I’ll be joining Bout of Books 20 this week. I keep thinking about returning to this blog and this read a thon is my favorite and makes the perfect opportunity.
The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda Shofner and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, August 21st and runs through Sunday, August 27th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 20 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. – From the Bout of Books team
I shared my TBR on Instagram. Just taking the opportunity to focus in on a wide variety of books I’ve started and actually read some of the lovely books I’ve been getting from my Book of the Month subscription.
Looking forward to interacting with this community again and getting some reading done.
I am so determined to get in on the end of the year book blogging fun even though I’ve been away for close to three months I think. I was attempting NaNoWriMo, then my laptop died and I decided to buy Christmas gifts, let my credit card cycle and then replace it so I am coming to you from my brand new little 2-in-1 that I’m liking a lot so far.
So I should be coming at you with a lot of new posts this week as I catch up on reviews and find the latest incarnation of that end of the year book survey and all that fun stuff.
Progress: Read 95 pages of and finished Voyager by Diana Gabaldon
Started and finished On Immunity: An Innoculation by Eula Biss (163 pages)
Pages Read: 905
Finished Voyager, which I thought was a solid installment. Great new characters in this one. I finished it in the morning and debated what to read next before I deviated from the TBR completely and started listening to On Immunity whilst driving around in the afternoon. Loved it so much I stopped and bought a hard copy so that I could write notes in it, in lieu of talking to no one in the car, and so that I could “let” people borrow it. I made another stop at the comic book store and picked up and read Saga #26, which is like 20 or so comic book pages, but I won’t be counting those in the overall count.
The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, May 11th and runs through Sunday, May 17th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 13 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. – From the Bout of Books team
TBR and read books are separate and then there’s some loose genre categorization: non-fiction, general fiction (with sub categories of anthologies and plays), science fiction, and fantasy. There’s also one kind of weird shelf with mostly YA and children’s fantasy books that I’m keeping from when I was a kid. On a surface level, they would all go nicely other places, but to me they just belong together for nostalgia reasons.
2. What is one of your favorite book that’s not in one of your favorite genres?
The first answer I could think of here was The DaVinci Code. Which I read and loved when I was in high school, but I haven’t been all that much into mystery/thriller type things since.
3. What is the last 5 star book you read?
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. It was so memorable and entertaining, I couldn’t not.
4. What book are you most excited to read during the read-a-thon?
I started Voyager by Diana Gabaldon today and I am excited to get back to it even right this minute. I have some shorter stuff I had planned to bounce to if it got slow or monotonous but I don’t know that I’ll need it.
5. What book do you recommend the most?
As in ever? Yikes.
There’s lots of good options, but I’m going with All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque. Because I read it more than a decade ago, at both a fitting time in history and at a time when I wasn’t quite so set in my ways and could be influenced by it. It still haunts me sometimes.
Bookish and Not So Bookish Thoughts is hosted at Bookishly Boisterous. It’s a casual weekly meme where we all just share whatever is tumbling around in our bookish brains. For me it’s perfect on days like today, when I feel like writing, but I don’t have any particular subject I’d like to write a whole post about. Let’s go with bookish thoughts first and then I’ll dive into the heavier things that have been on my mind all week:
I’m currently reading Go Tell It On The Mountain by James Baldwin and I’m enjoying it, but I keep setting it aside in favor of other things. It’s been more than a month now since I’ve started which gives me anxiety about not finishing it, but I’ll get there. Eventually. I blame James Baldwin. Sometimes he writes stuff that is so stunning I go back and reread it right away.
About a week ago I read All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven in basically one sitting after hearing several rave reviews of it. I’d write one too, but I find I can’t talk about it at all without spoiling it, so I won’t be posting one, but it was very good.
The other just-finished read is The Duff by Kody Keplinger. I really enjoyed this almost in spite of myself. It’s like I knew that objectively, the prose wasn’t that great, that the plot development was a little weak with its abrupt changes, but I couldn’t put it down. The characters were great and it was snarky, and just different enough to be interesting. Haven’t seen the movie yet, but I hope to go soon. From the trailer, it looks a lot different from the book, but I’ve heard some good things about it nonetheless.
