March Reading

Well, it was an interesting month for reading.  I read a variety of books.

From the 100 best non-fiction list, I read Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes by Robert Louis Stevenson. I thought it was an interesting book, but I am not quite sure why it is on that list.  Stevenson traveled on a donkey through that part of France, and the book recounts the highs and lows of that trip.  He had discussions with villagers about religion and other topics, but the main focus of the book is the difficulties traveling with the donkey. It is humorous in that regard. I enjoyed the book, but I guess I missed something.

The novel I read from the 100 best list was The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym by Edgar Allan Poe. It was an interesting book.  A few years ago I read Verne’s An Antarctic Mystery, which is supposed to be like a sequel to Poe’s book, and I really enjoyed that.  This one was good, too, but I think having read Verne’s book first, it took away some of the value of this book.  I already knew something of the story and so it wasn’t as captivating as it might have been.  It was good, though, and I am glad I read it.

I read two mysteries:

  • Hollywood Crazy by MZ Kelly is the third book in this series. I had read the first two and the fourth one, and this filled in a few blanks for me.  The main character, Kate Sexton, is a good one. Her friends and roommates are a little too crazy for me and take away some from the story.  But the story is a good one, and I was able to read past those crazy characters.
  • Blue Baby by Carolyn Arnold is, I think, the third book in this series that I have read. I didn’t enjoy it as much as I did the others. Not sure why. Brandon Fisher seems whinier here, I think. But in general, the story was a fairly good one. I will keep reading this series.

I only read one piece of speculative fiction: Echo by Alicia Wright Brewster .  I remember liking it, but I have to admit I don’t remember much about the book.  Time gets rewound in an effort to avoid disaster. The characters were good ones, and that was probably more important to me than the story.  As I think more about it, I can remember that the main character was only born in the last rewind, so she is more powerful. That makes her both dangerous to and the salvation of the the existing power struggle. I know this isn’t a very good review of this book, but I hope you will read it anyway.

I read a book that didn’t fall into any of my categories, Above the Bridge by Deborah Garner. I guess I could have classified it as mystery or as speculative fiction, but it was too much a mix for me to feel comfortable with either of those labels. It was a fairly good book involving some time travel. The time travel was not explained well enough for me to really buy into it, though. Paige finds a key that takes her back in time. It shows up some times and not others. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to it. I think I would have liked it better without that element. Paige could have found the information some other way, I think, but it might have been just as tacked on as the time travel was.  There are three books in the series, and I might try to read at least one more of them before I make a final decision.

The non-fiction book I read was Hurting Your Characters: A Writer’s Guide to Describing Injuries and Pain from the Charater’s Point of View by Michael J. Carlson. It was an important book for me to read. It gives a broad overview of human anatomy and problems that can occur. It talks about how different injuries might hurt. While I have already injured my characters some, it reminded me of the long-term effects of those injuries. It helped me think about that and bring it into the books.  The author says it isn’t meant to be read straight through, but I did and it was readable.  It is, however, basically a reference book, though.  The author is a physician.

So that was it! April may not be as good as, in addition to the face-to-face class I am currently teaching, I will be starting an online class this coming week.  But I’ll give it my best shot!

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February Reading

I am here again to report on my reading. It looks like I read eight books.

I started off the month reading my selection from the list of 100 best non-fiction books, A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Wolff. I had ever thought about reading it before and really didn’t have much of an idea about it.  But I thought it was great.  The basic idea is that women, as a group, cannot succeed as writers unless and until they have a room of their own. Physical space (and the money to maintain it) are critical to writing. The freedom that room allows the writer to flourish. I realize that I am able to write because I have that freedom.  I do not take it lightly. But the text really goes beyond writing to talk about women in general and our need for that same freedom. It was a very interesting book.

This was followed by  The Sign of the Four by Sir ArthurConan Doyle. I had never read it before and decided I would now since it was on the list of the 100 best novels in English. It was a typical Sherlock Holmes story, and I enjoyed it a lot.  I am not 100% sure why it was on that list (#26), not because it wasn’t good but because I  am not sure what makes it better than other Sherlock Holmes stories. I love them all!

I read three mysteries, books 2-4 in a series I started some time back.  They were Two Bare Arms, Garden of the Damned, and Let Us Prey by Blake Banner. They are all part of the Dead Cold Mystery series, stories of two detectives assigned to work on cold cases, in part because no other cops want to work with them. I enjoyed these books, maybe more than the first one, An Ace and a Pair. The mysteries are good, and the characters have developed into interesting people.

I read two entries in a speculative fiction series I started a while ago, too. Darknight and Darkmoon by Christine Pope are the second and third books in  her Witches of Cleopatra Hill series. They were fun to read. Witch Angela has found her consort, Warlock Conner. The problem is that they are from families who are feuding more than the Capulets and the Montegues. Fortunately, they don’t have to kill themselves in the end, but no one makes it easy for them.  This is pure escapism, but I enjoyed escaping for a while.

