December 31st, 2014


2014 wrap-up and goals for 2015

I have several books in progress but don't expect to complete them today, so I figured I'd do my year-end wrap-up now!

2014 in review
I got to my goal of 50 books and in fact read 54. As for my other goals:

- Read more "fun" books. Admittedly, this is a vague goal, but I believe I succeeded. There were very few books on my list this year that were a slog, and a ton that were fun, including many of my non-fiction reads.

-1/3 or more of my total to be non-fiction: I didn't quite manage this. If I'd stopped at 50 books, I would have been safe, but the extra books threw off my ratio. I read 17 non-fiction books, and out of 54, that's about 31 percent. Not too far off, so I'm not beating myself up about this goal!

-at least 10 books by non-white authors: I read 12 books by authors I know for sure are POC, including multiple Native authors for the "Trickster" graphic story collection.

-at least 4 books by LGBT authors: I read 8 books by authors I'm sure are GLBT.

-at least 2 books by disabled authors: I read 2 books by authors I know are disabled & they were both excellent reads.

Other items of note:

-This is the first year since I started tracking in 2006 that a book of poetry was on my list of 50+ books for the year.

-I usually try to achieve some sort of gender balance in my reading, but it was especially off this year. I usually end up around 22 by female authors 23 by males but this year it was 24 female/30 male. I'm going to add an additional challenge for 2015 to make up for this.

-Even though the "Artemis Fowl" audiobooks were quite short, I still only "read" 11 of my 54 books as audiobooks this year. I used to put a cap on the number of audiobooks I'd count in a year, but as I'm falling far short of that, I don't think it's necessary to enforce that anymore.

Goals for 2015

-Try for around 1/3 of my books to be non-fiction (30 percent at the lowest)
-At least 10 books by non-white authors
-At least 4 books by LGBT authors
-At least 2 books by disabled authors
-Minimum of 26 books by women authors
-At least 5 "classic" books that I haven't gotten to yet, taken from the "Lifetime Reading Plan."

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  • maribou

Slow Stoneheart; Ironhand Body; Against Silvertongue; Bathing Queen Father; Sky Waistcoats; etc

(Pardon the long post, but I am now CAUGHT UP!!!!!! For the first time since this summer. Woot. Not quite done for the year, mind you; I'm planning to make today a reading day ... )

The Slow Regard of Silent Things, by Patrick Rothfuss
This is a deeply odd book, full of twists and turns and complexity. Also there are many objects in it. I very much liked it but it is quite weird.

Stoneheart, Ironhand, and Silvertongue, by Charlie Fletcher
I really dug this series, set in an alternate layer of London where statues are animate, and either good or evil. There's more bits to the worldbuilding too, some of which overlap with Fletcher's new adult series, and they are very satisfying. The youthful characters' arcs are rather darker than is usual in fantasy series (more real-world problems in their families), in an enriching way. Over the three books the story gradually swells to a wonderful, tear-inducing close, but it takes long enough to get there. My heart was filled.
(297, 311, 312)

The Body Keeps the Score, by Bessel van der Kolk
This really a splendid book - smart, moving, chockful of useful, previously peer-reviewed information and deeply human. It was really hard to read because it hits so close to home (I took a lot of Lego breaks), but I kept being drawn back to it, rather than having to make myself read it. Warm and compassionate and solid.
(298, O64)

Up Against It, by M.J. Locke
Another in the "sci fi books I was looking for as a teenager but couldn't find enough of because they mostly didn't exist yet. Solid, interesting, varied characterization; gripping plot; intriguing speculation.

The Father Christmas Letters, by J. R. R. Tolkien (reread)
A lot of years I like to reread this on Christmas Eve and this was one of those years. I love how absurd and prankish Tolkien's North Pole is, and it's neat to see larger themes develop over the years.
(305, O70)

To Visit the Queen, by Diane Duane
I love kitchen-sink books when all the elements are things I adore, and these elements are stuffed together so elegantly that it doesn't even feel kitchen-sinkish, unless you try to thumbnail a description. Time-traveling cat wizards in alternate timeline Londons, with guest starring role by Queen Victoria. :D (And I didn't even talk about the team management discussions....)