The sad news of last week that I didn’t set out to mention, but find that I have to write about was that a friend of mine from college was killed in an accident. She and I were never all that close–we traveled in the same social circle, but never quite clicked one on one–and definitely was someone I had fallen completely out of touch with in the five and half years since we lived down the hall from each other, but I’ve been really broken up about her passing. I’ve lost distant family members to old age and various medical ailments, but loss has never felt quite like this. She was 23 and healthy and her accident should never have happened, but there’s no one to be angry at, no cause to take up in her honor. There’s just a lot of grief and this glaring reminder that anyone’s life can be taken at any time, no matter how confident and invincible we might feel on any given day. All I find I can do is try to shake myself out of my solitary work-home cycle and reconnect with the other friends left in the wake of this disaster, to let go of all the little problems and appreciate the little joys. It’s not much, but it’s the only take-away I can find.
A weirdly related, but slightly less depressing topic is that of photographs. I’ve been thinking more and more about experiences had with and without a camera (or camera phone) in front of my face and I’ve been conflicted. I dropped and broke my smartphone on Friday night a few weeks ago, just a few hours before I was headed out the door to a concert with friends. Instead of charging up my ancient point and shoot digital camera, I went to the show without any camera at all and really enjoyed myself. I was more in the moment, instead of scrambling to get my phone out of my pocket when the singer’s on my side of the stage, or the guitarist is jumping off of something or whatever like I usually am. And the people watching between sets without a smartphone to distract you is crazy fun too, by the way. The whole night seemed extra fun, for all that I don’t have a tangible reminder of it. Contrast that, though with freshman year of college when that point and shoot camera was pretty new and I was obsessed with capturing every moment of my new life experience with my new friends. It means I have a zillion candid shots of the most random moments in dorm rooms and on walks to Burger King and other mundane events right alongside shots of Homecoming and the big Fall Break trip. And so when I got the phone call that one of those friends was gone forever I had a stack of photos and an even bigger Facebook album with shots of her face at every angle, captured in moments I would have otherwise forgotten. So I don’t think I’ll drop the camera completely, but it’s good to remember that it’s the memory that’s most important, not just the proof of it.
I hope everyone else has had a better week than me! And as always, happy reading.
February was mostly cold and snowy here (as it was everywhere in the U.S., seems like) and I stayed in and got lots of reading done. Very happy with very nearly everything I picked up this month, both in a variety of fiction genres and in graphic novels:
This was the first work of Toni Morrison’s I’ve ever read. I don’t get the impression that this is one of her more famous works, and I wasn’t totally blown out of the water by it, but it was solid. Moving, multi-faceted portrait of a family separated by war both hopeful and heartbreaking all at once.
This book picks up several centuries after The Hero of Ages, the final book in the Mistborn trilogy. It’s fascinating to read just to see that fantasy world grow and develop technologically, to see how culture and religion have changed in the intervening time. Then, of course, there’s a whole new set of characters to know and love and rip-roaring mystery/action thriller with a lot of western flair (gunslinging, train heist and more). I enjoyed it, but I don’t think this quite lived up to the larger-than life Mistborn trilogy. I could have used some more focus on the characters and their development, but this is definitely not to be missed and I am looking forward to two more more books coming this year.
This was perfection. Can’t believe I haven’t read James Baldwin before, but I’m so glad I have now. The writing here was masterful and the story was so compelling, with a complicated, not always likeable lead. It was short but it explored so many different ideas: homosexuality, of course, but other kinds of identity as well. I can’t recommend it strongly enough.
The Brandon Sanderson-fest continues. This sequel to Steelheart came out in January and since it had been more than a year since I read the first installment, I had some recall issues, but I caught up quickly. It helped that the supporting cast pretty much completely changed as the main characters traveled to a new city with a new antagonist, so it wasn’t all that hard to get back into. I thought this was done extremely well, with an insane amount of action, but also with a strong character-driven story, more so than in Steelheart. As always in a Brandon Sanderson novel, I was blown away by the revelations and the plot twists and I am so excited to read more next year.
