Reading much?

It’s hard to believe I managed to accidentally take off almost all of August. It’s even harder to believe I’ve had this blog for four years now. Time does go by quickly anymore.

So, I thought I’d do a quick re-cap of what I’ve been reading this summer, and for the most part, not talking about. What do I see in my future? Plans for some regular blogging…

I finally, finally gave in and read A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin. It took me forever to finish (my copy is 1100 pages) but I didn’t mind at all because it was all the characters I like, unlike the fourth book which was all characters I could do without. Although, I was left wondering who he’d have left to talk about since he kills almost everyone in this book and there are two more books left in this series. I’ll guess I’ll have to wait and see.

The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon was another good book. I’m torn about all the comparisons she’s getting to The Hunger Games and the Harry Potter series though. This is the first book in a seven book series and the setting is a bit Panem like but this is the first book and I think we need to give her time to sort it out. I did a review for The Book Reporter if you’re curious.

I have this huge stack of books staring me down (in a good way!) and I decided to finally give in. I was also in a read all the fantasy mode and went with Sabriel by Garth Nix. A good choice it was. Can I tell you how happy I am to find out this is a trilogy!? The dead, necromancers, old kingdoms, dark magic, free magic. Yes, please.

Kindred by Octavia Butler has been on my list forever. Elizabeth at Dark Cargo was nice enough to send this one to me. Actually, she sent me a ton of awesome books! Sabriel was also in that stack. She’s been keeping me in fantasy and science fiction lately. Time travel with an historical fiction take — it’s amazing. I think I might read it again because I know I missed so many details because I was rushing through to make sure a character lived.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman. I could go on and on about the wonderfulness of this book. There are so many great reviews out that I don’t think my telling you to go and read it will matter much. If you love Gaiman, you’ll love this. What everyone has been saying about this one is true.

Right now, I’m reading Broken Harbor by Tana French. It’s her fourth book and I’m still impressed, even a mere 50 pages in.

I think I’ll do another wrap-up in the next few days because as it turns out, I read several more books I do want to talk about.

Tell me what you’ve been reading. Anything good?


Thoughts on H.G. Wells

You know when you’re reading a book and it references another book you’ve read and you want to go back and re-read the referenced book? That happened to me while reading Felix J. Palma’s The Map of Time and The Map of the Sky; based on H. G. Wells’ books, The Time Machine and The War of the Worlds respectively. Having enjoyed both of Palma’s books, I wanted to catch up with the classics. The last time I remember reading Wells’s books was high school, so naturally I was curious to see what I would think of the stories now. As it turns out, as an adult, I’m not a fan of Wells. I have fond memories of these stories, of being fascinated by the books, but no longer. What didn’t I like? Nothing specific about the stories themselves — the premises are wonderful — but it was the inconsiderate, uncaring, and obnoxious actions of the male characters. And, whenever (infrequently too) a woman shows up in the story, she’s relegated to being a slight character with no real value to the plot or the male characters. I know, that’s not a new revelation, but I was surprised by my immediate and intense reaction to it.

Before I turn what is supposed to be two short reviews into a rant, let’s get to the reviews themselves. I give you, The Time Machine and The War of the Worlds.

The Time MachineThe Time Machine

After settling in with The Time Machine, I soon realized I didn’t really remember much about this book. Or, at least my memories were fuzzy. I decided about half way through that I had a very big dislike of the Time Traveller. He was arrogant, uncaring, and prejudice. I get the arrogance, he wouldn’t have invented time travel without it, but the rest I could have done without.

We begin with a lecture of sorts where the Time Traveller shows his guests a small device that he claims can travel in time. He also claims to have built a larger functioning device that he plans to use to travel in time. Which he apparently does, meeting with two vastly different groups of humans — the Eloi and the Morlocks. The Eloi are a group of people so simple that he can’t believe this is what has become of the human race. In this same time, he also comes in contact with the Morlocks; a species that lives underground in dark tunnels. He does his best to categorize the humans he’s met but is disgusted when he figures out the relationship between the Eloi and Morlocks. When he’s able to escape and travels to his own place in time, he regales his contemporaries with stories of his travels.

There are so many fascinating aspects to this story. Time travel! But, Wells drove me crazy with his ideas of the human race. The pervasive idea that the Time Traveller was so much smarter, better shall we say, than the people he encountered was repulsive. It ruined this book for me. I can dislike a character and still enjoy a book but not in this case. I tried to become fascinated by the time travel but I was too far gone to get any enjoyment out of it.

