March reading round-up

  • # of books read: 14
  • audiobooks listened to: 3
  • ebooks read: 3
  • books from the Throne of Glass series: 2
  • graphic novels: 3
  • total page count: 3,998
  • year total page count: 12,251

Well, I still haven’t beat that crazy reading streak I had in January.  It does seem that I’m reading roughly 4,000 pages a month, though, and I can attest that several of the books this month were really long (including one that will end up being in next month’s round-up).

Only 3 audiobooks this month.  The first was the YA novel Shallow Graves by Kali Wallace, which I enjoyed despite its unevenness.  The other two audiobooks were both similar in genre and tone: Paul Tremblay’s Disappearance at Devil’s Rock and Megan Abbott’s You Will Know Me.  Both dealt with mothers and the hidden lives of their teenagers.  Both were also interesting character studies as not much by way of action happened, but kept me hooked until the end.

Darkly amusing #bookstagram #thedinner #hermankoch #justfinished

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The Dinner was recommended to me by a friend, and it was both short and disturbing.  I enjoy disturbing.  This was the kind of real-world disturbing, a scenario showing how thin the masks of polite society are, and how easily people descend into violent depths.

One of my favorite reads this month was Silence Fallen by Patricia Briggs.  This series continues to keep me hooked on the complicated political world of supernatural creatures.  Of course, Mercy Thompson is one of the strongest female characters I’ve ever read, and this installment revolves around that reputation.  I finished off another series just today, the Experiment in Terror series by Karina Halle.  The final book, Dust to Dust, wrapped everything up nicely.  If you enjoy those ghost hunter shows, this series is for you.

I started watching “The Man in the High Castle” last month, and binge-watched both seasons.  The book doesn’t develop the characters quite so much as the show does, and is more about the randomness of possibility and choice rather than the concept of parallel universes, but it was a thought-provoking read. (I’ll have to include Girls on Fire in next month’s round-up, since I’m still only halfway through).

On the graphic novel front, I only read 3 and they were from the same series: Harrow County.  I had read volume 1 last spring and only now discovered that a.) there were 4 volumes out already and b.) my library consortium had them all!  These are kind of horror, but also strangely wholesome?  The main character Emmy is a witch, but she wants to use her powers to help people.  She also has a familiar in the shape of a boy’s skin that speaks to her, and an evil twin, and there are lots of “haints” around who are more than ready to do evil stuff.  (See what I mean about wholesome/horror?)

Two more books in the Throne of Glass series read this month: The Assassin’s Blade, a prequel which contains 5 novellas, and Heir of Fire, book 3.  It seems like each book in this series gets longer and longer… and Heir of Fire in particular felt long, more like a setup for a grand finale.  However, it’s still really good!  Only 2 books left to go…

Finally, I got around to reading Caraval, which I received via Owl Crate.  I was pretty psyched about this month’s theme, which was circus.  I was half-expecting to receive the book Freeks, which would have better fit the theme, but Caraval had its own charm.  It’s a fun read if you don’t take it too seriously.  It’s also a beautiful book, and receiving it through the mail with lots of luxurious little goodies fit the theme of the book.  I can’t wait for next month’s box!

I may decide to include a Wattpad reading round-up at some point in the future – but probably not next month, since I’ll be busy participating in Camp Nanowrimo and hopefully cranking out the third and final Wolf Point prequel!

What have you read this month that you enjoyed?

3 on a theme: books within books

I am often reading between 3 and 5 books at the same time, and occasionally there’s a theme that might not be remarkable in one book… but when I see it in three books, I take notice.

Well, I started this blog post with three recent titles, then I kept finding more.  I’ll try to keep it to these three, because their inclusion in the novels felt more important to the plot than some of the other fictional titles.

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All read in December 2016-January 2017

The premise of Melanie Raabe’s The Trap includes a mention of the fictional book right on the cover blurb: “I know who killed my sister.  I wrote this book for him.”  The narrator, an author, writes a book called Blood Sisters about her sister’s murder in an effort to lure the murderer, a journalist, to her secluded house, where she plans to get him to confess.  There are chapters from the fictional book, which later one wonders how closely these chapters actually follow the truth.