This sixth book in the Bloodlines series concluded the saga remarkably well. It felt a bit rushed, and despite one tear-jerking storyline, was a little too easily resolved, but I was so glad it brought back a lot of plot threads from early installments and tied them all together. Definitely not a disappointing end to a series I adore.
I did not like this at all. I tried to continue the series and I had to stop partway through book two because it just seems to get worse from here. The idea is good, an alternate reality where vampyres (yes, with the y) exist in tandem with humans and once a human teenager is “marked” to become a vampyre he or she attends a separate school for fledglings while they transition. The problem with this is in execution and character. The writing swings from childish (poo and poopie are chosen over “shit” or even “crap”) to inappropriate and derogatory. We don’t ever see the gay character without being reminded in some glaringly stereotypical way of his gayness, Zoey, the narrator, seemingly can’t go two pages without calling her antagonist a slut or a ho or a hag. Zoey comes off so incredibly selfish and frustrating and so her light-speed rise to power is more sickening than inspiring.
Very smart, extremely intriguing historical fiction. The characters were done so well and the story composition is spectacular. I was so impressed by this, both by how real the story and the characters and their friendship felt, though they are completely fictional, and how much it captured the wider story of the desperate uncertainty of Europe at war in the early 1940’s. A must-read.
These three stories were all prequels to the main trilogy and they were all rather tragic. But I enjoyed them immensely. The world Rae Carson built is spectacular and I really loved getting to visit it again after a couple of years away.
After the massive disappointment that is the conclusion of the Lux series and the utter train wreck that is House of Night, I was just about ready to give up on YA paranormal romance entirely. I decided to pick this up, I’ll admit, because I thought I’d hate it and could get it and it’s sequels out of the way and off my shelf. I’m happy to say, though, that that plan was instantly thwarted. This was extremely well done. Clara is a spectacular lead. She’s strong and decisive, but she isn’t perfect. She screws up, she gets angry at her mom, she’s cruel to her friends. The romance is a bit of a love-triangle, but it’s a believable one and Clara’s decisiveness and respect, both for herself and the guys, doesn’t drag it out. The nephilim lore in the plot is done well, with both the main character and her family members of the biblical race, so that the awkward secret is between Clara and her peers, with her in the know, an interesting and effective reversal from how things are typically done in the genre. It definitely gets a little irritatingly angsty, but overall it was a quick fun, read and extremely well done.
Less good than Unearthly, this was still entertaining. Some more mystery and heaps of uncertainty, it dragged a bit. I started to feel like this could have been condensed into a much shorter book, like this series shouldn’t have been a trilogy at all. A lengthly stand-alone, maybe or a duo. I think we’re set up quite nicely for a strong conclusion in book 3, but I think that’s all this really accomplished.
There was an ad for this ebook novella in the back of Hallowed and when I looked it up on Goodreads, one of the top reviews said to read it before reading the third book, so I purchased it. It will probably tie to some stuff in that third installment I have not yet started, but taken on its own, it was underwhelming and anti-climactic.
I read Ms. Peregrine’s the novel about two and half years ago and have yet to pick up the sequel Hollow City. I decided to read this as a quick refresher in anticipation of finally reading book 2 and I was impressed. Ms. Peregrine’s is not my most favorite paranormal novel ever, by any means, but is inventive and fascinating and a great story. The illustration in this is fantastic as well, and I think the story was summarized quite nicely in this adaptation.
Alex & Ada Issues #10-#12 by Jonathan Luna and Sarah Vaughan
A comic book series I love more and more every time I pick it up. Alex & Ada is exploring the very definition of humanity with its robot-human relationships and it’s totally engrossing. It strikes a good balance between tension and humor and the simple, uncluttered frames and character–rather than action–driven scenes are lovely and somewhat unique to comics as I’ve experienced them so far.