The War of the WorldsThe War of the Worlds

When an unidentified object lands just south of London, residents are left dumbfounded. Could it really be aliens from Mars? When actual aliens emerge from the pods, all of London is left  running for its collective life as the aliens begin a methodical destruction of the planet. We follow the narrator as he makes his way back to his wife, suffering under the trampling of the Martians and witnessing horrors he never imagined possible.

The War of the Worlds is written as if it were a factual account of the narrator’s experiences. I liked that. It takes what could be a basic story and makes it feel very visceral. It did annoy me that I knew absolutely nothing about the narrator beside the fact that he was a scientist and was married. He does recount one part of the story as a second hand account from his brother but that’s all you get to know about him. I found that frustrating.

I did find this story much more interesting than The Time Machine and I think that had to do with the fact that there was a lot more action. In parts of The Time Machine, it felt as if little was happening but in The War of the Worlds, it was all action all the time. I do wish, and this goes for both books, that Wells had taken a few minutes to name his narrators; a pet peeve of mine. The intense dislike I had for The Time Machine didn’t appear when reading The War of the Worlds, in fact, I liked it better but if I had put this book down at any point, the possibly that I wouldn’t have picked it back up was there.

So, this brings me back to the start again. I’m not a Wells fan. Should I be? Anything I should consider?

The Time Machine
H.G. Wells
Atria Books
eISBN: 978145165886

The War of the Worlds
By H.G. Wells
Atria Books
eISBN: 9781451687989

Best of 2012

It’s that time of year when I begin to panic. Yes, panic and it has nothing to do with the holidays. What worries me, causes lack of sleep, and makes me ponder endlessly over a glass of wine (or two)? It’s best of lists. That’s stupid, I know, but here’s the thing — I always look back over the year and think about what happened, good and bad, vacations, time with family and friends, and of course, the books I read. So, to alleviate some anxiety, I’m going to share a best of list with you. Whether you like it or not.

Last year I had this genius idea (I thought it was genius and I’m not taking any feedback on that!:)). Instead of picking a list of say 10 books (how could I pick a number one), I would go month by month and pick the books I liked that month. Now, you may see a book on this list and then look at my review and notice I didn’t rate the book high at the time. The reason I picked it? All gut feeling. I’m telling you which books resonate with me, even months later in some cases, so I can say, ‘You know what, try it.’

The Lantern by Deborah Lawrenson
The Secret Diary of a Princess: A Novel of Marie Antoinette by Melanie Clegg
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

American Gods by Neil Gaiman
The Technologists by Matthew Pearl

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke
Soulless (The Parasol Protectorate #1) by Gail Carriger
The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch (read along, no review)
Changeless (The Parasol Protectorate #2) by Gail Carriger

The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley
Let’s Pretend This Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir) by Jenny Lawson

Blameless (The Parasol Protectorate #3) by Gail Carriger
Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch (read along, no review)
Railsea by China Mieville

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
Heartless (The Parasol Protectorate #4) by Gail Carriger
Timeless (The Parasol Protectorate #5) by Gail Carriger

Among Others by Jo Walton
Frenchman’s Creek by Daphne du Maurier
Tooth and Claw by Jo Walton
In The Woods by Tana French

Salem’s Lot by Stephen King
The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley

The Map of the Sky by Felix J. Palma

Death in the Floating City by Tasha Alexander
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Island of Bones by Imogen Robertson

The Likeness by Tana French

Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourn

I read more fantasy and less historical fiction than in earlier years. And, as always, I have a few series going — not something that I see changing in the New Year. A good series is this reader’s downfall. It’s interesting how my reading habits change, even over the course of a year. One of the reasons I like to keep lists is to see my progress over a year’s worth of reading, that, and I really do like a good list.

OK, the big question — what did you read this year? Anything memorable, wonderful, something you wish you hadn’t read? Share, share. It’s not as if my to read list is getting any shorter anyway.

The Sunday Salon – Falling for Fall

I’ve yet to step outside but from what I can tell, it’s shaping up to be a lovely fall-like day. I can only say fall-like because it’s probably go to end up in the 80s today and that’s not fall-like at all. Either way, I’m going to make a good attempt at enjoying today’s sun and cool breeze.

All last week, after reading two books that were good (actually, one was very weird but interesting enough to keep reading) what I really wanted to read were two books that featured heavily in other books I’ve been reading — The Time Machine and The War of the Worlds both by H.G. Wells. I finished up The Map of the Sky by Felix J. Palma last week and enjoyed it, as I did his first book, The Map of Time. Both books feature the works of H.G. Wells, and after finishing up the second of Palma’s books, I wanted to go back and read Wells’s books so guess what I’m reading this week. As a side note, I’m reviewing The Map of the Sky tomorrow if you’re interested.

