Spring Reading Thing Wrap-Up

Did you finish reading all the books on your spring reading list? If not, why not?

I did not finish all the books on my initial list, but I did pretty well regardless.

I kept up with the Clash of Kings read-along as well as my weekly short story and weekly poem goals. I did indeed finish People of the Book: A Decade of Jewish Science Fiction and, with the help of the Bout of Book read-a-thon, read all of the available Nebula nominated short stories, novelettes, and *novellas*. Thus far, I’ve only read one story from the Millhauser collection. His writing hasn’t clicked with me.

From my list, I  read:

  • Bad Luck Officer by Suzie Ivy
  • Heaven – The Afterlife Series I  by Mur Lafferty
  • Chocolate & Vicodin by Jennette Fulda
  • Through Darkest America – Extended Version by Neal Barrett, Jr. (Still in progress)

I didn’t get to The Italian Secretary by Caleb Carr and I gave up on Moby Duck: The True Story of 28,800 Bath Toys Lost at Sea… by Donovan Hohn.

Did you stick to your original goals or did you change your list as you went along?

I’m a magpie when it comes to reading. Any shiny thing sets me off in another direction.  Books that I read that weren’t on my list:

  • The Two Sams by Glen Hirshberg
  • The Woman in Black by Susan Hill
  • The Pirates!: And Adverture with Scientists by Gideon Defoe
  • Asgard Stories: Tales from Norse Mythology by Mary H. Foster & Mabel H. Cummings
  • The Snowman’s Children by Glen Hirshberg

What was your favorite book that you read this spring? Least favorite? Why?

One of those shiny things that distracted me was the short story “The Muldoon” by Glen Hirshberg from The People of the Book anthology. It is the creepiest thing I have read in a long time and it set off a Hirshberg binge. My favorite book of spring was The Two Sams, an anthology of his short stories. Since I didn’t finish Moby Duck, it is obviously my least favorite. I really wanted it to be more science and less travel log.

Did you discover a new author or genre this spring? Did you love them? Not love them?

Of the distinct authors I read, Donovan Hohn, Susan Hill, Gideon Defoe, Mary H. Foster & Mabel H. Cummings, and Glen Hirshberg were all new to me. Glen Hirshberg is the only one I’m utterly taken with. It was also good to get back to some subtle horror.

Did you learn something new because of Spring Reading Thing 2012 – something about reading, about yourself, or about a topic you read about?

SRT 2012 reiterated that I don’t do too well with reading lists, but I shouldn’t beat myself up about it. If I just go with the flow, I get more reading done. I’m also pleased to find that I can still really like a specific author. It’s been a while since I’ve wanted to consume everything written by a particular author. It’s hard to do sometimes as a writer. Ego and the critical eye both get in the way.

What was your favorite thing about the challenge?

Even though it’s been a decade since I moved from Nebraska to Arizona, I still like things that delineate seasons. Spring Reading Thing girds me for the long summer to come.

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Books #11 & #12

I ended up perusing the Greater Phoenix Digital Library on Wednesday and checked out a few books. (What, I was supposed to keep to a list?) Since the data drive on this computer is horked up and, therefore, Adobe Digital Editions is more arduous than normal, I read these books on Amazon’s Kindle Cloud Reader app on my PC. I still don’t know what Amazon has against page numbers, but otherwise the formatting was good.

The Woman in Black: A Ghost Story by Susan Hill

After The Two Sams, I was still in the mood for ghost stories. The Woman in Black ended up being much different than I expected. For some reason, I was expecting it to be more romantic. It is, in fact, a straight-up old-fashioned ghost story. And if it was the first ghost story I had ever read, I’d have a higher opinion of it. It is derivative and meant to be so. Hill opts for the gothic novel contrivance of a framing narrator/story, though I’m not sure it’s particularly necessary. The storytelling is methodical and detailed. Maybe even a little slow. Don’t get me wrong; I like these sorts of novels. I wrote one, in fact! It wasn’t the perfect read on the heels of Hirshberg’s more visceral style, but it wasn’t a hardship to read either.