When I saw this at the comic book store a little while ago I was intrigued first by the bright coloring (because inside, I never grew past 5 years old, apparently) and then, when I picked it up, by the idea. A device that transports a group of scientists through dimensions, broken down, keeping them from returning home. And the story is amazing. It’s definitely a ride where you don’t know what to expect. My only complaint was that the characters are not particularly memorable. They all play strongly off of a pulpy action movie stereotype: stoic, tortured scientist, villainous businessman, sarcastic teenager, etc. I do think they’ll develop as the series continues, however, and I am definitely looking forward to picking up volume two.
I think if you polled readers, you’d get as many different answers to the question: “Why do you read?” as you would have total responses. However, I think it’s something of a universal feeling that readers read to connect to the world, to a character or a story, to the emotions and themes that drive each. Readers read because books provide an escape, but more than that, they provide a way to make the world make a little more sense when it can’t be escaped any longer.
So it’s okay to read what you enjoy, what makes you happy, or to become an expert in a chosen subset of literature. But to me, a reading life is not complete without a broader exploration. It’s problematic to go blindly choosing books, to be seen by my non-readerly friends and family as some sort of high and mighty well-read old soul because I finish 100 books a year. I can’t consider myself to have garnered insights from my reading unless and until I’ve actually read diversely. Explored new genres and read books by authors of different races, from different nations, from different walks of life. And this takes a conscious effort. If we go about our reading hoping that our choices will be color-blind we are sorely mistaken. Booksellers sell the books that people buy the most, that win awards, and stats on the race and gender of the authors that win awards are skewed.
But you’ve heard this before. The read diversely discussion has been going around for awhile on YouTube and, I’m sure, here in the blog community. (I am a spectacularly bad blogger in this sense–I watch a lot of YouTube, but don’t make videos, and I blog, but don’t read blogs all that regularly). I jumped in on it this past weekend when I watched this video:
Steve gets a bit angry in this video–and things get a little bit snippy in the comments of it as well–but he definitely makes a good point. Walk the walk. And I hadn’t been. I haven’t made grand promises about reading diversely, but I’ve been floating along in a little bubble of self-assurance. I’ve read some classics, some adult literature, I do okay on book categories on Jeopardy. I read nonfiction once in a while and I think critically about the very realistic themes in my fantasy novels. I am a smart, discerning reader, I thought. And I know I’ve read plenty of books by black people.
But when I finished Steve’s video, I was sitting on my couch, in full view of nearly all of my books, and so I could count them and prove it without even getting up off my ass. So I did. I thought reading a book by black person this month would be no problem, I’d just go to my 100+ TBR and grab one. Except not a single one is by a black person. There are two by Hispanic and Latino men and, to my knowledge, that is all. Okay, I thought, but I’ve read books by black people before. And I have. On my read shelves, which contain somewhere in the neighborhood of 400 books, I have Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe and A Season of Migration to the North by Talib Salih. That’s it. So then, somewhat desperate, I thought back to the small collection of books I had to read in high school that are still at my parents’ house (because my younger brother took many of the same classes and needed them) and remembered Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston. Finally! Something by a woman of color! But that was all. And all of these books were read for school. Things Fall Apart and Their Eyes Were Watching God for AP English Lit in high school. From which I graduated in 2009, five and half years ago. We read Season of Migration to the North in the one literature class I took as an elective in college in the spring of my junior year, in 2012. Three years ago. I, for one, find that absolutely repulsive. Which got me off my ass and in the car and on the way to the bookstore where I bought books by the only black authors I could think of, the more famous ones, but it’s a place to start:
I read Home cover to cover on Sunday and can’t wait to dig into more Toni Morrison.
So that’s my call to action. Take a good hard look at why you read and what you’ve read and decide if you’re happy with it. If you are, that is great. But if not, be proactive about changing your habits and opening your eyes to all of the different perspectives that are out there. It really is up to you.