Back to the fall theme, I confess that I’m hoarding books, beyond my regular book hoarding habits. I’m now hoarding special books to read during October — thrillers, horror, mystery. I have a list and will probably make a stop at the library to pick up a few Agatha Christie books too. I’m so looking forward to October. Normally I don’t plan my reading, even when I try it never works out, but I always manage to set aside time in the fall to read books like this. I don’t know what it is but it just makes it so much more fun.

Well, The Time Machine is waiting for me and I think I may have talked my husband into shoe shopping with me this afternoon. I need to take advantage of that offer while I still can. Happy Sunday and enjoy your books today fellow readers.

The Sunday Salon – The Short Version

A friend is training for a triathlon and I sometimes swim with her on Saturdays. This weekend, I hauled myself out of bed on Saturday and Sunday and managed to swim about 1.5+ miles in two days. For a person who doesn’t exercise regularly, this turned out to be very tiring. I’m moving slowly if you’re curious at all but I feel pretty good. I may do this again someday in the future, if I manage to regain the ability to lift my arms above my head again that is. So, today is a short post day. Also, I have to write some reviews and since I’m in the mood, I’m going to do just that.

  • I finished The Map of Lost Memories by Kim Fay this week and really enjoyed it. I’m working on the review now and hope to have it posted next week.
  • I wrapped up my re-read of Marion Zimmer Bradley’s The Mists of Avalon. This re-read took me about seven weeks and I finished five books before finally coming to the last page of this one. It was a labor of love though and I’m very happy I took it on again.
  • It being Shark Week, I felt I needed to up my shark reading and picked up The Devil’s Teeth by Susan Casey from the library. It was good, so good. I really do enjoy reading about great white sharks, little dork that I am. And I was also very happy to be swimming in a pool instead of open water this weekend because I’m sure this book would have made me want to swim quickly for shore.
  • I started The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula Le Guin yesterday and plan to spend some time with it today too.

So, that wraps up this week’s reading for me. Read anything good? Buy anything good? Visit your local library?

Happy Sunday.

The Sunday Salon – New Books

On Friday night, the husband and I made a stop at our neighborhood bookstore and walked out carrying three new books. Yeah for me! Not so much yeah for the bookshelves already straining under a tremendous weight. Logistics of my bookshelves aside, here’s what I got.

The Likeness by Tana French — I read In The Woods recently and was wowed so of course this one needed to be bought.

A Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss — I read The Name of the Wind earlier this summer and had to buy this one when I saw it on the shelf. Rothfuss is my new fantasy writer crush.

I’ve been on a bit of a book acquiring trend lately and I need to start backing off or clearing the shelves. Since I don’t want to think of either of these things coming to pass, I simply won’t.

I’m hoping to finish up The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley in the next few days. I’ve been reading this book for weeks, six weeks is my best guess, and it’s been an enjoyable re-read but I’m ready for it to be done. I’m also reading The Map of Lost Memories by Kim Fay which is set in Cambodia. It’s a very interesting read so I may spend some time with this book today if I find a few moments of time to steal.

That’s all for me. I managed to schedule some posts so it won’t be so quiet around here this week and maybe now that summer is approaching its end, I may actually get back to blogging regularly.

Enjoy the day in your part of the world today.

Happy Sunday.

The Sunday Salon – An Addiction to Series Book

I spent a good portion of this Sunday eating pancakes and sitting on my couch reading Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I haven’t read this book since I was a child and it’s refreshing to know I still remember much of it. My opinion of some of the characters has changed but it’s a relaxing and comforting re-read and the book I needed today.

It got me thinking about the rest of the books in the series, and while I’m pretty sure I won’t be re-reading the other books this time around, I was glad to know they would be there when I needed another dose of the Prairie. And then I started to think about series books and how often I get myself mixed up with a series and can’t back away until I’ve read every book available to me. Looking over my list, I’ve read a lot of series books this year and started a few last year that I need to get back to.

Here’s what I’m following now:

The Parasol Protectorate series by Gail Carriger — I’ve read all five books this year and am sad there will be no more but the series was so good I’ll be reading them again so I’m not all that sad. For the curious, the books are: Soulless, Changeless, Blameless, Heartless, and Timeless.

Gentleman Bastards series by Scott Lynch — I started this series as part of a read along because the first book, The Lies of Locke Lamora, was on my list. Can I tell you how awesome these books are?! No really, they are that good. I finished the second book, Red Seas Under Red Skies, and can’t wait for the next book which I think comes out this fall.