Bathing the Lion, by Jonathan Carroll
Such a strange book, but I couldn't stop reading it. Like a lot of Carroll's work, it skates on the edge of not making sense much of the time, but never actually crosses over. Also I couldn't figure out why I disliked all the characters until I came across Neil Gaiman's comment that it was like John Updike and Philip K. Dick at the same time. That is very true AND it explains a lot since I've never liked an Updike character in my life. Anyway, despite this ambivalent review, I really liked it, much more than I did his last novel. I am excited to read the voluminous short story collection of his I have on the shelf, now.

Waistcoats & Weaponry, by Gail Carriger
A steampunkish, manners-focused, high adventurous romp, as one could expect from Carriger. Lovely to see all the resonances with her previous series, written in such a way that they never muddy or overwhelm the current story.

The Dot, Ish, and Sky Color, by Peter Reynolds
Charming, beautifully illustrated, didactic stories about trusting your imagination. I dug 'em.
(309, O71; 310, O72; 311, O73)

Signore Tamborini et autre fictions, by YAYO
Short little poem/stories about odd / surrealist illustrations. I enjoyed them only so-so on their merits, but then there was a layer of "yay! reading in French! I have missed reading in French!" and another layer of being delighted that a very dear friend picked this book up for me and had it signed by the author, so I ended up with a surfeit of fondness for the book.
(310, O74)

Animal Artisans, by Michael Allaby
This was a really interesting book about animal behavior - especially around tool-making and other forms of "human-like" behavior (building, hitching rides, etc). It's from 1982 though, and biology has come a long way since then, so it isn't what you could call a reliable source. Also it was a bit repetitive and dry. Still! So full of neat animals doing cool things.
(313, O75)
  • Current Music
    watching a movie called "Barking Water"
  • jontlaw

2014 - 50 books

1. The Faded Sun: Kutath by C.J. Cherryh
2. Ironwolf: The Fires of Revolution GN by Howard Chaykin
3. Ghosts of Manhattan by George Mann
4. Ghosts of War by George Mann
5. Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: The Scroll of the Dead by David Stuart Davies
6. Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: The Man from Hell by Barrie Roberts
7. Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: The Ectoplasmic Man by Daniel Stashower
8. Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: The Stalwart Companions by H. Paul Jeffers
9. Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: The Seventh Bullet by Daniel D. Victor
10. The Executioner's Heart by George Mann
11. The Casebook of Newbury and Hobbes by George Mann
12. Timeless by Gail Carriger
13. Clementine by Cheri Priest
14. Dreadnought by Cheri Priest
15. Ganymede by Cheri Priest
16. The Inexplicables by Cherie Priest
17. Fiddlehead by Cherie Priest
18. The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers
19. Morlock Night by K.W. Jeter
20. Waiting for the Barbarians by J.M. Coetzee
21. Stardust by Neil Gaiman
22. The Prestige, by Christopher Priest
23. Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said, by Philip K. Dick
24. Grendel, by John Gardner
25. The Man Who Was Thursday, by G.K. Chesterton
26. At the Mountains of Madness, by H.P. Lovecraft
27. Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde, by Robert Louis Stevenson
28. Out of the Silent Planet, by C.S. Lewis
29. Perelandra, by C.S. Lewis
30. The Alienist, by Caleb Carr
31. The Space Merchants, by Frederick Pohl & C.M. Kornbluth
32. A Canticle for Liebowitz, by Walter M. Miller, Jr
33. The Sirens of Titan, by Kurt Vonnegut
34. Something Wicked This Way Comes, by Ray Bradbury
35. Cat's Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut
36. Slaughterhouse Five, by Kurt Vonnegut
37. Witch World, by Andre Norton
38. The Difference Engine, by Bruce Sterling & William Gibson
39. Neuromancer, by William Gibson
40. The Postman, by David Brin
41. A Scanner Darkly, by Philip K. Dick
42. The Pride of Chanur, by C.J. Cherryh
43. Chanur's Venture, by C.J. Cherryh
44. Leviathan, by Scott Westerfeld
45. Behemoth, by Scott Westerfeld
46. Goliath, by Scott Westerfeld
47. Doomsday Book, by Connie Willis
48. Baltimore, by Mike Mignola & Christopher Golden
49. Johannes Cabal, Necromancer, by Jonathan Howard
50. Johannes Cabal, Detective, by Jonathan Howard
Read or Die

