Friday, January 05, 2018

only 124 to go

My grandmother asked me to tell you she's sorry by Fredrik Backman.  This was one of my Yule Book Flood books (good match, Leslie!).

First, this is a very good book: although it has a larger cast of characters, they all are realistic and have depth; the plot progression is well-planned; the slow revelation of fairy-tale characters as real people encourages the reader to engage with the fairy tales directly.  Having read several of the author's other books, I was expecting a bit more from this, though.  It's not really clear in the beginning why the fairy tales are important, so it's hard to know which parts to remember. 

There were some moments that were very touching, but it's a very different reading experience than any of his other books.  Most recommended to readers new to this author.

Mrs. Robinson's disgrace: The private diary of a Victoria lady by Kate Summerscale; read by Wanda McCaddon.  This seems like a cool story, but audio is not the right format for this: it jumps right into the story with plenty of people to remember.  Not appropriate for how I usually listen to audiobooks (i.e., while in the kitchen).

2018 check boxes




Monday, January 01, 2018

2017 Review + 2018 Challenge

As usual, numbers do not reflect books flipped through exclusively for work/programming purposes.  I am also participating again in the Benjamin Franklin Awards, but as a design judge this year; therefore, I haven't included reviewed titles anywhere at all, since I'm mostly looking at paragraph headings, fonts, organization, etc. and reading very little.

For 2018, I have organized a more extensive check-box challenge (which I left stranded at my work station and will post after tomorrow). 

2018 Challenges:
1.  Read (finish) 125 books.
2.  Check off 75 boxes.*
3.  Improve NetGalley completion rate to 70% (currently at 62%).

*Challenges are organized into categories.  Books may count only one time per category but may count for multiple categories.

2017 Challenge wrap-up

A few weeks ago, I was still a little stressed out by the number of un-checked boxes, not necessarily because of the number, but more because I was having difficulty finding something in that category I would enjoy reading.  Since I had made a truly valiant effort to read a book in every category, I gave myself permission to check off the last half-dozen boxes with books I tried to read but couldn't finish for a variety of reasons.  With this bit of leniency, I'm pretty pleased with my performance.

Read a book about:
Non-Western history: Life along the Silk Road, Susan Whitfield
An Indigenous culture: The land of naked people: Encounters with Stone Age islanders, Madhursee Mukerjee
Philosophy: We are all stardust: Scientists who shaped our world talk about their work, their lives, and what they still want to know, Stefan Klein
Women in war: The Queen's accomplice, Susan Elia MacNeal
Japanese philosophy: Ikigai: The Japanese secret to a long and happy life, Hector Garcia and Frances Miralles
Science: The tale of the dueling neurosurgeons: The history of the human brain as revealed by true stories of trauma, madness, and recovery, Sam Kean
An immigrant or refugee to the U.S.: A different pond, Bao Phi
Current events: Stepping stones: A refugee family's journey , Margriet Ruurs, artwork by Nizar Ali Badr, translated by Falah Raheem
Psychology: The 5 love languages of children, Gary Chapman and D. Ross Campbell
Someone's journey-- inner or outer: Someone to hold, Mary Balogh
Religion: The lost book of the Grail, Charlie Lovett
Your favorite hobby: Sheet pan suppers: 120 recipes for simple, surprising, hands-off meals straight from the oven, Molly Gilbert
A difficult topic: Boy, Anna Ziegler

Read a book: 
Before you see the movie: R.I.P.D., Peter Lankov (*1)
Set in the Middle East: Pride of Baghdad, Brian K. Vaughan and Niko Henrichon
[That's mentioned in another book: Guns, germs, and steel: The fates of human societies, Jared Diamond]
Based on mythology: The sword of summer, Rick Riordan
[From a genre/subgenre you've never heard of: The island of the day before, Umberto Eco]
Recommended by an author you love: Farmer in the sky, Robert Heinlein
With pictures: Age of reptiles, Ricardo Delgado
With an unreliable narrator: Right behind you, Lisa Gardner
Set in the wilderness: Woods runner, Gary Paulsen
That's been on your TBR list too long: Crosstalk, Connie Willis
From a nonhuman perspective: Flashmob, Christopher Farnsworth
Involving travel: The space between the stars, Anne Corlett

