and poolside reads and airplane reads, because I'm on vacation! (well, I was. Now I'm home, the laundry is all done, and I'm back to work tomorrow.)
Tuesday, January 20, 2015
and poolside reads and airplane reads, because I'm on vacation! (well, I was. Now I'm home, the laundry is all done, and I'm back to work tomorrow.)
at 5:01 PM
Friday, January 09, 2015
Green by Jay Lake. I kind of like where this is going, but I'm not totally into it. I would so have been totally into it many (many) years ago, when I was temporarily infatuated with Maria Snyder's Poison Study et al. Definitely a good title for fans of the same.
at 11:56 AM
Saturday, January 03, 2015
I found notes on these titles ingeniously hidden in my email, and various other places I thought (at the time) would be a good place to make my future self find them. It's not a huge number of items, and none I finished.
Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Thomas Sweterlitsch. I placed this on hold as a possibility for an upcoming program. It isn't a good fit for the program, and also I didn't enjoy it very much. The world building is interesting, but not enough information is shared; there too many new elements, all only hinted at, none explained. This would be for dedicated sci-fi readers only; it's not a good genre-seducer.
First Impressions by Charlie Lovett. I so loved Lovett's The Bookman's Tale. I kept waffling on this: to read or not to read? Second books are frequently such a let-down, but once in a while (like Susan Pfeffer), you get a sophomore book that's even better than the first.
at 2:15 PM
Thursday, January 01, 2015
I love tables. And graphs. And reports. When other department heads submitted 1- or 2-page annual reports, mine was 11. In high school, when we had to write a 10- to 12-page research paper, I was the kid who submitted a 17-pager, plus bibliography, plus maps. I like to compare and contrast things to other things. I like what we learn by comparing and contrasting things. I think what these numbers tell us is that I'm sort of a busy person and don't have as much time to read as I used to. That's not particularly useful information to anyone, nor any great surprise, but shush.
books started: 60
books finished: 43 (71.7%)
finished books that were fiction: 35 (81.3%) (includes 2 picture books and juvenile titles)
finished books that were nonfiction: 7 (16.3%)
finished books that were graphic novels: 1 (2.3%)
finished books by female authors: 29 (67.4%)
finished books by male authors: 11 (18.9%)
finished books by male and female authors: 3 (7%)
*these numbers don't include the books, either started or finished, that I read for the Benjamin Franklin awards, nor the books that I read as an editor, because I didn't choose any of those books for myself. Including those would add over 85 books to the total.
books started, decrease from 2013: 46 (43.4%)
books finished, decrease from 2013: 26 (37.7)
books finished ration, increase from 2013: 6.6%
books started: 106
books finished: 69 (65.1%)
finished books that were fiction: 55 (79.7%)
finished books that were nonfiction: 12 (17.4%)
finished books that were graphic novels: 2 (2.9%)
finished books by female authors: 48 (71%)
finished books by male authors: 20 (29%)
The first year I ever counted how many books I'd read, it was something ridiculous, like 212. I really think that's what it was. I was going to school full time and I worked a retail job, but I lived at home, not on campus; I didn't participate in student government; I didn't socialize. I worked, I did my schoolwork (which was not even particularly challenging, doing required courses at community college), and I read. Now, I work full-time, I do the laundry and cooking and dish washing, I spend time with my family, and I have other hobbies. Still, 43 books is more than a lot of people, so I don't feel too bad.
I'm not sure what I'm going to do this year. Some friends set themselves reading goals (100 books, which seems a little much for me, I mean that would be finishing over twice the number I read this year). I was thinking of making a reading challenge list for our little book group (you know, like read one sci-fi, one book set in a high school, one book with a bad guy as the main character), the kind of thing that's supposed to help you spread your reading wings a bit. I feel like I read an acceptably wide variety already.
I think perhaps instead, my goals will be to
1) always have something to write on my "Currently Reading" mug, i.e., to always be actively reading something, and
2) to actually post them up here at least twice a month. Posting isn't as much work as I for some reason think it is, and it always makes me feel more inspired.
at 2:00 PM
My son has been staying a few days at his grandparents', so this morning I got to sleep in until 10:15, stay in bed until 11:30, get up, do just enough dishes to get to the coffee pot, turn the fireplace on, and get back in bed for another hour. My mother-in-law deserves cake.
Yesterday's Kin by Nancy Kress. This reads alot like The Martian: it's really a story about people-- in this case, a woman, her children, and a coworker-- and, oh, there happen to be sci-fi elements. I really like that sort of sci-fi.
It also reads like The Martian in that the ending is oddly anticlimactic and makes one wonder about the author and publishing deadlines and things.