Books 49 and 50

49) Starting Point 1979-1996 by Hayao Miyazaki. Translated by Beth Cary and Frederik L. Schodt. Originally published in Japanese 1996, English publication 2009. A collection of essays, interviews, and lectures with Hayao Miyazaki, the Oscar winning director, writer, and producer of Spirited Away from Studio Ghibli. He will be receiving a lifetime achievement award from The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 2015.

50) The Cruel Sea by Nicholas Monsarrat. 1951. The battle of the Atlantic was mostly done in boats – corvettes, frigates, destroyers, and aircraft carriers escorting the goods and materials needed during the Second World War from te German U-boats. We meet our officers and crew in their first boat, a corvette named Compass Rose. After their corvette is torpedoed, they get a new frigate called Saltash. We witness the horrors of dying in the freezing Atlantic, the boat fires, and the fuel spills. But there are amusing bits, showing that even navy men have a sense of humour between battles.

I read 50th book just hours before the deadline. And now to start it all over gain in  2015.
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chick lit, paradise

Book 229: Shopaholic to the Stars by Sophie Kinsella

Book 229: Shopaholic to the Stars (Shopaholic #7).
Author: Sophie Kinsella, 2014.
Genre: Chick-lit. Humour.
Other Details: ebook 394 pages. Unabridged Audiobook (12 hrs, 38 mins). Read by Clare Corbett.

Becky Brandon (nee Bloomwood) is in Hollywood! It's as if all her life has been leading to this moment. She's hanging out with the stars … or at least she will be, when she finally gets to meet movie superstar Sage Seymour, whom husband Luke is now managing. Becky sets her heart on a new career - she's going to be a celebrity stylist. Red carpet, here she comes! But Becky soon finds it's tough in Tinseltown. Luckily her best friend Suze comes over to keep her company, and together they embark on the Hollywood insider trail. But somehow...things aren't quite working out as they’d hoped. Then Becky's big chance comes, and it's an opportunity that money can't buy. But will it cost her too much? - synopsis from UK publisher's website.

What a terrific combination - Becky in Hollywood amidst the celebrities, paparazzi and life-style gurus. Her self-involvement pales in comparison. Becky is her usual giddy self getting into various improbable situations. Underneath the humour is the serious issue of how far Becky will go to secure her new career as a celebrity stylist.

Up until now I have always listened to the Emily Gray recordings though here the reader was Clare Corbett, who I felt did a brilliant job with the narration. I especially loved her Minnie. It was a very funny novel, perfect for audio.

I will warn that the book ends on a cliff-hanger so various unresolved issues and some mysteries are left up in the air until Becky and Company returns. Hopefully not to long a wait until Sophie Kinsella writes the next in the series.
Reading - La Liseuse

Books #48-52

48. Deeply Odd by Dean Koontz, 405 pages, Horror, 2013 (Odd Thomas, Book 6).

Odd Thomas, the unemployed fry-cook who can see the lingering dead, is continuing his travels as he tries to cope with the loss of his girl in a mass shooting 19 months prior. Currently, he is the platonic companion (champion?) of a young pregnant girl who seems to know, well, most everything, and a boy they rescued in Book 5. This story starts as Odd believing he was going into town for a few necessary clothing items, to find himself face-to-face with Evil dressed as a rhinestone cowboy. Making the acquaintance of a feisty octogenarian who promptly proclaims him her chauffeur, even though she does most of the driving, he makes his way to do battle for the lives of 17 children. It’s an intense book, a welcome addition to the Odd Thomas series. But supposedly the next book is the last, and this book left me wondering so much about his new benefactor and her friends.