Read a(n):
Graphic novel written by a woman: The night bookmobile, Audrey Niffenegger
Children's book aloud: Jennifer, Jennifer, Jennifer, Hannah E. Lowe
Memoir by someone who identifies as LGBTQIA: Hunger: A memoir of (my) body, Roxane Gay
Espionage thriller: Cold barrel zero, Matthew Quick
Work of post-apocalyptic fiction written by a woman: The book of Phoenix, Nnnedi Okorafor
Feminist sci-fi novel: Y negative, Kelly Haworth
First book in a series you've never read: Touched by an alien, Gini Koch
Translated book: Beartown, Fredrik Backman
Contemporary collection of poetry: You don't have to say you love me, Sherman Alexie
Book by a modernist woman writer: Herland, Charlotte Perkins Gilman
Set in Antarctica: South Pole Station, Ashley Shelby
Book of letters: Sorcery and Cecelia, Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer
Collection of comics: Love and capes, vol. 2, Thomas Zahler
Audiobook: Stiff upper lip, Jeeves, P.G. Wodehouse
Science fiction book written by a man: Artemis, Andy Weir
Classic you've always wanted to read: The Swiss family Robinson, Johann Wyss
Book written over a century ago, then read a retelling of the book: Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte, and Jane Steele, Lyndsay Faye
Graphic novel that's a retelling of a classic book: Jane, the fox and me, Fanny Britt, illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault, translated by Christelle Morelli and Susan Ouriou
Children's book you didn't read as a child: Thunder Boy Jr., Sherman Alexie
Book that has less than 100 pages: Bound with love, Megan Mulry
Book that was adapted to film.  Watch the film, then compare and contrast it with the book: The Indian in the cupboard, Lynne Reid Banks, and The Indian in the cupboard with Hal Scardino
Auto/biography of a woman, written by a woman: Trials of the earth, Mary Mann Hamilton
Murder mystery written by a woman: The corpse with the diamond hand, Cathy Ace
Book by a female author that deals with a serious topic: In our backyard: Human trafficking in American and what we can do to stop it, Nita Belles, read by Nicol Zanzarella
Murder mystery written by a man: The late show, Michael Connelly
[Auto/biography of a man, written by a man: Empire made: My search for an outlaw uncle who vanished in British India, Kief Hillsbery]
Bestseller from 2016: A man called Ove, Fredrik Backmann (*2)
Bestseller from a genre you don't normally read: If not for you, Debbie Macomber
Reread your favorite book from your childhood: The island stallion, Walter Farley

Read a book written by a(n):
Woman under 25: St. Lucy's home for girls raise by wolves, Karen Russell
Author born in an African country: Wife of the gods, Kwei Quartey
Author born in Asia: A rising man, Abir Mukherjee
Author born in China: Little white duck, Na Liu
Author born in Australia/Oceanai: The secret river, Kate Grenville
Author born in a European country: Nation, Terry Pratchett, read by Stephen Briggs
Author born in India: The Bollywood affair, Sonali Dev
Author born in North America: Heat: Adventures in the world's fiery places, Bill Streever
Author born in South America: Innocent Erendira and other stories, Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Author born in the Caribbean: Wide Sargasso Sea, Jean Rhys
Or about a person who has a disability: Wrinkles, Paco Roca
Multiple authors: nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E., Warren Ellis and Stuart Immonen

Read a book of:
[Essays: A slip of the keyboard: Collected nonfiction, Terry Pratchett, read by Michael Fenton Stevens] (*3)
Classic literature written by a woman: From the mixed-up files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, E.L. Konigsburg
Classic literature written by a man: The little prince, Antione de Saint-Exupery
Fiction set during wartime: Eagle and empire, Alan Smale.

Notes:
(*1): I checked out the DVD several times but could never fit it in to my schedule.  Since the task doesn't explicitly say I have to watch the movie during the same year, whoever, I decided not to worry about it.
(*2): I've read a number of books that fit into this category, but they were all prepubs I read *in* 2016: Curious minds, Grunt, The revenant, What if?, and The Martian were easy finds.
(*3): I want(ed) so much to finish this, but my audio download expired and there's a holds list!  I considered using my librarian powers for evil and buying more copies so I could get it quicker, but the spending was all done for the year.  :`(

Sunday, December 31, 2017

now I'm done

Ghost Hawk by Susan Cooper; read by Jim Dale.  I downloaded this early in the summer, for family car trip listening.  I picked it because it came up on a list somewhere as being survivalist-themed a la Woods runner and Lost! On a mountain in Maine, both enjoyed by the family.  The story does start out with a wilderness-survival portion, but once that was over, it couldn't keep my kid's attention.

I re-downloaded it a week or two ago to finish it.  There is a surprising amount of historical daily-life detail that will probably fascinate a particular group of young readers (but I'm guessing students slightly older than my 4th-grader).  Despite the author's note about her meticulous research, I'm never sure how accurate it is when multiple historical characters are presented with more "enlightened" (read: "modern"?) attitudes. 

Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye.  I really enjoyed this book, but I think it had some serious flaws.  This always makes me really uncomfortable; I usually feel like my enjoyment of a book is proportional to its quality.

Major flaw 1: Jane's acceptance, or determination, of her identity as a "murderess."  She never seems very distraught at this idea; she's minorly concerned about what other people will think of her, but she doesn't seem to think of it very much herself.  She also doesn't exactly embrace it: she uses her identity, more of already-damned soul rather than a serial killer, when she sees a need, but she doesn't embrace that identity and search out the most evil people in her city, without whom the world would be a better place.  It's not even like she was ambivalent about it, either; more like she couldn't be bothered to think much about it at all.

Major flaw 2:  In her narration, Jane refers to events in Jane Eyre throughout the book, but doesn't talk at all about why this is important to her.  It isn't clear until over half-way through the book when she first encounters the story at all.  She points out life events that are similar to those in the novel, but those would be apparent to the reader anyway.  It also isn't exactly clear in what year(s) the book is set, and the publication history of Jane Eyre, plus other works by the Bronte sisters, would have been an interesting addition.  The author hit the worst possible balance: she didn't need to call attention in the text to Jane Eyre at all, but since she did, it needed to be more integral to the story.

Jane, the fox and me by Fanny Britt; illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault; translated by Christelle Morelli and Susan Ouriou.  This is really beautiful-- the unfinished-looking pencil drawings for the young girl unsure of herself and the colorful images when she relates the beautiful story she's reading add depth to the story.  It seems simple; read it slowly.  Highly recommended.

Stepping stones: A refugee family's journey by Margriet Ruurs; artwork by Nizar Ali Badr; translated by Falah Raheem.  These illustrations are very unique and beautiful; I'm curious as to the scale.  The notes in the front are more informative than the story, which is kind of flat. 

The plain Janes by Cecil Castellucci and Jim Rugg.  The day after Christmas, I had so many returns and donations (we cleaned up in the living room and weeded some titles from the shelves) that I completely forgot to bring a book to actually read on my lunch break.  I quickly consulted by Want-to-Read list in GoodReads for any graphic novels that might be checked in.

I read this over two or three days and it seemed new to me, but when putting the tags into Blogger it alerted me I have already read this.  Apparently I read this six years ago when I was doing middle-school book-talks.  I was really good back then at skimming books just deeply enough to talk about them at the time but I don't remember much about most of the titles from that year.

I'm glad I unintentionally gave this book a rereading, as I enjoyed it very much.  I guess I have become a more proficient Graphic Novel reader over the years.  The story is a bit light and the characters are a little stereotypical but it's a sweet, touching story.

The Indian in the cupboard, with Hal Scardino.  Ugh, this was a waste of time.  The acting was horrible.  In the book, Omri is a likable character because he spends so much time thinking about how to help Little Bear and figuring out imaginative ways of scaling down items for his benefit.  This is missing from the movie-- obviously it would be hard to convey at all, and it isn't.  Patrick is a stupid, unthinking cardboard cut-out of a character in the book, but he's redeemed when he recognizes that Boone has real needs and leaves him in Omri's care as the best thing for him.  In the movie, that never happens; his character is further damaged by an actor with no skill and perfectly expressionless face.  It's hard to blame 10-year-olds for being bad actors, so I'll instead mock Little Bear's fragmented English, delivered with a run-of-the-mill modern American accent.

The Swiss family Robinson by Johann Wyss.  This... is not one of the fun classics: far too much instruction and philosophizing, poorly incorporated (and incorrect) natural history and other instructional paragraphs.  The survival story is interesting, but the way the father inherently knows about every machine, craft, and plant from any part of the world defies belief.

Although she has some "screen time" and is not an absolute ninny, the boys' mother is named only once in the whole book.  The rest of the time she is referred to by the narrator as "my wife" but more usually as "the mother;" not "Mother," for some reason, as her family name or title, but "the mother," as her position. 

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

i'm not done

GoodReads suggested I "see my year in review" starting at the beginning of the week.  Dude, I can finish three or four more books, easy.  Don't rush me, GoodReads.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.  I have for decades (gah!) considered this my favorite book; I read it every two years or few years from mid-highschool through about 10 years ago.  In the last 10, I have always sort of meant to read it again, but never really got around to it.  I'm so glad that I've read it again, and also that I did have that big gap in between my last readings.

I always thought and remembered the book as being dark, heavy, and intense.  On this recent rereading, I was startled by how melodramatic and light it seemed.  Whereas before my description would have focused on how gothic it was, I would now best describe it as romance novel.

