendous.”Chicago Tribune

“From Michener’s devotion to the islands, he has written a monumental chronicle of Hawaii, an extraordinary and fascinating novel.”Saturday Review

“Memorable . . . a superb biography of a people.”Houston Chronicle

Here’s Jame’s Michener’s Hawaii.

 Kailua

The other book I’m currently reading is Eddiie Would Go: The Story of Eddie Aikau, Hawaiian Hero and Pioneer of Big Wave Surfing by Stuart Holmes Coleman. This is a much easier book to read than Hawaii. It transforms a tragic, true story of a surfer who lost his life to the ocean into a tale of a Hawaiian waterman’s strength, courage and goodwill that has inspired surfers for decades. I’m much more likely to finish this story.

Eddie Would Go

I’ve been looking for books on the flora and fauna of the islands but have yet to find any that I really like. I’ll keep searching.

 

 

 

Hawaii fruit and vegetable explorations.

Since I moved to Oahu from the mainland over three months ago, I’ve decided to embrace the new variety of produce that is available. I decided to try a new fruit or vegetable each week. There are some things that look interesting, but if I can’t learn its name, I don’t buy it because I can’t look up what to do with it.

I learned my lesson with that the hard way. For instance, papaya seeds, while having a nice peppery taste can cause some intestinal distress. Oops. I learned from a traditional Hawaiian healing book at the library that it was believed the the seeds prevented cancer so maybe it all works out.

Here’s a list of things I’ve tried so far. I may have forgotten a few.

Sea asparagus – salty but makes a good pesto.

Papaya – many varieties, good in smoothies. Best when really soft.

Apple bananas – nice, small size, a little less sweet but not that different from normal bananas.

Starfruit – nice garnish in cocktails. Juicy and light.

Pomegranate – sweet and colorful but a lot of work. Fruit caviar! Will stain your clothes.

Permission – several varieties, delicate when ripe, handle with care.

Egg fruit – dry, hard boiled egg yolk texture. Interesting and probably good mixed with something (I saw cheesecake recipes).

Some produce is only available for a few weeks so I missed out on trying dragon fruit and breadfruit as well as these red little sea urchin looking things whose names I never learned.

In my kitchen, almost any fruit or vegetable is likely to end up in the blender or juicer, so if I’m not crazy about one, toss it in with a banana and it’s all good.

pretty smoothie

What I’m reading now.

I usually have at least two or three books that I’m reading at one time with several others that I’ve started but haven’t committed to reading yet. My cut off is 60 pages. If I’m not hooked by then it usually doesn’t get completed. If I find myself thinking about a book during the day then that’s a book I’m probably going to finish even if it’s not a subject that usually interests me.

When I log on to my Kindle I like to start off with something that’s going to make me think, read a few pages and then move on to the entertainment.

.Clara

So, right now my fluff entertainment is Susan Vreeland’s Clara and Mr. Tiffany: A Novel. http://www.amazon.com/Clara-Mr-Tiffany-Susan-Vreeland-ebook/dp/B004C43FEI/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1390859090&sr=1-1&keywords=clara+and+mr+tiffany

It’s a lovely story of what it might have been like to be a single woman in the 1890′s in New York. Mr. Tiffany is preparing his glass pieces for the World’s Fair in Chicago and the newly widowed Clara returns to her former employer to help. Mr. Tiffany did not believe in hiring married women so Clara is thrilled to be back working in the arts.

My more thoughtful book right now is Anthony Robbins Awaken the Giant Within. http://www.amazon.com/Awaken-Giant-Within-Anthony-Robbins-ebook/dp/B001EM101Q/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1390949710&sr=8-1&keywords=re-awaken+the+giant+within

This is an older book of his but still useful. I read it in little bits.

I also just received this book as a gift and am mostly skimming through it. Dr. Walter Crinnion’s Clean, Green & Lean. http://www.amazon.com/Clean-Green-Lean-Toxins-That-ebook/dp/B00DNKYI8E/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1390950179&sr=8-1&keywords=clean+green+and+lean

It is a diet book but it is primarily about detoxing your body by making the reader aware of which foods to avoid and which are beneficial.

Spend some time reading something you enjoy today.

 

Changing up my food.

Since I recently moved to Hawaii from the mainland, I’ve decided to embrace the new variety of produce that is available. I decided to try a new fruit or vegetable each week. There are some things that look interesting, but if I can’t learn its name, I don’t buy it.

There’s a reason for that. My first few experiments could have been potentially disastrous.

Living Cheaply in Hawai’i

I just moved to Oahu from Washington state. I did a little research beforehand on what to expect as far as the price differences but it really is just trial and error, figuring out how to get the best deal. I’ve lived here in Kailua for only a month but I’ve figured out a few things.

1. The bus is a good deal here Most rides are $2.50, $1 for disabled and seniors. I’m sure I’ll have more to say about this after I’ve tested it out for awhile but so far it seems like an efficient way to get around.