A fictional book called The Bubblegum Reaper brings together two teens in Matthew Quick’s Every Exquisite Thing.  The fictional novel involves a teenage boy who falls in love with a twin who talks to turtles, only he isn’t sure which of the identical twins he’s in love with.  The characters, in their obsession with this book, discover that the author lives nearby and after striking up a friendship with him, also discover that The Bubblegum Reaper seems to be a thinly veiled story of his own life.  Every Exquisite Thing reminded me a LOT of The Fault in Our Stars, which has its own fictional novel, An Imperial Affliction.  Still no idea why the book is called The Bubblegum Reaper.

Finally, and you knew I’d be back to talk about this one, A List of Cages features an entire SERIES of fictional novels: the Elian Mariner books, which sound suspiciously like The Little Prince to me (and I just finished reading Everything, Everything, in which the main character reads and re-reads The Little Prince).  I haven’t actually read that book, so I could be way off, but basically Julian uses these books both to remind him of Adam, and to escape into the stars much like Elian Mariner does.

I often find that characters in books read other books, and most of the time they are real books that exist.  Obviously, authors are readers and they want to pay homage to the books that inspire them.  The use of a fictional book gives the characters the ability to interact with the authors’ lives – obviously, The Trap wouldn’t have worked with a real novel, because it’s all about the author, and the same for Every Exquisite Thing (and The Fault in Our Stars).  For A List of Cages, I think the reason for using a fictional series is largely for one scene, in which one of Julian’s classmates asks what he’s reading, and he gets excited to talk about his favorite books, and we as the reader don’t know what level these books are until the classmate makes a terrible comment, and suddenly we realize that high school freshman Julian is reading books meant for elementary school children.  In that way, The Little Prince wouldn’t have worked, because many adults read it.

Lots and lots of other books include fictional works.  Probably the coolest example of this is Fangirl, by Rainbow Rowell, in which the main character writes fanfiction for the Simon Snow series (it bears close resemblance to Harry Potter).  So many people were writing fanfiction for this fictional series that Rainbow Rowell actually wrote the fic Cath was working on, and it was published as Carry On Simon.  Doesn’t always happen, but I sure would like to read The Bubblegum Reaper!

Addition, 3/10/17: Found another one!  Currently reading The Man in the High Castle, wherein there is a book titled The Grasshopper Lies Heavy.  I keep getting the feeling that there is a parallel universe where people read the book The Grasshopper Lies Heavy, which refers to a fictional book called The Man in the High Castle.

 

February reading round-up

  • # of books read: 17
  • audiobooks listened to: 3
  • ebooks read: 6
  • ARCs read: 2
  • books from the Throne of Glass series: 2
  • graphic novels: 4
  • total page count: 3,877
  • year total page count: 8,253

Well, not so many books read as last month, but a lot of that has to do with February being 3 days shorter than January, as well as the fact that I took a week off from work, which means less time commuting to listen to audiobooks.

I breezed through 2 advanced reader copies, one from Edelweiss Above the Treeline and one from Netgalley.  I had some issues with Reaper by Kyra Leigh, although it was still a fast read (mostly to do with the ending).  Bad Blood by Demitria Lunetta fit in well with my rewatch of the Outlander series.  It involves a history of Scottish witches using blood magic.  Reaper will be released in May and Bad Blood will be coming out next month.

In newer releases, I got to read Veronica Roth’s new book, Carve the Mark.  This wasn’t the easy read Divergent was, and for a while in the beginning I thought I wasn’t going to be able to finish.  A few chapters later, once I hit Cyra’s point of view, all that changed.  Akos and Cyra’s slow burn relationship was quite enjoyable to read, so much so that I can almost forgive the fact that this ends without really wrapping up ANYTHING.

I also got my hands on History of Wolves, by Emily Fridlund, which has been on the hold shelves at my library for months.  It wasn’t quite as thriller-y as the jacket blurb makes it out to be, but the tension throughout and the descriptive passages made this a worthwhile read.

The graphic novels I read this month can be split quite evenly into Awesome and Pretty Good.  In the Pretty Good category: The Monstress is an award-winner, and has gorgeous artwork (the story itself is a bit too confusing and complex for me), and Trashed (by the author of My Friend Dahmer) was part memoir and part lecture on landfills.  In the Awesome category: Paper Girls 2 had all the greatness of the first volume, and Reindeer Boy by Cassandra Jean was cute as all hell.