It was so interesting to reread this and to have a vastly different reading experience, when obviously the only to have changed is me, influenced by everything I've read in the meantime.  10/10, will read again next decade.

A man called Ove by Fredrik Backman.  I was a little bit afraid to start this-- obviously it has been immensely popular, but "popular" books and I don't usually get along.  I adored Beartown but And every morning the way home gets longer and longer was a difficult read.

This book was sad and hard to read for long stretches, so I kept putting it down, but so beautiful that I kept picking it back up.  I slowly pirouetted in and out my chair all weekend.  It made me so sad; at the end of one of the days, as we were getting ready for bed, my husband asked me if I was coming down with something.  Read it, but not in the staff room or other public places.

The Indian in the cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks.  My husband suggested this title for our son for Yule Book Flood, so I grabbed it for a reread/refresher.  I did read a few in this series when I was youngish, but I didn't particularly love them.  Reading it now, I really liked all the tiny things that Omri or Little Bear made.  My son is proudly on page 104 already and is really enjoying it.

I love Yule Book Flood because it is the one day a year I can hand my son a book and he reads it unquestioningly.

Innocent Erendira and other stories by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.  Something else in the category of "not what I usually read."  I very much enjoyed "Innocent Erendire" and a few other of the stories (mostly early in the book), but freely admit that I had to skim a handful for being too freaky.  I couldn't figure out if some of the characters were supposed to be ghosts or dead people or what, but there death made more appearances than seems healthy for the author.  I did really enjoy the inventive and expected turns of phrase, so I won't completely rule out reading this author again.

Red Dwarf XII with Chris Barrie and Craig Charles.  The general consensus around this house is, this season has great script writing but poor plots: lots of great one-liners, but the episode plots aren't fantastic.  Only of interest to existing fans.

Santa Clause 2 with Tim Allen.  We rewatched The Santa clause yesterday and then watched the sequel, which I've only seen once before and remembered very little of.  Both are cute family movies but they have some pretty big holes-- the sort of thing like it would take too much time to explain or acknowledge these details, so the story just ignores them. 

Monday, December 11, 2017

[frowny face]

White collar, seasons 1 through 4, with Matt Bomer.  I have been watching this in the evenings instead of blogging.  I'm enjoying it quite a bit-- it's a good match for me.  The crimes are interesting and complex (not always believable but certainly fun), there are just enough personal life plots mixed in, and the characters are likable. 

The one thing I really didn't like is that, especially in the first season, Peter has a number of lines talking about being afraid of making his wife angry.  However, his wife is a calm, relaxed, and understanding person.  The workaholic afraid of upsetting his wife was lazy writing.  He should be trying to make her happy because he is in love with her, but that would have been written a different way.  Otherwise, lovely.

The little prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, translated by Richard Howard.  I'm not really clear on why this is such a classic.  Yes, there were some observations and comments about human nature, but they weren't particularly deep.  The characters aren't particularly realistic or likable. 

Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys.  I didn't like this either.  White collar is just the excuse; I don't like to blog when I didn't enjoy reading the books. 

I found this very difficult to read, largely because of the writing-- the author didn't use commas where they belong, she used commas where she should have used semicolons, and she mixed fragments into her writing.  The story is told from multiple characters' viewpoints, but switches are not clearly marked.  It wasn't enjoyable to have to wade through. 

I skimmed an introduction by some scholar in the beginning of the book that talked about the fate of the characters and such, but in reality the story isn't that deep.  It is unfortunate for the characters that their lives turned out that way, but each is not to blame for the unhappiness of the other.

Ikigai: The Japanese secret to a long and happy life by Hector Garcia and Frances Miralles.  This is why I don't like self-help books: each presents their way as the best way for everyone, without discussing different approaches that might work better for a certain type of person over another, and without citing sources or discussing scientifically why the proposed approach is best.  This book is perfect for people who have already decided that this is how they want to approach health.

The three ninja pigs by Corey Rosen Schwartz and Dan Santat.  This was read aloud during a staff activity.  It is a cute picture book and appropriate for ages 3-6: not too text-heavy but with a broad vocabulary; colorful, simple illustrations, not too crowded; fun twist on a story kids will probably already be familiar with by that age.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

rain, rain, clouds, rain

From the mixed-up files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweilerby E.L. Konigsburg.  I picked this up to count towards one of the multiple classics I need to read still this year.  (Someone says it's a classic, so I'll take it.)

I'm pretty sure that a teacher read this to us in grade school.  I don't think I read it, because I don't recall reading it more than twice (something I did with every book that fell into my hands).