The Pirates! in an Adventure with Scientists by Gideon Defoe

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from this one either. I had seen the trailer for the movie and heard Mark Kermode reviewing it, but otherwise, I didn’t know too much about the book itself. I was under the impression the it was a kids book along the lines of The Name of this Book is a Secret. While I haven’t read that book, I’m sure it’s not as dark or bawdy (or salty, if you will) as The Pirates! It does seem to have a similar brand of absurd silliness. I don’t mind absurd or silly, but there has to be a dollop of clever as well. The Pirates! didn’t have enough clever in my opinion. Or, I just might be a grump…

Book #10* & Bout of Books Update

Bout of Books Read-a-Thon

Bout of Book Update & Observations

I’m pretty happy with how Bout of Books is going, reading-wise. I’ve read three novellas and a anthology of short stories, about 380 pages altogether. For a slow reader like me, I’m happy with that.  But, I should be writing more. I’m probably going to go “off list” and read a few things I checked out from the digital library. (“Read a few” is probably a gross overstatement.)

Which brings me to my first observation: Since yesterday I’ve seen tweets about “failing” Bout of Books. Failing? Really? A.) It ain’t even over yet! There’s plenty of time to get more reading done. B.) Why the consternation over something fun? If you’ve read one word more than you might have this week, that’s a total win.

Second observation: What a cool world we live in.  Someone can ask for a recommendation, get one, and have the opportunity (in many cases) to  immediately download the book. It’s a continuous reading experience. How is that not awesome?

The Two Sams: Ghost Stories by Glen Hirshberg

Hirshberg tells ghost stories like I like to hear ghost stories.

Each tale moves inevitably forward, from the normal to the strange, with Orphean clauses strongly intact. Don’t look back to see the thing rustling behind you! Hirshberg excels at aural details. You hear the environment he creates. Each story, with the exception of the title story, have very definite settings. The Pacific northwest. Hawaii. The New Mexico desert. And, my favorite, the prairies of eastern Montana.

This is a really cohesive collection of five stories. All five involve teachers and certain threads of detail weave from one story to the next. I didn’t expect them to be quite so homogenous (and similar in feel to “The Muldoon” from the People of the Book anthology), so I’m left wondering if all Hirshberg’s stories are like this. Regardless, I’ll probably read another of his books when I can.

In light of my comment above about downloading books (viola!), I ordered this paperback via Paperback Swap. After waiting the requisite amount of time for it to reach me, it was eventually marked “Lost.” I was surprised when it arrived Saturday via the US Postal’s Mail Recovery Center. The sender had addressed it to me, Apt #4, Tempe, AZ. No street address. Luckily, my married name is pretty singular and the post office was able to get it to me.

* I’ll write a review for book #9 after Bout of Books.

2011 Nebula Award Nominees

Every year I say I’m going to do it. Read all of the available Nebula nominated short works before the awards ceremony. Usually, I get through the short stories. Maybe a novelette or two. This year? Four novellas, five novelettes, seven short stories. I am totally counting this for the SpecFic Challenge.

Lists and links via SF Signal

Novella

Kiss Me Twice” by Mary Robinette Kowal (Asimov’s Science Fiction, June 2011) – A cyber-noir, if you will. Enjoyable, though I found the world-building aspects to be a bit lacking.

Silently and Very Fast” by Catherynne M. Valente (WFSA Press; Clarkesworld Magazine, October 2011) – What if a program achieved sentience? What would they dream? What myths would they make? Could we still use it? I liked this more than I thought I would, though I’m not sure I want to read more if it. (This is part one of a series.)

“The Ice Owl” by Carolyn Ives Gilman (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, November/December 2011)

The Man Who Bridged the Mist” by Kij Johnson (Asimov’s Science Fiction, October/November 2011) – I think I would have liked this story better if it were a Western.