The Dark Tower series by Stephen King — A co-worker gave me five books in the series and I made it through the first one, The Gunslinger, which sadly was a bit slow for me. I think I was expecting something very different and I’m not sure about the series but since I have the books I’ll probably continue. I’ve been told they do get better.

The King Killer Chronicle by Patrick Rothfuss — I finished The Name of the Wind and can’t wait to get A Wise Man’s Fear. If you like fantasy, you should be reading these books. All I’m going to say.

The Taker Trilogy by Alma Katsu — I finished the second book in the series, The Reckoning, a month or so ago and it was good. I’m looking forward to the third book. I was a little apprehensive at first because I wasn’t sure where the series would go after the first book, The Taker, but I’m happy to say I’m enjoying it.

All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness — A Discovery of Witches and Shadow of Night were fun reads and now I’m waiting to see how it’s going to end. It might be a long wait for book three.

A Song of Ice and Fire by George RR Martin — Book five, A Dance with Dragons, is waiting patiently but I haven’t started it yet. Not one of the 1,100 pages has been read yet but I will find time for this one soon.

The Saxon Stories by Bernard Cornwell — I started this series last year and read the first two books, The Last Kingdom and The Pale Horseman, but sort of fell off and I need to pick it back up. I love the blood and gore of these books and I don’t think anyone delivers quite like Cornwell.

The Magicians & Mrs. Quent series by Galen Beckett — I actually finished this series last month. It took me a while to finish the last book and while I wasn’t completely wowed, I was satisfied. The books in the series are: The Magicians and Mrs. Quent, The House on Durrow Street, and The Master of Heathcrest Hall.

The Merlin Series by Mary Stewart — I started this series two years ago and then never went any further than The Crystal Cave. No real reason, I even have the books in my house; I just need to read them. I will admit to overdosing on Arthurian legend a while back though and needed some time off. This year may be the year.

There are more but I’m going to stop there. Really, looking at the list it’s sort of crazy I started all these. I need some help me thinks.

Do you have a favorite series? Let me know. There’s a good chance I’ll be adding it to the list. I can’t help myself.

Happy Sunday.

Review – The Windup Girl

The Windup Girl

By Paolo Bacigalupi

Nightshade Books

ISBN: 9781597801584

3.75/4.25 stars

I put off writing this review because, even after several weeks, I don’t know what I think of this book. On some level, it was brilliant but on others it was so sad and disturbing that I almost put the book down because I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go on. I finished and while I can’t say I enjoyed this book, I was amazed by it.

Anderson Lake is a calorie man in Thailand posing as a factory manager. What he’s really there for is to look for fruits and vegetables thought to have gone extinct that are now reappearing in street markets. His company, AgriGen, wants the seeds. Through another business associate, he meets Emiko, a bioengineered human working as a sex slave at a whorehouse. Their two lives collide as a new bioengineered plague runs amuck in Bangkok, the government begins infighting for power, and a company with the money to buy off the world lands on the shores of Thailand.

There is much more to this story, but in the interest of spoilers, I’ll say no more. As I said above, parts of this book are brilliant — a world running on traded calories, bioengineering corporations releasing plagues, bioengineered humans. It’s dark, scary, and oddly believable. You can buy into the world and the science behind it: engineered foods, humans, and superbugs. But there’s something so dark about it that it was also so depressing and disturbing that I wanted to shower the reek of this book off me at times. These corporations are so money hungry they don’t even think of the people in their way (and in the way is really how these corporations think of people); releasing plagues without thought so they can take over promising a cure for what they themselves unleashed.

Each and every character is on their own. There’s no sense of community anywhere. Even when one character finds himself caring for someone, he pushes the thought away almost horrified by his own feelings. They’re all horrible but it’s the world that made them that way and you see that but still hate the way they interact and don’t. Everything is some exchange. And then there’s Emiko, the bioengineered new human. She’s a sex slave. She’s bound by her genetically engineered DNA to obey. Imagine for yourself how’s she’s treated.

But I have to go back to world building for a moment here. Science fiction and fantasy are all about the worlds. Bacigalupi commands the world in The Windup Girl. He stretches it beyond belief and you see how his would and could be possible. No checks. No balances. The manipulations of science, the shattered lives of people who can’t get out of the way fast enough.

I don’t want to give the wrong impression about this book. My husband liked it (that was the reason I read it) but I think you need to go in with an open mind and one that isn’t too easily offended. It’s an interesting take on what would happen in a world were energy trading takes place and science has the ability to change lives at the drop of a hat. If you’re looking for something different, this might work for you.