P.S. Here’s a small handful of videos and posts I’ve found interesting and/or helpful
A list of books by African-Americans, sorted by year:
So this will probably wind up going up late between the end of year book survey and reading resolution posts and Bout of Books 12, but let’s relive the warm, joyful glow of the holiday season by reminiscing about what I read last month. I usually don’t go for “holiday” fiction, but I got into it this year and picked up the two best-known YA holiday compendiums. I also read some other YA novels, and a couple of TV tie-in graphic novels. It was a good month: Continue reading →
For the last two years I’ve set a number of books to read on the Goodreads reading challenge. For me, the goals were more of a “I think this is what I’ll get to” sort of number, rather than any sort of stretch goal. And both years I reached them at some point in November, no sweat at all.
But this year I’ve decided not to set one, simply because I’ve started to believe in quality over quantity. My favorite read in 2014 was over 1000 pages long and took me nearly a month to complete. A month! And I was trying to read 100 books by the end of the year! Could I have read the requisite 8.33 books that month and enjoyed them instead? Maybe, but if I had been behind on my Goodreads goal at the beginning of June, would I have ever ventured to pick up that chunky book? Also maybe. And that would have been such a shame.
So I’ll still do a few read-a-thons, because they’re fun and they make me prioritize reading time more than I do in my usual daily life. I’ll still feel a little pressure when more than a week has gone by and I haven’t finished a book, because that’s just how I feel sometimes. But I’m not going to set myself up to miss out on a book I might love because it might take a bit of time and throw off my whole quota for the year. Instead, I’m going to try to focus on the experiences, not the arbitrary benchmarks, at least for this year.
Not that reading more books is a bad goal to set, it’s just not necessary and not helpful to me anymore, but I’d love to hear your thoughts. Did you set your Goodreads challenge counter this year? What other goals are you setting?
This fun little end of the year survey is hosted at The Perpetual Page Turner. I skipped some questions and modified a few more, so it’s good to go check out Jamie’s page if you want to fill out the official survey for yourself. I did this last year too and traditions are fun so here we go:
No gun, no sword, no army or king will ever be more powerful than a sentence. Swords may cut and kill, but words will stab and stay, burying themselves in our bones to become corpses we carry into the future, all the time digging and failing to rip their skeletons from our flesh.
16.Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2013?
Shortest (Not a graphic novel or novella): Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt-144 pp
Longest: Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson-1,087 pp
17. Book That Shocked You The Most
All of the Mistborn books. The Hero of Ages the most though.
18. OTP OF THE YEAR (you will go down with this ship!)
(OTP = one true pairing if you aren’t familiar)
And I will close my eyes and surr–wha? Sorry. I’m back.
Magnus+Alec from the Mortal Instruments series is a perennial favorite. Also loved Vin+Elend in the Mistborn trilogy
19. Favorite Non-Romantic Relationship Of The Year
I think all of the relationships in the Raven Cycle by Maggie Steifvater are spectacularly crafted. I particularly enjoyed Blue and Ronan in Blue Lily, Lily Blue.
20. Favorite Book You Read in 2014 From An Author You’ve Read Previously
I suppose it would have to be The Ocean at the End of the Lane. I’d read Neil Gaiman before, but it had been a few years and it was great to be reminded of how awesome he is.
21. Best Book You Read In 2014 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else/Peer Pressure:
The Way of Kings! Never even heard of it until a coworker suggested it.
22. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2014?
I want to go to a Brandon Sanderson book again, but let’s mix it up and talk about Willem from Gayle Foreman’s Just One Day and Just One Year. I fell in love with him and with the idea of travelling to Amsterdam.
23. Best 2014 debut you read?
I don’t know if I read one, I don’t keep track of that sort of thing…Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins is a promising new series, but I know it’s not Rachel Hawkins’ debut book.
24. Best Worldbuilding/Most Vivid Setting You Read This Year?
This is another question begging for a Brandon Sanderson Answer, but let’s instead go with the OASIS and the dystopic futuristic world in Ready Player One by Ernest Cline.