In vintage YA, I discovered a horse series that I hadn’t read: Flambards, by K.M. Peyton.  It was delightfully old-fashioned, I suppose because it was written in 1967 and takes place in the early part of the century.  Since I would have to interlibrary loan the rest of the books, I attempted to watch the TV series, but that was really too old-fashioned for me.  Guess I’ll never find out if Christina marries William or Dick.

And finally, I finally read Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas (immdiately followed by Crown of Midnight) and I was a near-instant convert!  What took me so long??  In a way, I’m sort of glad I waited, because it means I get to read them all at once. Up next is the prequel, The Assassin’s Blade.

January reading round-up

  • # of books read: 20
  • audiobooks listened to: 5
  • ebooks read: 6
  • nonfiction read: 2
  • ARCs read: 1
  • books from the Experiment in Terror series: 4
  • books from the White Cat series: 3
  • vintage YA: 3
  • total page count: 4,376

I did a ton of reading this month.

In newer releases, I finished up Bellevue: Three Centuries of Medicine and Mayhem at America’s Most Storied Hospital, which was fascinating not quite in the way I had anticipated – I had thought Bellevue was mostly a mental hospital – but still learned a lot about the early days of medicine in America and about the various plagues that swept through New York City.

Freeks, by Amanda Hocking, was an impulse add to my reading list when a stack of new books came up from the library’s tech services and one I had forgotten to put on hold for myself, A List of Cages, was on hold for someone else… The circus/carnival/sideshow theme of course was calling to me.  I like her writing style – it’s easy to read, and fun.  This one took place in the 80’s so there were tons of 80’s references.  I personally think the title is a little cheesy but it fits.

I also read an ARC of Hellworld by Tom Leveen.  This was the kind of post-apocalyptic story I love, where monsters hinted at in ancient religious texts are unleashed – a sci-fi horror thriller.

Another newer book I loved was Challenger Deep, by Neal Shusterman – it completely deserves the National Book Award!

I blazed through 5 audiobooks.  Three of those were Holly Black’s White Cat series, which were narrated by Jesse Eisenberg, and were short and fun to listen to.  Patient Zero was much longer, and yet I blew through that one as well.  Then I listened to Every Exquisite Thing, by Matthew Quick – so, so good.  So quotable.

Three of the books I read this month were “vintage YA.”  The first was The Executioner, a book I thought I remembered reading as a teen back in the 90’s.  Not sure if I actually did… let’s just say the characters weren’t exactly memorable and the mystery didn’t make much sense.  The second, a donation that appeared in my box at the library, was Attitude Problem, which had even bigger plot holes and possibly even flatter characters.  The third was The Woman in the Wall, which was a bit of strange magical realism.  What all of these books made me nostalgic for were the days when you could read a book in a matter of 2-3 hours.

Stealing some reading time at the laundromat #reading #bookstagram #laundry

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I downloaded the rest of the books in the Experiment in Terror series, which I last left off in 2014.  Still just as good two years later.  The premise is two ghosthunters, each with the ability to see ghosts, team up for an internet show.  The sexual tension is insane, and finally I got to the part where Perry and Dex get together!  Naturally, not without Sasquatch, zombies, and plenty of ghosts.  (That’s Into the Hollow, book #6, that I’m reading at the laundromat above).  I also found myself binge-watching “Paranormal Lockdown,” which gave me the Dex & Perry feels.

And finally!  I got to read A List of Cages, which is officially my favorite book this month. Might be my favorite book for the rest of the year, too.  It was so heartbreaking and lovely.  Highly recommended!!

3 on a theme: brotherly (and sisterly) love

I am often reading between 3 and 5 books at the same time, and occasionally there’s a theme that might not be remarkable in one book… but when I see it in three books, I take notice.

I’ve become accustomed to YA books that heavily rely on romance.  So YA books that do not have a romance as the central theme stand out to me, and within the past month and a half, I read three such books, and they all focused on sibling relationships.

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Cuckoo Song, which I wrote about in my last 3 on a theme post, focuses on the relationship between two sisters.  Ha – you might have thought it would be the relationship between a brother and a sister, since my last 3 on a theme post was about brothers.  But the actual plot of Cuckoo Song is about Tris, a changeling, who her little sister Pen realizes is not the real Tris.  Fake Tris and Pen’s relationship develops in a positive way, even improving the relationship between Pen and Real Tris.