Except for the last 5 pages or so, the book was really great and I have recommended it to those friends on whom I forced The Martian, most of whom then went out and forced it on other people.
(I actually socialized last night at a friend's house. She had been late coming around to reading The Martian, but then consumed it in 2 days. Now that it's out in paperback, she had 2 copies on her counter, which she is going to give as gifts. Ha!)
What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randall Munroe. (500) I really like the web comics, but hadn't noticed the "What If?" section. (What? It's in the header border. No one ever looks there.) As this is just a compilation of answers that have been included online, it might not be a necessary read for people who follow the site religiously. But, as it was all new to me, I heartily enjoyed it. The creator is amazingly funny and assumes readers are smart enough to be able to follow along-- or at least get the general idea-- on some fairly involved science and math stuff.
Shall I Knit You a Hat?: A Christmas Yarn by Kate Klise; illustrated by M. Sarah Klise. I make my boys a hat to include in their stockings every year, and this came up in the catalog when I was searching through for new patterns. It is a sweet little picture book story, nothing earth shattering.
The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith. I have never read this book before. Shocking, no? Although my 7-year-old has a sadly inadequate familiarity with traditional fairy tales, including most of the ones in this book, he still got a kick out of it, because it's a little bit rude and some of the plots don't follow predictable lines, and that's funny.
The Boleyn King by Laura Andersen. I very much wanted to like this, and I keep picking it up, but now I'm going to put it down for real. Theoretically, I like the plot, but the sense of history isn't strong enough-- not enough historical detail, and the characters sound like modern-day speakers. Good on the author for not trying for a dialect or for conventions she hasn't mastered, which would definitely ruin the reading. The other thing is that this is a mystery set in an alternate history time line, so that's elements of mystery, historical fiction, and actually fantasy, and before a quarter of the way through, a romance story line is also being woven in. That's too many genres being melded together.
As it has been Christmas time (shocking, I know), I haven't gotten much reading done lately; I did get to watch quite a bit of TV while knitting dozen or so projects. (I'm very much looking forward to making this for myself as soon as I can find fingering weight yarn in the right color!)
Lie to Me, season 1, with Tim Roth. I have had this on my Netflix Watch list for a very long time. I wouldn't have added it if I'd noticed it starred Tim Roth; ages ago, an old boyfriend made me watch a whole bunch of Roth movies, and they were all disgusting and weird and stupid. But I am very much enjoying this show, already part way through season 2, so I'm glad I was so unobservant.
The Paradise, series 1, with Joanna Vanderham. You could watch this just for the costuming and props. It looks amazing. The acting is fine, the story line is ok, those two factors aren't why people watch BBC dramas. I'm waiting for series 2 to be available for free through Amazon Prime.
Primeval, series 1 through 4, with Andrew Lee Potts. I'm too lazy to check, but if I had to guess, I would say that the writers or directors, or both, changed season to season. I really enjoyed series 1-- uncomplicated story lines, people fighting dinosaurs, check. I don't know why they thought it necessary to add all these various conspiracies inside the government, outside the government, plus all the future time travel junk, in the later series. I'll watch 5 when it becomes available, but I'm not convinced that the show was taken in the right direction.
As a side note, a major plot change depended on the characters killing a dinosaur instead of sending it home, and that action reverberated down through history and changed some of the characters. But 1) both before and after, they had to kill other dinosaurs, or had to keep them at the research center and not send them home, and 2) they by-now hundreds of various animals that have come through and then gone home, not to mention the times the team has gone through and then come back, would have contaminated all those points in the past with modern-day germs and microbes and things, which would drastically change the evolutionary chain. They don't even make any half-assed excuses and gloss past the problem; they just ignore it. That frustrates me.
at 1:14 PM
Sunday, December 14, 2014
Back in September, our laptop got a ransom virus. Why hold our Christmas pictures hostage? I've been doing everything on the phone, which is ok, and now we just fired up the old desktop we got when I was in grad school, circa 2007. Go, compaq! It is actually working ok as long as you only have one tab open at a time, one program open at a time, and bring a book or knitting or something so the random freezes don't drive you crazy. I just keep pretending we're back on dial-up. How did we live like this?
The Republic of Imagination: America in Three Books by Azar Nafisi. This author was at the PNBA and although she was obviously very passionate about literature and libraries and exploring the world through reading, her presentation was a bit rambly and seemed to lack focus. We all went away thinking, "Yes, read all the things!" but the feeling faded and I'm not sure what the take-away was really supposed to be.