25. Book That Put A Smile On Your Face/Was The Most FUN To Read?
The novella Just One Night by Gayle Foreman is the most joyful thing in the world. The Course of True Love and First Dates by Cassandra Clare, Maureen Johnson, and Sarah Rees Brennan was a similar exercise in wish-fulfillment that was almost too much happy.
26. Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2014?
Most years I only have one answer to this but either I’m getting soft or these books are just that good at tear-jerking:
–This Start Won’t Go Out by Esther Earl and Co. (multiple episodes of full on sobbing)
–The Hero of Ages by Brandon Sanderson (some tears and a sob or two)
–If I Stay by Gayle Foreman (welled up eyes)
27. Hidden Gem Of The Year?
Stolen by Lucy Christopher
28. Book That Crushed Your Soul?
Let’s talk about The Hero of Ages again shall we?
But also Saga Vol. 4. I read this as it released in single issues and I still don’t think I’m over the final panel of Issue #19, which I read like 3 months ago.
29. Most Unique Book You Read In 2014?
The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss had no plot and no dialogue and it was still really good.
P.S. I can already tell you that the answer to this question next year will be S. by Doug Dorst and J.J. Abrams, which I’m slowly working through right now. It sounds really gimmicky but it’s actually really entertaining and profound.
30. Book That Made You The Most Mad (doesn’t necessarily mean you didn’t like it)?
I got really frustrated in a bad way with both Black Ice by Becca Fitzpatrick and The Elite by Keira Cass.
1. New favorite book blog you discovered in 2014?
I don’t remember what I discovered this year vs last, and I’ve been such a terrible blogger the last few months that I haven’t found anyone new in a while, but two of my favorite (and somewhat lesser known, I think) bloggers are From A to Z books and Cheap Thrills.
3. Best discussion/non-review post you had on your blog?
Technically, this was part of a review, but I opened my Vampire Academy Movie Review with a scathing rant about people who hate teen girl movies only because they’re teen girl movies that I’m pretty proud of.
4. Best event that you participated in (author signings, festivals, virtual events, memes, etc.)?
Moving all my books to my new apartment! (Kidding! My family hates me now!)
I post all my Goodreads reviews to my personal Facebook page and it feels like no one ever “likes” them or anything, so I figure I’m just annoying people, but an old acquaintance from high school asked for a recommendation the other day and that was pretty great.
7. Most Popular Post This Year On Your Blog (whether it be by comments or views)?
I don’t carry a huge following, so it’s really only read a thon and meme stuff that I link up that gets more than one like and the occasional comment or two. And the most popular of those (I think) was the Top Ten Tuesday post I did a few weeks ago on the Top Ten Books of the year.
8. Post You Wished Got A Little More Love?
All of them? Kidding again, reviews in general. They take a lot of time and they’re usually viewed least.
9. Best bookish discover (book related sites, book stores, etc.)?
I now live much closer to an independent bookstore I’ve loved since I was a kid, which is fun. Not for my wallet, but for me.
I also placed my first BookOutlet order this year and have enjoyed that site a little too much
10. Did you complete any reading challenges or goals that you had set for yourself at the beginning of this year?
I read the 100 books I set on the good old Goodreads challenge. I failed rather horrifically at reducing the size of the pile of books I own but have not read (see question #9).
1. One Book You Didn’t Get To In 2014 But Will Be Your Number 1 Priority in 2015?
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. Keep hearing great things and I’ve owned it for over a year now and still haven’t picked it up.
2. Book You Are Most Anticipating For 2015 (not a sequel)?
A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab
3. Series Ending/A Sequel You Are Most Anticipating in 2015?
The Ruby Circle by Richelle Mead! It’s only like a month away, but I need it now.
4. One Thing You Hope To Accomplish Or Do In Your Reading/Blogging Life In 2015?
Start writing full reviews again. Post more like 3-4 times a month instead of once every three months like I did the last half of this year.