Daughters Unto Devils by Amy Lukavics starts out like it’s going to involve romance – Amanda sneaks out of the cabin to be with Henry, and lies to her sister Emily about it.  Amanda also lied to Emily about seeing a demon last winter, so Emily doesn’t really trust her.  But after their family moves to the prairie and Amanda miscarries her baby, Emily pulls through for Amanda.  In the end, it’s all about Amanda and Emily fighting to survive and save their family.

In A List of Cages, which I just finished last night (a book you will be hearing about a lot because I loved it so much), the focus is on two foster brothers.  Julian and Adam are both only children, but Adam’s used to the foster kids his mom brings home, but Julian is different, especially because Adam keeps finding himself in Julian’s life.  While this book has a little bit of a romance between Adam and his girlfriend, the story alternates between Adam and Julian’s voices and is most definitely about their relationship and how it saves Julian’s life.

When I think back to my teen years, I’d have to say that my relationships with my brothers and sister were far more important than any romantic relationship I had.  Really, they knew me best, both because they lived with me and because my friends at school only saw a little part of me, the one I wanted to show them.  With siblings we can usually fight loudly and make up easily, annoy each other to no end yet still be there for each other to play with.  It makes me happy to see that sibling relationships are continuing to be important in YA novels.

 

stealing time to read

I read a lot.  Every year for the last ten years I have read over 100 books. During two of those years, I read over 170 books.  As you can see from the little Goodreads widget on my blog, I’m usually in the middle of reading 3-5 books.

When people say they don’t have time to read, I both can’t understand them and understand completely.  In high school I remember sitting down on my bed every afternoon and reading for hours (this was pre-internet).  I don’t do that anymore, not very often.  This is how I understand when people say they can’t find time to read.  I certainly don’t have hours everyday to just sit and enjoy a book.

Or do I?

Nowadays, most of my reading is done while I’m eating.  I read while I eat breakfast, and while I eat lunch (dinner is usually on the couch watching TV).  But mealtime accounts for about an hour of reading time every day.

Lunch with Simon & Baz #carryon #rainbowrowell #books #reading #simonandbaz

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I also listen to audiobooks during my commute.  That’s a half hour to and from work, so there’s another hour, and sometimes I’ll continue to listen while I do chores around the house, like folding laundry and preparing breakfast or dinner.  Sometimes I’ll also listen while I play games on the computer (generally only when I’m at a good part in the audiobook).

I keep my Nook in the bathroom, so when I’m doing my business I’m often reading then, too, but usually only when I’m reading a book with short chapters – right now it’s Challenger Deep, by Neal Shusterman.  That accounts for about 15 minutes of reading a day.

Recently, I’ve started reading in bed at night, too, mostly to eliminate the screen brain I have from being on the computer and watching TV in the evenings.  There’s another 20 minutes.

And, I have to admit, occasionally I sneak some reading at work as well (I’m a librarian, though, so I like to think it’s work-related).

All told, without sitting down expressly to read a book, I manage to carve out nearly 3 hours of reading every day.

reading list April 2016

This is about a week late, but I’m going to try to make this a monthly column, where I give a brief review of everything I’ve read that month – so here’s April!

Series Fiction

257762101There are only a handful of series that I’m really into.  The Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs is one of them (her Alpha & Omega series is another!), and the 9th entry, Fire Touched, could not truly satiate my hunger, but it mostly filled me up… for now!    This is truly one of my very favorite werewolf series.  Mercy is a great character, and the other characters also quickly worm their way into my heart.

51-5ix9w9gl-_sx330_bo1204203200_I only just finished Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard in March, but I figured the 2-story prequel collection of Cruel Crown wouldn’t take too long to read.  I liked Red Queen more than I thought I would, but I was a bit divided on the stories here.  The first, Queen Song, I really loved.  It felt like a complete story to me, that was not dependent on information from Red Queen.  The second story, Steel Scars, actually skipped what I figured would be the climactic event because it occurred in Red Queen.  Still, now that I’m reading Glass Sword, I’m grateful for the extra background of both stories.  For those of you who haven’t read this series, it blends fantasy with a lot of the dystopian elements seen in YA literature over the past few years – the Red blood vs. Silver blood reminded me of Divergent, while the Queenstrial and the various fights to the death reminded me of Hunger Games – and also has a Cinderella-esque feel to it.