The book (or at least the part that I read) also seemed a bit out of focus: supposed to be about American literature and culture, but mostly feels like a memoir. It's probably very good, but I need something with focus now.
at 8:55 PM
Tuesday, October 21, 2014
At the end of September, I got to go to the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association annual tradeshow. This makes up a tiny bit for having to miss BEA this past summer, which I was super excited to have won a ticket to. But, kind of tapped out from moving, didn't make it, etc., etc.
So, the PNBA tradeshow as fun, met some (of course!) awesome librarians and some pretty cool authors. The majority of attendees are bookstore owners or employees, not surprisingly, and it was really interesting to listen to them talk among themselves. It was frequently frustrating, because libraries and bookstores should be working together on more things, using each other as a local resource, more than we are. They talk about alot of the same topics library people talk about-- how to get patrons to read signs, how to coach staff to do reader's advisory-- but booksellers would really benefit from attending a library conference, or even talking to their local library staff. One bookseller was totally flabbergasted that, if you make a good book recommendation to a patron, the patron will come back and want more, and how do you cultivate a relationship like that? That led to a much longer conversation than one (of us) might think strictly necessary. I also, much to my surprise, had to grimace behind a smile when booksellers said, either directly to a group of librarians or merely in my hearing, some of the thoughtless things people commonly say about libraries and library staff. We are definitely not all on the same team here.
But, I had a good time, and hey, look, I brought back a ton of books. The registration was pretty pricey (thanks, library!), but I easily got our money's worth just in books. Many are ARCs, but at least half were published and ready to back to TS for processing. Huzzah!
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari. This is interesting, and the author had a couple of points that I still mull over occasionally, but I didn't finish. It was so dry that, even on my lunch break, I couldn't read for more than a few pages at a time, half a chapter at most. Also, the longer I read, the more overly-simplified some of the examples seemed. I felt like the author's credibility was wavering, so I set it down. I'd say, don't order.
The Legend of Sheba: Rise of a Queens by Tosca Lee. The writing gave this a sort of YA feel, although I don't think it was intended as such. Just things like sentence length and a certain lack of depth to the characters lead me to say that. It is a nice historical fiction about an era, country, and historical figure I do t frequently see, so perhaps worth ordering for those reasons.
Finding Zero: A Mathematician's Odyssey to Uncover the Origins of Numbers by Amir D. Aczel. This really wasn't about math at all; it was the autobiography if a man who happened to be a mathematician. The first chapter is about when he first noticed as a boy that he was interested in math. Skipping ahead and skimming, it's stuff about being faculty at a university and that sort of thing. Not recommended.
The Birds of Pandemonium: Life Among the Exotic and the Endangered by Michele Raffin. (639.978) This wasn't what I was expecting from the title (having not even read the back) but I ended up devouring this: I stayed up waaaay to late to read about 3/4 in one go, and finished up the next day. The author has a great voice, especially since her career path mightn't lead you to expecting writing experience.
A Place of Her Own: The Legacy of Oregon Pioneer Martha Poindexter Maupin by Janet Fisher. I must have gotten this confused with another title I heard about at the trade show, because I was expecting something different. Once I realized where the story was (not) going... I still couldn't get into it. The book us marketed as nonfiction, but it is way too highly fictionalized for me: there is a main character, and her conversations, thoughts, and feelings are shared, even though there was no way those could have been documented. This would have worked, possibly excelled, as a novel rooted in true historical events. As "nonfiction," it doesn't work for me.
at 2:16 PM
Sunday, October 19, 2014
I'm not feeling too keen on starting some of this author's series, but this was a new-ish stand-alone.
I rarely look for audiobooks except when I'll be driving alone for a couple hours, and it annoys me that I cannot include running time as a search criteria through any of the audiobook portals I use. You should also make this recommendation to OverDrive and OneClick and maybe they'll actually add it. I cannot be the only one that would find this useful.
Certain plot elements, and especially the ending, were too simple, too lucky, and too neat to be very engaging.
Worst of all, this is likely to be a very long series, as the not-really-sub-title on the cover says "Book One of the One Dozen Daughters series." Twelve is way too much anything.
This is another book like The Nazi Officer's Wife: the author has a story to tell and isn't necessarily a writer. It's pretty amazing, considering how little formal education the author received. It's startling that situations like this still happen frequently in quite a lot of places.
Warehouse 13, seasons 4 and 5, with Eddie McClintock and Joanne Kelly. I... am actually pretty satisfied with the wrap-up. I definitely felt like the last episode was the writers' chance to throw in ideas for episodes that had to be cut, but the tie-up wasn't out of the blue or crazy off-kilter.
