Sunday, October 23, 2011

series (re)reading

Series reading and rereading has been a bit of a theme for me lately. I suppose that it's because in the wake of busyness and stress, I long for the comfort of the expected.

I'm loaning one of my new coworkers the Hunger Games Trilogy (I gave her book one yesterday after a harefooted read-through on Friday) so I'm on a binging on them in anticipation of not having ready access. Oh, how I love these books! I finished Catching Fire just now and am forcing myself not to jump right into Mockingjay
A Hunger Games movie is forthcoming, but I have no desire to see it. What I dislike most about film versions of books is how they manage to completely override our own images of how things, people, and places in the book look. That's not so much a problem with books like Pride and Prejudice that are constantly remade, but for others there's often only one film version and that version overshadows the originals.

Last year I read Old Man's War by John Scalzi over the Thanksgiving holiday when I ran out of reading material. It's not a book that I'd normally pick up (see post), but my dad recommended it. I was pleasantly surprised by it and have subsequently picked up the follow-up books (again from my dad): The Ghost Brigades, The Last Colony, and Zoe's Tale.
I read The Ghost Brigades recently and will likely be tackling the other two books in short order.
I usually find science fiction to be somewhat inaccessible (it's a bit curious to me that science fiction films and television shows are so accessible when their written counterparts are so often not), which is why I tend to steer clear of it, but this series is really an exception. I recommend it for science fiction lovers as well as for people like me who don't normal read scifi.

I've been in a book spiral for the Percy Jackson and the Olympians books. What's a book spiral?, you ask. It's a way of circulating all the books in a series to a set of dispersed readers. Person A reads book 1 then sends it to B, who sends it to C, who send it to D, ..., who sends it back to A. While 1 is circulating, A reads book 2 and then starts to send it on its way. In this was all the books in the series are shared (one at a time) with each participant and then sent back to the originator. How long it takes to receive each book depends on the number of people before you in the queue, how quickly each reads, how far the books have to travel, and the efficiency of the postal service(s) involved.
I read The Lightning Thief and The Sea of Monsters in December and The Titan's Curse in February. The Battle of the Labyrinth arrived this month.
I've really enjoyed this series. I like how Riordan incorporates Greek mythology (including many lesser known creatures) into his stories. One of the things I've appreciated most is how Riordan made things that are usually considered negative (dyslexia and ADHD) into indicators of superhuman gifts because I hope that kids who suffer for one or both of these things might feel a bit better about themselves after reading this series.

I had to admit that while I've collected all the books in Lemony Snicket's Series of Unfortunately Events series, I've never managed to read it all the way through (I even have The Tragic Treasury, but I forbid Russell to play in my presence because the songs are such earworms). I've read so many other books since the last time I picked up a Snicket title that I wanted to start from the beginning, The Bad Beginning. So far I've read that, The Reptile Room, The Wide Window, and The Miserable Mill. Four down, nine to go!

Friday, October 21, 2011

quick thoughts on some recent reads

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

While Beauty Queens came highly recommended (lots of good blog reviews and a personal recommendation from friend Jessica), I can't say that I really enjoyed reading it. I liked the novel's snarky tone; how it played on pageants and pageant parents, reality TV, Lord of the Flies, and miscellaneous other stereotypes; and the diversity of the girls, their backgrounds, preferences, and points of view. As much as I appreciated all those things about Beauty Queens, I found the narrative irritating more than anything else. Beauty Queens was not a quick read for me because I didn't really want to keep reading it.

Clockwork Heart by Dru Pagliasotti

I really enjoyed Clockwork Heart. The world in which Pagliasotti sets the novel is quite intriguing - the extremely hierarchical society and how class divisions are marked, the icarus class and their role in the society, the ways in which the world is different than other steampunky settings. Clockwork Heart is a romance with a love triangle and a mystery that will keep readers guessing.
I will say that I found the romance element of the story much more successful than the mystery, which was overly complex for a book that isn't to going to have a sequel to continue building on the less immediate threat. As far as I know, Clockwork Heart is a stand-alone novel, but I'd love to read more set in this world.

Maid to Match by Deeanne Gist

Historical romance set in Asheville, North Carolina circa 1899. Tillie is a senior parlormaid at Biltmore when she has a chance to become Mrs. Vanderbilt's ladies maid, position for which she's been groomed her entire life. Her priorities shift when Mack, twin of the undeniably handsome steward Earl, comes to live at Biltmore as a man of all work.
The protagonists of Maid to Match were a bit too righteous for my taste. While they each had some flaws, I didn't find them particularly believable. The author writes inspirational (Christian) romance, which accounts for the strict moral alignment of her characters.

Viridis by Calista Taylor

I hadn't heard of Viridis before it was mentioned in the steampunk reads discussion group on GoodReads. It was available as a free Nook-book (also free on Amazon for Kindle), so I figured that it couldn't hurt to download it.
Viridis is a steampunk romantic suspense novel and the first in a planned series. I enjoyed it. Good world-building that doesn't overshadow the storyline, interesting characters, romance, and mystery, but there was one glaring narrative inconsistency that's quite hard to overlook.
There's one part of the story that some readers may have trouble with and need to skim through.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Steampunk! out this week

Steampunk! An Anthology of Fantastically Rich and Strange Stories
edited by Kelly Link and Gavin Grant

I posted about Steampunk! back in June, but the anthology is out this week so it seems like the perfect time for another post.

There's a great review written by Steampunk Scholar up on one of the blogs.

My favorite stories in the book were "Clockwork Fagin" by Cory Doctorow, "Everything Amiable and Obliging" by Holly Black, "Finishing School" (comic) by Kathleen Jennings, "The Last Ride of the Glory Girls" by Libba Bray, "The Oracle Engine" by M. T. Anderson, "Steam Girl" by Dylan Horrocks, and "The Summer People" by Kelly Link.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

on into October

I should begin this post by explaining why I haven't been posting regularly. The short answer is that I've been busy and tired. Starting a new job1 is exhausting and I have to admit that I've worn myself out trying to post as regularly as I think I should. As you can tell from my sidebar, I have been reading, I just haven't been posting about all the books that I've read. I do intend to post on many of the unreviewed books, but it'll take me some time to get to all the ones on my list.

October is going to be the craziest month of the year for me for the foreseeable future. My new employer runs lots of special events in October. And when I say "lots," I mean lots: the biggest event runs on 21 nights in October and there are three other every-weekend events. I didn't work this weekend, but I'm on special-event duty every other weekend this month (next weekend, I'm working Saturday, Sunday, and Columbus Day). So, don't expect a lot of posts in October. I suspect that I'll be falling asleep over books more often than not.

I've also been neglecting a writing project so I will be intentionally limiting my time spent on the blog for a few months after October. I'll still be posting, just not as much, because I desperately need to focus on this other project.

Just wanted to let you all know what's going on...
  1. These past six months have flown by, but I'm still very much learning the lay of the land and figuring out how to best navigate these new waters