The characters, and in particular some of their dialogue, aren't terribly believable, but the story is pretty fun.  Still a good read for kids, and I can see why I liked it as a kid and remembered bits.

The long way to a small, angry planet by Becky Chambers.  I reread this for a recent library program.  If anything, I enjoyed it more on this second read.  I noticed more plot-important details that, the first time through, got swallowed up among all the other world-building details.

The summage solution by G.L. Carriger.  I cannot recommend this book, nor am I going to continue to follow this author.  This title doesn't contribute much to the world of romance novels.  The intimate scenes tend more towards explicit rather than erotic and, although both main characters have detailed back stories and reasons to be nervous about a relationship, the majority of their difficulties come from not talking to each other, making assumptions, and jumping to conclusions.

Life along the Silk Road by Susan Whitfield.  I liked the set-up in this book, how each chapter focuses on one person to give details about that area and time for a person of that station.

It would have been very useful if the author included close-view maps throughout, instead of the one continent-wide map at the front.  The given map had cities and features labeled, but these labels did not reflect the areas discussed in the text.  This map was also very difficult to read-- small, gray scale, with text over features (mountains, rivers) making it not really at all useful.  The author also used historical names for places, when known, which seems like it would only add difficulty and be mostly accessible to scholars or extremely well-read amateurs, not general readers.

Soonish: Ten emerging technologies that'll improve and/or ruin everything by Kelly and Zach Weinersmith.  I am interested in finishing this, but it had a hold.  Understandable and fun.  Not sure what's up with the formatting-- frequently there is a big chunk of blank space after a paragraph, which the reader might assume is the end of the chapter, but it's because there is a cartoon at the top of the next page, with additional text after that.  The illustrations aren't so sensitive that they make sense one or two paragraphs out of context.

Sherlock, series 1-4, with Benedict Cumberbatch.  I binged this so hard.  I wasn't really sure what the big deal was, but this is super well-done, very engaging.  There was, intermittently throughout the series, some experimentation with storytelling style and shooting style that were a little to weird and didn't always work.  Most of the plots were well-told, although a handful were rather obvious.  Several plot points are still unanswered-- hopefully they make the 5th series and tie everything up.

Saturday, November 04, 2017

the day after snow

I feel like I haven't gotten much done, although my list looks rather impressive.  I'm feeling unmotivated, partially because I haven't been super in-love with anything recently, and also I've got a touch of senioritis: I feel pressure to finish my reading goal in the next two months, and I've run out of steam in that regard.  I'm trying to keep in mind the reason I set myself this challenge: I felt like I read widely, but in reality I read a narrow range of authors and settings within a few typically-disparate genres.

Hunger: A memoir of (my) body by Roxane Gay.  This is beautiful.  Everyone should read this: although (fortunately) most readers don't share the same exact traumatic life experiences, everyone has experienced similar types of events and feelings.  Put this in the hands of everyone you know.

There was a part that I read too quickly, because it touched too closely to emotions and experiences that are too unresolved.  It was too powerful; I identified too strongly.  I hope to be able to read it again in a few years.  If anything, my experience with that section underscores that this is a raw, honest collection.

Mindhunter, season 1 with Jonathan Groff.  I ended up watching the whole season, but I won't continue with future seasons: this is too graphic for my personal preference (in language, sex, and violence/gore).  The characters seem real, though, and the topic is interesting, so I'm sure there will be plenty of takers.

The island of the day before by Umberto Eco.  In researching for one of my to-do reads still unfinished, I was delighted to find there is a subgenre called "Robinsonades."  I read Robinson Crusoe several times in high school and I adore survival stories.  So why am I having such a hard time finding a book that 1) fits the narrow definition, and 2) I enjoy?  I'd just read Robinson Crusoe again-- it's been nearly 20 years, after all [oh my god!]-- but it's pretty thick and I'm now feeling pressed for time.

I couldn't get in to this-- it's so overwritten.  I have a suspicion that people who claim to love this author just want to be seen as impressive or to feel pretentious.  I doubt many people could read this without diagramming each sentence.

The river at night by Erica Fernick.  I was really excited about this-- a survival story where the women rescue themselves!  But it's awful.  The main character is whiny and cowardly.  She's afraid of everything, which I'm guessing is supposed to make her sympathetic, or maybe to give her survival a greater feeling of accomplishment, but she's given no tangible reason for her crippling timidity.  She doesn't have anxiety, she doesn't relate a particularly traumatic past.  It makes it impossible to care.  I kept reading, anticipating that the story would pick up once the action really started, and the second half of the book is better.  It's hard to continue to care, though, because the whiny main character is out with a group of friends, all of whom act and react like high-schoolers.  Do not read.