But what was up with Pete's hair? So bad.
at 9:20 PM
Saturday, October 04, 2014
Although the book was captivating, it was not entirely without faults (and my various coworker-coreaders back me up on these points): the beginning was a little uneven, as it took the character a few chapters to find his voice. It can be forgiven, because the first chapters are pretty action-packed, and I might not sound quite like myself in those circumstances either, but it was a rocky beginning. The ending is also less-than-perfect: the story either needed to end just a few minutes before, leaving us with the suspense of the unknown, or carry on a week or two to wrap up more cleanly. The way the story cuts out is a little... LifeTime Movie-ish.
However, I haven't read too much about this period at all, so it was very informative for me. It wasn't a challenging read, so I would think very appropriate for hs/college students to use, etc.
Certainly a unique and interesting story for time-travel/alternate history, but hard to wade through.
This reads alot like the author's Alaskan Royal Family and Fred the Mermaid series-- a bit silly, light, glossing over details that would require too much research or thinking.
at 7:48 PM
Thursday, October 02, 2014
Fringe, seasons 1 through 4, with Anna Torv. I really enjoyed the first two seasons; I stopped after season 4 and won't finish the run because it has gotten a little out of control-- the original storyline, a storyline in a parallel universe, a storyline in an alternate reality caused by time-travel-y future beings who may turn out to be monsters, and a 25-years-ago storyline? It worked fine when there were two-- the original and the parallel universe-- and it was still ok when they started bringing in the past-set episodes: few and far between, they function like long bits of back story. But this is just too much to keep track of. I can't see a way all storylines will merge, and if they don't, that's not a show, that's four shows.
Me and My Shadow by Katie MacAlister. More of the same in this spin-off series; enjoyable, not memorable.
Love in the Time of Dragons and The Unbearable Lightness of Dragons by Katie MacAlister. Separated from the above-mentioned title because they are numbers one and two in a different sub-series, really a spin-off of the spin-off. Each of the three three-book dragon series can be read alone, but they make more sense together. With this series, I'm having a bit of trouble coming around to the main character's love interest; he has been the villain in all six previous books and I don't find the justifications and history to be as believable as I would prefer.
Ain't Myth-Behaving by Katie MacAlister. Two short-ish stories, not linked to each other or, as far as I can tell, any of her other series or books. I very much enjoyed these. Let's be clear: these stories are beach reads, but they're beach reads without major plot or grammatical flaws. Hurrah!
at 3:50 PM
After that Benjamin Franklin business and a cross-state move, I didn't put anything up. I felt like I wasn't reading anything, although looking at the list, it's quite long. But I was only reading one thing at a time, and there weren't too many things I super-loved.
at 9:26 AM
Thursday, April 10, 2014
now I can go back to reading things I actually want to!
Glass House 51 by John Hampel. This has quite a lot of people introduced early on, none with depth. Who's important? Who are we supposed to remember? to care about? There's just too much going on.
The dialogue is meant to carry the plot forward, but mostly misses on realism.
Sutton Place by Louise Gaylord. Too, too much going on here, too many characters. This reads like it is the second in a series and the reader should know about characters and histories already. It's difficult to follow.
The Trouble with Charlie by Merry Jones. Excellent. I enjoyed how the story was about the main character, her feelings and insecurities and friends, and there happens to be a mystery going on also. Well done. There were some punctuation problems (a backwards quotation mark, that sort of thing) and too many fragments for my taste.
The Black Stiletto: Stars and Stripes by Raymond Benson. The author tries to provide several different voices/points of view for narration, but only Martin's POV chapters sound remotely natural. In the diary chapters, the voice is far too juvenile, and in the Maggie POV chapters, far too clinical, like it's just another report (and there are so few Maggie POV chapters that it would likely have been simpler to incorporate that information in another way). Makes me think the author just can't write strong female characters.
The Last Sewer Ball by Steven Schindler. The main character wrote a book that has the same title as the previous book in this pseudo-series? Isn't that a little meta?
This is technically correct, no major flaws; it just didn't grab me. I didn't feel connected to the characters. With so many technically-correct books, this didn't make the top-ten.
Replacement Children by Rick Maloy. A fantastic book. The southern vernacular as written for the main character and his family is sometimes difficult to understand, but score for likeable people reacting in realistic ways.
The Puppetmasters by K.D. Lamb. Poor formatting choices-- too-small text and extra line breaks between paragraphs (don't let Word auto-format your book!).
The writing style needs perfecting: sentences are either too short or phrases are poorly mashed in; actions and descriptions are predictable; dialogue lacks realism.