2. Groceries can be expensive so stay flexible about that you eat. Stock up on nonperishables when they are on sale. If you have the time, go to more than one store to shop the sales and definitely join the reward programs. Try different brands. Something produced locally is going to be cheaper than a national brand shipped from the mainland. For produce try the farmers’ markets. They can be touristy but there is often a more unique selection.

I’m not a fan of Costco and Sam’s Club but it might be an option. I found Target groceries to be significantly cheaper on some items, but not all. It depends on how far you are willing to travel and how much time you can spend.

3. Gas costs more per gallon but it is consistent. All pumps seem to be within a cent or two difference so just go to the closest.

4. There’s no way around it, housing is expensive. Coming from the Seattle area, I didn’t find it completely outrageous. You just have to focus on the area you want to live in and be ready to jump on any bargain you may find. Compromise. You are living in Hawaii. Find something you feel comfortable in but maybe not the same square footage you had elsewhere. Rent first. You want to know the area before you commit to buying.

5. No need to spend much on entertainment. My local library is limited but functional. The beach is free. Some  MeetUps are free.

So, I have a lot to learn about Hawai’i including the language. OK, I’m not talented at leaning languages but it’s helpful to know a few Hawaiian words at least because people do use it mixed in with English conversation. I don’t know how long I’ll stay here so I might as well learn as much of the culture as I can while I have the opportunity. Living on a budget just brings you closer to local life and that’s just part of the adventure of moving somewhere new.

 balcony

View from my balcony

Cheap ebooks

There are a lot of inexpensive ebooks out there. Some are classics, some are crap. Anybody can self publish a book with a little effort but should they?

There are websites that will guide you to these low priced books, Book Gorilla and Book Lending to name a few. There are some established authors on their lists that will sell older books at a reduced price, sometimes only for a day. You can find some bargains but it takes time and you’ll probably end up reading books that only mildly interest you. Most of these inexpensive books are by first time authors that couldn’t find a publisher and there’s a reason for that. The writing is amateur and the editing poor or nonexistent.

Classic works by well known authors like Jane Austen or Edgar Allan Poe are being marketed in multiple formats as ebooks. Do I really need to have all my favorite books on my reader just because that only cost $0.99? I’ve decided “No” for the most part. If I want to reread an old classic I’ll buy it then. The quality of the layout varies on these so if thee’s a sample, look at it. Of course, it’s good to have a few old favorites loaded on your reader for those airport layovers or doctors’ waiting rooms.

You may discover new favorite authors by buying these inexpensive books, but I admit that I’m a diehard review reader and if a respected source like the New York Times recommends it I’m more likely to read it than  trusting a few Amazon reviews that were probably written by the author’s friends.

Happy reading!

 

I love books, my Kindle and my Kindle Fire.

I’ve always been addicted to reading. My mother used to kick me out of the house to go play and I’d just bring my book out to the picnic table. I still feel naked without a book of some sort in my bag. I want that chance to escape into another world at any moment. Now we have so many choices of ways to read.

I read full books on the tiny screen of my iPhone before I got my Kindles and if necessary I still will read from my phone.

My first Kindle, the original Kindle, was not a favorite but I appreciated being able to carry multiple books around with me. It seemed kind of low tech and clunky and we never really bonded. It eventually died.

It was replaced with a Kindle Touch. That is more sleek and sexy and since I make a point of carrying the smallest bag possible, it fit my lifestyle. I currently have 140 books on it. I haven’t read them all but they are there in case I’m stranded at a bus stop or doctor’s appointment. I bought a rubbery cover for it so it isn’t so slippery. It makes the Kindle feel secure in my hands. Because of its size, it goes with me almost everywhere.

Then along came my Kindle Fire. It was kind of a gift. My husband bought it for himself and decided it didn’t really meet his needs. Plus I was always borrowing it to watch Amazon Prime movies.

I like the Fire for its apps and internet capability. I use it to view books I’m publishing on KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) to make sure the formatting looks right on different devices. Also, it makes PDF documents easier to scroll though than trying to read them on a laptop. It makes reading magazines on a plane much easier. No more elbowing the passenger next to you while turning the page.

So now when I leave the house, I have to decide whether to take the Touch or the Fire. If I have room, I sometimes take both. If I’m just going to be reading and in the sun, I take the Touch. The glare on the Fire makes it difficult to use outside. The Fire has become my laptop replacement if I might need to look something up on the internet.  It’s certainly not a replacement for my MacBook but it’s a step up from my phone. I kinda feel if you are going to use an iPad you might as well use a laptop. Anyway, that’s another conversation.

I still love the feel of a good hardcover book. It’s now become a special treat. There’s nothing like a good novel taken from the library shelves and brought home to savor with a good cup of tea. The smell and weight of it is comforting. Textbooks and nonfiction sometimes work better for me in paper as well. Flipping to a certain page to get the information you need quickly is easier for me when I can actually see the pages.

So, there you have it. I love books in any shape and form.

 

kindle books