The Man Who Ended History: A Documentary” by Ken Liu (Panverse Three, Panverse Publishing) – Ken Lui should win something if only because he wrote this and “Paper Menagerie.” This story is as brutal as that one is sweet.

“With Unclean Hands” by Adam-Troy Castro (Analog Science Fiction and Fact, November 2011)

Novelette

Fields of Gold” by Rachel Swirsky (Eclipse 4, Night Shade Books) – I was recently told by the editor of a magazine that stories about the afterlife are what beginners write. Yeah, whatever. Not my favorite of Swirsky’s stories, but still solid.

“Ray of Light” by Brad R. Torgersen (Analog Science Fiction and Fact, December 2011)

Sauerkraut Station” by Ferrett Steinmetz (Giganotosaurus, November 2011) – Lots of “horrors of war” in this one. I do appreciate the female characters.

Six Months, Three Days” by Charlie Jane Anders (Tor.com, June 2011) – I had read this story when it first premiered on Tor’s site. Or at least I started to read it; I’m not sure I finished it.Interesting little tale pitting choice vs. determinism.

The Migratory Pattern of Dancers” by Katherine Sparrow (Giganotosaurus, July 2011) – In its plot points, its a very basic story. While I’m not a fan of dystopias, Sparrow’s worldbuilding in 10k of words is as good as many novels I’ve read. Often, less is so much more.

The Old Equations” by Jake Kerr (Lightspeed Magazine, July 2011) – What if we embarked upon near-light-speed travel without knowing about relativity? But I don’t know why you’d send a married guy off into this…

“What We Found” by Geoff Ryman (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, September/October 2011)

Short Story

Her Husband’s Hands” by Adam-Troy Castro (Lightspeed Magazine, October 2011) – Creepy and disquieting. And another dystopia, this one with an ever-raging war.

Mama, We are Zhenya, Your Son” by Tom Crosshill (Lightspeed Magazine, April 2011) – Definitely presents a pessimistic view of science. Told by absence of details.

Movement” by Nancy Fulda (Asimov’s Science Fiction, March 2011) – An decent tale, socially poignant. Deals with a temporal autistic and the nature of being “fixed” or “evolved.”

Shipbirth” by Aliette de Bodard (Asimov’s Science Fiction, February 2011) – This is from the realm of far-out SF. You just have to go with it. It really is amazing how much backstory/world building can be skipped.

The Axiom of Choice” by David W. Goldman (New Haven Review, Winter 2011) – Another story about choice and determinism. I like this one better than “Six Month, Three Days.”

The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees” by E. Lily Yu (Clarkesworld Magazine, April 2011) – Another tale that deals somewhat with evolution, but in a more social construct way.

The Paper Menagerie” by Ken Liu (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, March/April 2011) – A sweet, fanciful, heart-string tugger.

Bout of Books Read-a-thon

Wrap-Up

In the matter of read-a-thons, “goal” is a relative term for me.

I don’t play well with lists. I blame college. As slow as I am, the only way I managed to keep up with an English major’s reading load by churning through it without thought. A read-a-thon facilitates the need to relentless move forward with reading, but I also have the freedom to do whatever I want. Left to my own devices, I follow a reading list for slightly longer than it takes for me to write it. Also, my TBR pile is like Tetris.  Never ending, and progress is progress whether from the top, bottom, or middle.

What I’m saying is, I didn’t exactly clear my goal list. But if my goal was to read more than I usually do? Mission accomplished!

I read three books, three novellas, a short story, and a few odd poems and chapters here and there. If all that I would have done was finish the Nebula nomineed short works, I would have been happy. I also participated in a few challenges, lurked around Twitter, and visited some new blogs. This was my first Bout of Books, and I was impressed with how smooth and laid back it was, socially. Major kudos to the Bout of Books team for putting together a great event.

—###—

I’m joining a read-a-thon. On the fly. An impulse participation, if you will.

Shhh. Don’t tell my husband.

That last bit is a joke. Eric humors me.