Saving Faith by Patrick M. Garry. What a fantastic title. Interesting story, likeable characters, no major flaws. Well done.
The Wings of Dragons by Josh VanBrakle. Fair enough writing, although stereotypically fantasy-genre. Slightly predictable story but engaging enough. Would have made a top-ten list in a sci-fi/fantasy only category. Sorry, it appears I've run out of sentences.
I'm having a hard time putting my top ten selections in any kind of order. They are all very good.
10: Replacement Children
9: Night Chill
8: Little Joe
7: Shadow Constant
6: The Trouble with Charlie
5: The Old Man's Love Story
4: Utopia, Texas
3: Saving Faith
2: Saving Laura
1: Cradle Lake
at 2:37 PM
Wednesday, April 09, 2014
Cradle Lake by Ronald Malfi. Excellent. Buy it, read it. Excellent suspense levels; this book makes me rethink my dislike of all things creepy. I wish I had been able to read it slowly!
Coldwater by Diana Gould. This title is interesting but not spectacular. There were some minor punctuation errors, but mostly what failed to grab me is that the main character lacks depth-- she is only a collection of problems and issues, and none of them particularly engaging or exciting. We're supposed to dislike her, I think, and want to see her turn around and improve, but the change isn't drastic enough.
The Last Guardian and the Keeper of the Magi by Ashland Menshouse. There's a lot going on in (or against) this book, none of it good. This is book 2 in a series and the reader cannot jump right in: there is too much detail from book 1 needed to follow the story. The author is not skilled at dispensing detail at the right times and the right amount; there are too many characters and a lot of fast action, and it's usually very difficult to follow what's actually going on. The dialogue and character reactions are overly simplistic and lack depth and realism. Finally, this should be in the YA category.
The Ruling by Jose Magana. This is a huge book with tiny font. Boil the story down for more potency, less rambling.
The author does not have a god grasp of flow in paragraphs or within sentences; most sound clunky and uneven, sometimes because the author is trying to incorporate more detail than necessary, or is trying to wedge in a $2 word.
The author also does not have a good grasp of suspense-- he shoots himself in the foot by working up to something exciting, then killing suspense by giving history, etc.
Knuckleduster by Andrew Post. Thumbs up for fairly good writing. Although the intended audience is obviously adults, several elements of the writing style combine to give a very YA feel-- sentence structure, short chapters, even the font. This isn't necessarily a problem, just an obvservation.
The sci-fi element is interesting, and some of the details are good, but the basic premise is not believable. That's a pretty big flaw, since the entire reason for the main character's choices is to finance this bad-science tool he relies on.
at 1:47 PM
Tuesday, April 08, 2014
...is what my son just told me. Intention, attention, same difference, right? The nerf darts have now been found and all is well with the world.
Bankers, Brokers and Charlatans by Jamie d'Antioc. A novel to introduce readers to ideas of business and finance? No, awful idea. A novel is to connect with readers, to tell a story about people. The characters are the driving reason to write. Facts support the story and add realism. If the facts are the reason the books being written, that's nonfiction. Fudging together some shallow characters won't make people interested in stocks.
The writing has a very firm sense of time... that's all wrong. Based on how the characters talk and act, I'd believe this if it were set anywhere between the '40s and '60s. These characters are not today's college students.
For the Love of Honey by C.G. Morgan. The voice in this novel is good, and consistent throughout, but very difficult to read for long. There is a reason we have standardizations in grammar and speech.
The story is good but the telling is a hurdle.
The Rise of Cain by Michael Koogler, Jed Q. Peterson, and Jaren Riley. The description on the entry label is idiotic, juvenile, and not actually helpful. Step it up. Is that the first impression you want to make? (here it is for you):
[instructions:] Describe this book in 75 words or fewer (printed or typed) and indicate the targeted audience.
[entry:] Target audience: Oprah Winfrey, Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, Jimmy Fallon, Lebron James... and anyone else that enjoys apocalyptic fiction.
Description: Best. Book. Ever.
The writing is very true to the fantasy genre in every way. The topic/focus will likely appeal to only a few.
This is the second in the series, but the reader can follow along well enough that reading the first is not required.
The Unification Symphony by Philip Rhyu. This has good characters, but there are problems with the writing. The author uses terms and turns of phrase that sound too modern for the time period. There are also too many punctuation and proof-reading errors.
The Rat-boys of Karalabad by Zulfiqar Rashid. The writing is good, with no major flaws and with a good sense of place. This is the second in a series, though, and the reader cannot just jump in with this one-- there are too many people and the set-up is not clear.
at 2:45 PM
Monday, April 07, 2014
at 11:00 AM