49. Bonk by Mary Roach, 319 pages, Non-fiction, 2008.

Mary Roach is hands-down my FAVORITE non-fiction author. Her humor makes every subject easier to cope with. Maybe sometimes she’s a little too much in this book about sex, but she did put herself (and her husband) out there more than most would for any book. There’s a lot of data, and a lot of cringe-worthy spots, but the book is well organized and not gratuitous, even with the subject matter. I learned a few things about human sexuality. The focus is mainly those scientists who have studied human sexuality and their methodology, but it always comes back to the human side instead of just the scientific world.

50. Kill the Dead by Richard Kadrey, 434 pages, Dark Fantasy, 2010 (Sandman Slim, Book 2).

Sandman Slim, aka James Stark, is trying to make a living in Los Angeles. The video rental store he took over never turns a profit, so he does jobs for the Golden Vigil (Homeland Security offshoot headed by an angel). But he also does jobs for Lucifer, who requests his services as a bodyguard while he is staying in LA. No one is expecting zombies – Drifters – to show up and make the party even more interesting, especially when the Vigil’s angel decides it is time to clean up the streets of those she does not like – including some fallen angels and a badass nephilim. It’s Sandman Slim to the rescue, aided by his friends and a Romany porn star/zombie killer. Excellent continuation of the series!

51. Aloha From Hell by Richard Kadrey, 438 pages, Dark Fantasy, 2011 (Sandman Slim, Book 3).

Stark has been biding his time in LA, but when he is convinced by his friends to help in a missing person/exorcism-gone-wrong case, he finds that some things must be taken care of at the source. It’s finally time to take care of Mason, the man who sent him to Hell in the first place, who has now taken over the joint and joined up with the angel Aelita to take down Heaven. It will take everything Stark ever knew, the angel living in his head, and the reputation and skills of Sandman Slim to get him through this. There are a few cases of deus ex machina, but in a book full of gods, demons, angels, and monsters, what else would you expect? Excellent book in an excellent series.

52. Thumbprint: A Story by Joe Hill, 26 pages, Thriller, 2007.

The first thumbprint came in the mail. PFC Mallory “Mal” Grennan had been a part of those who worked at Abu Ghraib, the prison where detainees were humiliated for the guards’ entertainment. She hadn’t been in the photographs, which at least let her come home a free woman. After resuming her life, she starts receiving thumbprints, one thumb on a sheet of white paper. She knew it was a threat, but she has no idea who or what is waiting for her. This is a tight short story, from the horrible memories of her time in the war to the horrible reality of what the thumbprints mean.
once upon a time

Book 230: Indexing by Seanan McGuire

Book 230: Indexing.
Author: Seanan McGuire, 2014.
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Retold Fairy Tales. GLBT.
Other Details: Paperback. 404 pages.

"Never underestimate the power of a good story.” Good advice...especially when a story can kill you.

For most people, the story of their lives is just that: the accumulation of time, encounters, and actions into a cohesive whole. But for an unfortunate few, that day-to-day existence is affected—perhaps infected is a better word—by memetic incursion: where fairy tale narratives become reality, often with disastrous results. That's where the ATI Management Bureau steps in, an organization tasked with protecting the world from fairy tales, even while most of their agents are struggling to keep their own fantastic archetypes from taking over their lives. When you're dealing with storybook narratives in the real world, it doesn't matter if you're Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, or the Wicked Queen: no one gets a happily ever after.
- synopsis from Goodreads

In recent years there has been a fashion in fantasy and even science fiction for re-telling various fairy tales and here Seanan McGuire uses this as the premise for this intelligent, tongue-in-cheek urban fantasy in which fairy tales are imposing themselves into the narratives of various lives with usually disastrous results .

Anyone familiar with Bruno Bettelheim and his definitive work 'The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales' will recognise the concept that we internalise fairy tales into our psychological make-up though here it is taken to the extreme of people becoming actively storybook characters.

It is very clever book and I enjoyed it very much though the main characters, who are agents of the ATI Management Bureau, do seem to stomp about feeling angry much of the time. Still with the pressures of their job it is easy to understand why. It reminded me that I need to read more of Seanan's work and plan to make that a priority in 2015.

This wraps up my reading for 2014.