Bout of Books Read-a-Thon

Actually, participation in a Bout of Books feeds into something I was thinking about this morning. I was in a very quiet place yesterday. I felt productive and unhurried, getting some chores out of the way and thinking some mildly creative thoughts. Most importantly, the day seemed to stretch. What was the different about yesterday? I spent a good amount of time yesterday reading. Relatively unconnected. Like I used to be when I was a more productive writer. (Maybe I’m just as productive now; I haven’t looked at numbers. But I don’t feel as productive.)

Plus, my 24-hour read-a-thon was kind of a bust.

My Goals

This is an experiment of sorts. I want to read a bunch this week, but I also want to write a bunch. I’m going to include a word count in my update section. Basically, I want shift the time I spend doing nonsense online into reading and see where I end up.

Books To Read

I want to finish up the available Nebula Award nominees before the awards ceremony this weekend: DONE! (Review)

Also:

Finish The Big Short by Michael Lewis
The Two Sams by Glen Hirshberg DONE! (Review)
Through Darkest America by Neal Barrett, Jr.

“Off-List”: (added Wednesday)

The Woman in Black by Susan Hill DONE!
The Pirates!: And Adverture with Scientists by Gideon Defoe DONE!

Updates

5/14

Number of pages I’ve read today: ~72 (darn electronic books)
Total number of pages I’ve read: ~72
Books: Finished “Silently and Very Fast” by Catherynne M. Valente, “Kiss Me Twice” by Mary Robinette Kowal
Words written: 370

5/15

Number of pages I’ve read today: ~112
Total number of pages I’ve read: ~184
Books: “The Man Who Ended History: A Documentary” by Ken Liu, “The Man Who Bridged the Mist” by Kij Johnson, a chapter of A Clash of Kings, started The Two Sams
Words written: 0, The headache gnomes were not in my plan.
This or That  Challenge

5/16

Number of pages I’ve read today: 132
Total number of pages I’ve read: ~316
Books: 3/5th (story-wise) through The Two Sams
Words written: 370-ish

5/17

Number of pages I’ve read today: 64, and…er…darn Kindle Cloud app…
Total number of pages I’ve read: ~380 (and 36%)
Books: Finished The Two Sams, 36% of The Woman in Black by Susan Hill
Words written: 0

5/18

Number of pages I’ve read today: 3
Total number of pages I’ve read: ~383 (and 36%)
Books: The Big Short
Words written: 0
Ended up taking the day off from reading, but still did the Books & Shoes Challenge.

5/19

Number of pages I’ve read today: Last 64% of one, 41% of another.
Total number of pages I’ve read: ~599 (and 41%)
Books: Finished The Lady in Black by Susan Hill, The Pirates!: And Adventure with Scientists by Gideon Defoe
Words written: 132

5/20

Number of pages I’ve read today: Last 59%, ~22
Total number of pages I’ve read: ~765
Books: Finished The Pirates!: And Adventure with Scientists by Gideon Defoe, short story “About Fairies” by Pat Murphy, seven poems from Minorities,
Words written: 428

#Readathon Wrap-Up and Book No. 8

Read-a-thon Wrap-Up

The Spring 2012 Read-a-thon was pretty much a bust for me. Hungover on 3 hours of sleep is not the best way to go into 24 hours of reading. Plus, a friend of ours has been a little worse for wear and, well, I’m the healer of our EQ2 group. I ended up gaming during the afternoon and evening. When we called it a night at 11pm, all I wanted was sleep. Continuing to read did not sound like fun at all.

I did finish one short book, a novelette, a few chapters of A Clash of Kings, and a bit of poetry. About 180 pages in all.

Book #8 – Heaven by Mur Lafferty

Heaven is book one of Mur Lafferty’s Afterlife Series.  I like stories that play around with theology. The initial premise of the Afterlife Series is that everyone has their personal heaven. And every religion has their own personal corner of the afterlife. Kate and Daniel, our two protagonists, become disenchanted with the usual concept of Christian heaven and take to the road, visiting other theologies and having adventures. And I really liked the first half of the book.