The vengeance of mothers: The journals of Margaret Kelly and Molly McGill by Jim Fergus.  Although this is listed as a stand-alone novel, it would make much more sense if readers started with the author's earlier One thousand white women.  The story jumps in without much set-up or backstory-- atypical of historical fiction.  Did not finish.

And every morning the way home gets longer and longer by Fredrik Backman.  This is beautiful, but it's also terrifying.  I read half of it in the spring, and couldn't finish it-- I was too sad.  I'm glad I read it again.

The 5 love languages of children by Gary Chapman and D. Ross Campbell.  There are some real problems with this book.  I finished it, because there were a few helpful nuggets I could take away, but in general, I have some serious objections.

First, maybe I live under a rock, but it's not immediately apparent from the front cover, back blurb, or early chapters that this book has religious undertones.  Religious nonfiction is great for some people and has an important place, but, as I've said with novels that try to sneak a message in in the last quarter, be upfront about it.  No mention of religion in the first four chapters, then one mention in chapter five, and three in chapter seven strikes me as dishonest.

Second, like many self-help books, this presents a one-perfect-solution sell.  If we only love our children hard enough, problems will miraculously vanish.  The "scenarios" presented are patently ridiculous: children are instantly repentant and apparently change their ways when presented with loving correction.

Third, the book fails to mention that there might be something wrong with your child.   Every parenting book should include, regularly throughout the book, that if your child doesn't respond within a few weeks, that you should request a referral or further observation.

For example: "The mishandling of anger is related to every present and future problem your child may have-- from poor grades to damaged relationships to possible suicide... Most of life's problems will be averted and your child will be more able to use anger to his advantage, rather than have it work against him" (p. 160).  It is my uneducated opinion as his parent that my child's problems are almost exclusively related to his anxiety, his ADHD, his hearing deficiency, and his vision problems.  All of these affect his schooling to a much greater degree.

If this book is to be of any value, it would be to first-time parents of very young children who are expected to be neurotypical.

Dark matter, seasons 1 and 2, with Melissa O'Neil.  I'm only watching this because I'm too lazy to find something else.  I seem to have trouble finding things on Netflix that I'll like; how do normal people find TV shows to watch?  Netflix suggested this as a good match for me, but I think it just automatically suggests all sci-fi without regard for quality.  These characters are predictable, the plots are slow, and every line of dialogue can be clearly anticipated.  The characters have become more likable in season 2, but they haven't gained much depth.  I'll quit after I finish the last 2 episodes of season 2, probably in the next day or so.

The edge of normal by Carla Norton.  I read this in preparation for an upcoming program, and I wouldn't have chosen it for myself but it wasn't too bad.  The writing was rather uninspired.  The author was going for punchy with short sentences and cliff-hanger chapter endings, to add tension, but the tone wasn't quite right-- rather than being enveloped in the story, the reader was kept on the outside, unable to sink in.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

nothing too impressive

Sex criminals, vol. 4 by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky.  This seems like a good stopping point for me.  I've become less-than-thrilled with this series for two similar but distinct reasons: as the story goes on, the people get darker and darker and the world gets weirder and weirder.  Read the first one or two, then stop.

The West Wing, seasons 5 through 7, with Martin Sheen.  It took me quite a few season to put my finger on what it was about this series that leaves me dissatisfied: it purposefully skips-- but makes tantalizing references to-- the daily life details.  The way someone butters their toast is relevant; it was annoying that we got so little of the characters' backgrounds and off-hours, and that the seasons skipped such big chunks of time-- weeks and months sometimes.  If these were just ignored or cut for time, I could have lived with that, but the little references, which I'm sure were designed to hint at character depth, were more frustrating.

Recommended.  I will barely know what to do with myself now.

Pirates of the Thunder by Jack L. Chalker.  For a four-book series, this book still felt like more set-up than questing.  I have ordered the two remaining books used online, so I can read them at my convenience, rather than requesting them via ILL.

The invoice by Jonas Karlsson.  This is a reread in order to make trivia questions for a quickly-approaching program.  Still a great book.

The land of naked people: Encounters with Stone Age islanders by Madhusree Mukerjee.  This is poorly organized.  The author intersperses historical information with modern-day information, based around her research trips to the island.  However, neither the historical nor contemporary events unfolded in order.  There are several tribal groups spread over the islands, which are distinct from each other; how, exactly, isn't well-shown.  She repeatedly mentions a number of people she encounters on her repeated visits to the island, but doesn't give enough information for them to be distinct individuals.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

curses; missed again

Since I started this blog originally for myself (and, as far as I know, I'm the only person who accesses it regularly for any reason), I never really paid attention to the numbers.  I didn't notice that I successfully posted 5 years to the day after my original post.  I likewise missed my 10-year-ish post.  I noticed a few weeks ago that I was coming up on my 500th post... and I missed it.  (Granted, I was a little busy at the time, and limited to my phone-- not the best format for this site.)  I was going to have a little celebration for myself, but this, the 502nd post, just doesn't seem as exciting.