16000044Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes was a book I read for my teen book club over a year ago.  I had really enjoyed it, but waffled about getting the subsequent books, because series take time, and I have so many books to read!  I was stuck without an audiobook for my commute, so I went online and downloaded Rebel Spring (Falling Kingdoms #2) and I was surprised at just how easily I was transported back into this fantasy world and the cast of characters.  Normally I only listen to audiobooks in my car, because I have them on CD, but the downloadable audio gave me the opportunity to listen while I did household chores like cooking dinner or preparing my lunch for work, or folding laundry (although part of this was because the due date was rapidly approaching!).  As soon as I’m done Glass Sword I’ll be checking out Gathering Darkness!  I’ve been slogging through the 3rd book in A Song of Fire and Ice for about a year now, and I’ll just say that this has a lot of similarities to Game of Thrones but reads very quickly and easily.  The world-building isn’t overly complex or intimidating, and each character has such a strong agenda that I can’t help but root for each in turn, even the not-so-good ones (ahem, Magnus!).

Standalone Fiction

51v6koptydl-_sx331_bo1204203200_My enthusiasm for the standalone fiction I read this month pales a bit in comparison.  Two of these I finished reading while I was on a trip to Iceland.  Valhalla by Ari Bach was one I had downloaded and was super excited to read, based on some strong marketing.  I did not, however, enjoy it as much as I wanted to.  The main character, Violet, seems to have antisocial personality disorder of the serial killer type, which makes her difficult to relate to.  The world-building seemed to take up a lot of the story.  Considering that the characters undergo modifications that make them able to come back to life and not feel pain, I didn’t feel that there was much at stake throughout.  This is the first in a series, but I won’t be reading the rest, hence why it’s in my “standalone” section.

18166941Boy on the Edge by Fridrik Erlings was on my to-read list, possibly because it sounded like the story of a troubled, possibly suicidal boy stuck in a foster care system.  Then I quickly discovered that it was originally written in Icelandic and takes place in Iceland – what a coincidence!  While being in the country while the author is describing the lava fields and landscapes was pretty awesome, the story felt old-fashioned, probably because it was being told by an older man about his childhood.  The book was alright, but I doubt its appeal to modern teens.

The Wendigo by Algernon Blackwood is a classic short story/novella that in my mind I associated with werewolves.  Intellectually I knew that the wendigo as it is known to Native Americans is not the same as what wendigo has come to mean to popular culture, but still, I was under the impression that this was going to be a horror story.  Basically, this is the story of a group of explorers and traders of different nationalities (British, American, French Canadian, and one lone Native America who is described in the racist fashion of the times) who encounter a wendigo.  One of them is spirited off, and returns much changed.  Or, not really changed at all, other than raving about his burning feet, because apparently wendigos are just really big creatures with burning hooves that run around and don’t eat humans. Not exactly what I was expecting – or hoping for.

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Nonfiction

Nonfiction is a category I don’t often read, and it’s hard to really decide if I’ve “enjoyed” it, so it’s more along whether or not I found it “interesting” or learned something from it.

41ouqvxzgfl-_sy344_bo1204203200_As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I’ve been writing some fanfiction.  Fic: Why Fanfiction is Taking Over the World by Anne Jamison is one of the few books out there about the culture of fanfiction (although it didn’t really get as deep into the “why fanfiction is taking over the world” as I would have liked).  This compiled a bit of the history of fandoms and fanfiction as it evolved over the centuries, which sometimes got a bit boring when it delved into fandoms I’m not a part of nor interested in (such as Star Trek, or even Sherlock Holmes).  This focused a bit heavily on the Twilight fandom, as that fandom has produced a number of published authors in recent years and fueled the debate over what is transformative fiction and what is copyright infringement. There were a few philosophical essays and bits that were really tedious and boring, but there were a number of great essays as well.

life-changing-magic-not-giving-a-fuckNow, I haven’t read Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, but I still wanted to read The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck by Sarah Knight.  The subtitle, A Practical Parody, really sums up this book.  It’s funny, but you can also use the advice contained within.  I found it really amusing that so many reviewers on Goodreads marked this book down for containing too many instances of the f-bomb – I mean, it’s in the title, what did you expect?  I, however, really enjoyed it.