This series started its life as a podiobook serial with, I believe, a chapter or so being published in audio form every week or so as a “season.” As such, the plot has an episodic feel to it and a somewhat rough progression. The ending is very rushed, especially considering the leisurely early chapters, with quite a bit of exposition. It probably would have been better as a 230 page book instead of a 130 page book.

Halfway through the book, Lafferty changes from the first person POV of Kate to the first person POV of Daniel. Unfortunately, the character’s voices aren’t quite different enough to not be confusing. There is some necessity to the change, but it still doesn’t work particularly well.

Read-a-thon Update Post

Initial Notes: Betsy’s post-dissertation shindig was last night. I drank too many beers. And went to bed at 2am… Still feeling the beers. Anyway, this is the post I’ll be updating all day.

Introductory Questionnaire

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today? Tempe, AZ
2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to? Steven Millhauser’s The Barnum Museum
3) Which snack are you most looking forward to? I think I might be able to convince my husband to go on a doughnut run when he gets up.
4) Tell us a little something about yourself! I’m a writer by trade. I like ultimate frisbee. And beer. 😉
5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? Read more short stories to change things up a little.

05:28, Saturday
Book: A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin, pg. 372
Food & Drink: Yesterday’s coffee (1/2 mug). Water.
Noise: Morning earworm – “Whole Wide World” by Wreckless Eric
Environment: Back room, overhead light.
Other Activity: Introductory Questionnaire (above), some Twittering

06:21, Saturday
Book: A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin, pg. 385 (This is a re-read, but, wow, I don’t remember *that* happening.)
Food & Drink: Ham, egg & cheese on an English muffin. Diet Sun Drop.
Noise: The city waking up. Birds.
Environment: Back room, overhead light.
Other Activity: Cooking.

07:53, Saturday
Book: “Sauerkraut Station” by Ferrett Steinmetz (Giganotosaurus, November 2011), Pg 8
Food & Drink: None
Noise: Nothing new.
Environment: Couch.
Other Activity: Nap! (Already. But I did only have three hours of sleep.)

09:03, Saturday
Book: Sauerkraut Station” by Ferrett Steinmetz (Giganotosaurus, November 2011), Pg 28 (Yes, I’m a slow reader.)
Food & Drink: Robin Eggs, Coffee, Water.
Noise: I’d like to put on a soundtrack, but nothing’s coming to mind.
Environment: Back room, natural light.
Other Activity: Little bit of web surfing.

10:02, Saturday
Book: Reading a few poems from Minorities. I think I’ll hit Mur Lafferty’s Heaven next. (Picked it back up at pg. 11)
Food & Drink: Nothing new.
Noise:  Nothing new.
Environment: Back room, natural light.
Other Activity: Turn to Page… Mini Challenge

11:05, Saturday
Book: Mur Lafferty’s Heaven. (Pg. 22)
Food & Drink: Popcorn, water.
Noise: Nothing new.
Environment: Back room, natural light.
Other Activity: Phone call from Chris, talked to Eric a little.

12:05, Saturday
Book: Mur Lafferty’s Heaven. (Pg. 40)
Food & Drink: Reese’s Peanut Butter Egg, water, coffee.
Noise: Nothing new.
Environment: Back room, natural light.
Other Activity: Nothing else.

13:11, Saturday
Book: Mur Lafferty’s Heaven. (Pg. 67)
Food & Drink: Water Diet A&W Cream Soda.
Noise: Listened to some Bernard Herrmann for a while.
Environment: Back room, natural light. Er…the bathroom.
Other Activity: Nothing else.

16:28, Saturday
Taking an EQ2/Dinner/Nap break.

19:11, Saturday
Book: Mur Lafferty’s Heaven. (Pg. 110)
Food & Drink: Carrot Cake Ice Cream, Pepsi Max
Noise: Nothing
Environment: Back room, natural light and overhead light.
Other Activity: Nothing else.

Page Count: 180