I finished A kiss at midnight a few hours after posting about it.  Nothing substantial to add to my earlier comments.

I read Wrinkles by Paco Roca again (again-again), in preparation for an upcoming book trivia program.  It makes me sad.

Cruel numbers by Christopher Beats.  This was an early NetGalley find that kept bubbling up on my to-read list but I never quite managed to crack the cover... for 5 years.  I'm very happy to be able to check it off my list!

It's actually not a great book.  The world is pretty well-drawn and the author seems to have thought quite a bit about even minor details.  There could have been a little more explanation of the social/governmental structure, but otherwise pretty fair world-building.  The plot was pretty messed up in two fairly major ways, and this obviously brought down the whole reading experience.

First, the character's romantic backstory was shoe-horned in.  It wasn't well-drawn, it was handled crassly, and it added nothing to the mystery plot or the alternate world; it may be setting up character development in future series installments, but even that could have been handled in better ways.  Second, the pacing was way off.  I read a downloadable copy of this, so didn't have the physical/visual cue of where my bookmark was to help me anticipate how much story was left.  When I got to the end, it felt like a shock.  Nothing was fixed, personally or professionally, just passed along.

The goblins of Bellwater by Molly Ringle.  I cannot force myself to finish this.  The characters are not particularly unique: they aren't exactly dislikeable, but they don't stand out from random 20-year-olds on the street.  The paranormal element isn't strongly tied in: there is not history presented in the town, no references to established outside folklore.  The writing is choppy: the narration is a little melodramatic, and the boy-girl scenes are, I think, trying to be frank but come off as crude.

I heard quite a bit of chatter about this because it's set in a local-ish made-up place; the descriptions and incorporation of the scenery is the smoothest and most accurate part of the writing, but cannot stand by itself as a reason to read a whole book.

A borrowed man by Gene Wolfe.  Oo, I was so, so very mad that this is a bad book.  The reviews were good, I had skimmed it and then used it in programs, and I suggested it to several people who came back and said they liked it.  But it has problems!  It's not readable!  In both the main character's narration and in the dialogue, they jump from idea to idea, jerkily.  I know people who talk like that; we don't talk much.  Not acceptable.

Sunday, October 08, 2017

Re(ad)treat wrap up

To wrap up, first, stats and such

2016
I called my final count 8 books:
GN: 2
Audio: 2
novel: 2
partial novel: 1
novella: 1

2017
I think I can call this 8 as well:
GN: 2
Partial audio: 2
novel: 3
partial novel: 1

Kitsap Memorial State Park:  I've never reserved a State Park cabin before; it was more spacious than anticipated and the heater kept it nice and warm.  However, for how much it cost, I can't recommend it.  A mid-week off-season hotel in Ocean Shores can be found for a similar price (and even less!) and would include a number of nice things the cabin lacks: running water, adjacent bathroom, cleaning.  The cabin was not cleaned between users, the bathrooms had obviously not been cleaned in days, and they were not cleaned all weekend. There wasn't a view of the water, nor the mountains, or anything except the playfield (see photo below), which you'd have a decent chance of getting on the coast.  It's nice to have a firepit, but I was barely able to use it for the rain.


The rest of the campground was nice enough.  The tent camping spaces all seemed small, but there were long and narrow with actual forest between spots, so there would be a nice amount of privacy.  Unfortunately, they are all back off the water, so they probably get muggy.

I've gone back through my phone-posted ...posts... and fixed errors, added photos, and tacked on tags.

Re(ad)treat: Finals and partials

On the way over to the state park on Friday, I finished the last little bit of The witch's vacuum cleaner and other stories by Terry Pratchett; read by Julian Rhind-Tutt.  This was a fun collection of stories that don't really go with anything else; they don't really match up with what appears in Pratchett's novels, and (*cough*note, publisher*cough*) I'd be even more interested in reading this, or other short story compilations, with an introduction for each story with information and commentary-- the dates the writer worked on it, what else he was working on at the time, if he ever pointed out anything in the story that he thought was interesting or noteworthy, etc.  This was one of the last Sync downloads I grabbed and I've been chipping away at it since July.

Excellent narrator, easy to listen to.

A slip of the keyboard: Collected nonfiction by Terry Pratchett; read by Michael Fenton Stevens.  I listened to this while packing up and driving home today and am only about half-way through.

Everything included here is an essay or article or speech given by the author, so people who compulsively read and have consciously sought out absolutely everything this author has ever written may have already encountered these bits in their original settings.  They are all new to me, though, and I love them.  There are several in a row here towards the middle in which the author talks thoughtfully about genre fiction; I'm bookmarking heavily so I can listen to the segments again when I get back to work and incorporate some into an upcoming Readers' Advisory training.  Meta-readers, readers who think and care about the kinds of things they read, will have much to be interested in.

Another excellent reader, understandable, and, as a change at a constant volume-- it can be difficult to listen to audiobooks while driving because the speaking volume varies too much: if you turn it up loud enough to understand the whispered bits, the shouty bits deafen you; if you turn it down so the loud bits are only minorly uncomfortable, you could miss huge swathes of the story.

I cam home earlier than expected, as posted check-out time for the cabin campers was 11:30.  I thought about getting everything together and then sort of hanging out until I was booted, but if I had done that, then of course the Park Ranger would have shown up (I didn't see him the whole weekend, nor any other park personnel, but Murphy's Law).  I thought to walk along the beach and listen to my audiobook, the weather being actually nice, but the only available beach was directly in front of the park; the rest was cut off by "private property" signs, which I'm not sure is legal.  (My great uncle owned beach-front property farther down the canal when I was younger, and I'm pretty sure the beach itself is public, but I'm the type to follow posted instructions.)  The benches were all wet from overnight rain.  I could have gotten out the camping chair and enjoyed the sunshine, but crowds of people were setting up for a wedding in the park, so it was noisy and there were bunches of unsupervised children and the adults were giving me funny looks since I wasn't with the party.  (Not like it's a public park or anything...)  Having not much else to do, I came home and took a shower and sat on the couch.  Am most of the way through...

A kiss at midnight by Eloisa James.  This is another one of those authors that, for some reason, I tell myself I like alot more than I actually do.  If I were going to truly enjoy a romance novel, it would probably be this author.  Her characters aren't silly-stupid, just willful or short-sighted.  This title, obviously, is a Cinderella retelling and not bad.  I like that from this author I can usually expect full sentences, not too many dropped plot elements, and a reasonable number of characters.

final time: 50 hours, 13 minutes.

Re(ad)treat: Hour 41

I read these yesterday afternoon, after the rain left off and I got the fire going.

R.I.P.D. by Peter M. Lenovo, Lucas Marangon, and Randy Emberlin.  The illustrations are too cartoony for me taste.  My guess is they are like that on purpose to lighten the dark, gory subject.  The balance is off.  Interesting but not great, the world building is a bit clunky.

Bayou, vol. 1, by Jeremy Love.  Much darker and creepier than I was expecting from whatever review I scanned.  The coloring in the illustrations is very beautiful and I like how many textless cells there are, letting the illustrations carry more of the story.

Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman.  I had hoped to finish it last night but didn't quite make it.  This is an interesting utopia and social commentary.

While many people think there would be less of it, an all-female society would surely have some crime and infighting.  To paint women as naturally flawless does just as much disservice as do the "popular" views represented by one of the characters.

The book would be considered dry by many readers-- not much action, mostly social commentary-- but is an interesting thought experiment.  Highly recommended for fans of classical literature and early books that inspired science fiction.


Saturday, October 07, 2017

Re(ad)treat: Hour 25

Lords of the middle dark by Jack L. Chalker.  This is the series I was thinking of when I read the Well World series last year.

Although still clunky in several ways, the writing in this book is smoother than the earlier series.  It can still be choppy-- dialogue is either curt and modern or overly romanticized.  There is an insane amount of information to set up the universe and it's often clumsily handled, one character lecturing another.  But for a series launch, there is quite a bit of action.

I'm pretty sure I discovered this author on the Friends book sale self at the Silverdale branch of the Kitsap Regional Library.  I tended to pick up romances and sci-fi/fantasy because mass-market paperback's were half the price of hard covers. Many of the things I brought home, certainly including the autjor, are not wonderful examples of literature. The author tends to include scenes or opinions of his female characters that are not at all flattering.  I'm never sure if they represent a personal fantasy, simply the thinking at the time, or evidence something a little broken about him.

In camping adventures, my planned morning walk was thwarted by rain, which has also made my afternoon fire done nothing but sputter.  Two books in 24 hours doesn't seem very impressive; in addition to sleeping longer than originally planned, this book had tiny print.