I also read Waking up White: and Finding Myself in the Story of Race by Debby Irving. A frind had recommended it, so I bought it and read it. It was a very thought-provoking book.  My experience growin gup was not like Irvings, but I did benefit from white privilege. I have lived in many parts of the world and have been in the minority, so I have had some of the experiences she felt were invaluable to her awakening. I also majored in history in college, but at a time when Black Studies programs were becoming popular, so I learned a lot of things she talks about  In spite of all I knew, though, the book made me realize how much of being white I have taken for granted. And, of course, since reading the book, I see things all over than help to drive home the point that things ae really getting worse. For instance, Roads to Nowhere: how infrastructure built on American inequality was published in The Guardian late last month.  And, on a lighter but realted note, What is white culture was published just a few days ago. I think reading Irving’s book allowed me to see these related pieces of information, wich I might have overlooked before.

So it wasn’t a great month, but it wasn’t bad, either. I start back to work next week, though, so this time next month I may see this as having been a great month after all!

 

 

 

The Tor ebook club is back!

I was so excited this morning to see an email announcing the return of the Tor ebook club. The book for this month is The Eye of the World, the first book in Robert Jordan’s  Wheel of Time series.

In case you don’t know, Tor.com offers a free ebook each month for many months of the year. I have gotten some great books that way.  You sign up to get their newsletters, which are usually interesting if you like Fantasy of Science Fiction, and then get access to the ebook club. The books are only available for a couple days, so you have to act fast. This one, for instance, will disappear after 2/15.

This is a great opportunity, and I hope ou will take advantage of it!

January reading

Well, I started off the year pretty well, I think. I read eight books, including one from each of the Guardian’s lists of 100 best Non-Fiction Books and 100 best Novels in English.

I read De Profundis by Oscar Wilde. I can honestly say it is one of the best books I have ever read. Written while he was in prison, the book describes Wilde’s coming to terms with his life in prison. It deals with very heavy but very important topics, such as suffering and loss. This is one that I will undoubtedly read again as there is much that can be learned. I cannot recommend it enough. It is, by the way, #52 on the nonfiction list.

From the fiction list, I read The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins (#19). I have had an ebook copy of this book for years and often thought about starting it but was scared off by its length (This version says it is 695 pages.) This time, thought, I decided I had to read it. And I have to say that I enjoyed it. It is a mystery, the theft of a massive gem, told from the points of view of several people who were involved at various stages of the matter. As some of the reviews on Amazon say, you have to understand that this is a book written 150 years ago, not a modern detective novel. Everything doesn’t get laid out in the first 100 pages and solved before the end of 300. It was a great story, and I recommend it.

I read two mysteries, and I enjoyed both of them.

  • Mistake Creek by Rachel Amphlett was a very exciting book. Nina came home after 10 years to board up her father’s business before a storm, with an eye to selling the property as soon as possible. After a man shows up at the door all bloody and another man sheltering there is murdered, she struggles to figure out who she can trust. And who is the murderer? Is it her old boyfriend? The couple that showed up on a motorbike? This ws a good story that kept my interest until the very end. I recommend it if you like thrillers.
  • Murder in Adland  by Bruce Beckham is the story of the murder of an ad executive. I guessed the murderer long before the end, but the story was still interesting because I could never e completely sure. The book also takes place in the Lake District of England, with side trips to London and Edinburgh. I thought the story was very interesting, but what really captured my attention was the insight the book offered into these other locations. I am used to reading about London, but even the parts of the story that took place there were more interesting because the lead detective didn’t know the city at all. I have a few other books in this series, and you can be sure I am going to read them.

I also read two speculative novels.

  • The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick was an alternate history in which the Germans won World War II.  I knew nothing about it before reading it — nothing except the fact that Amazon had a show based on the book. I have not watched the show but I may do so now that I have read the book. The tension between Japan and Germany is reminiscent of the tension between the US and the USSR after the war. No one seems any happier than they would have been if the war ended as we know it did. They are actually a lot more unhappy. It is an interesting story and will probably lead me to read more of Dick’s work.
  • A Mortal Song by Megan Crewe was a fascinating book about Japanese mythology set in the present. Two girls were switched at birth to protect the one who is the daughter of the rulers of the kami living on Mt. Fuji. The story brings the two girls together to save the mountain and all the kami. It is a great story. The girls have to come to terms with not being who they always thought they were. It is a story of self-discovery. I really enjoyed it!

I read one book that I couldn’t really categorize, Death Wind  by Travis Heermann and Jim Pinto. It is listed on Amazon as being horror, but it was much more than that. The story takes place after the Wounded Knee massacre and starts off as historical fiction. Then the Death Wind comes because of all the evil in the world and the story takes a drastic turn — cannibalism is part of the “cure” brought by the Wind. I didn’t enjoy this as much as I did Heermann’s samurai books, but that is largely because I am not a fan of horror at all. Overall, though, I would recommend this book if you are into this kind of thing.

I read one other non-fiction book, Writing into the Dark: How to Write a Novel without an Outline by Dean Wesley Smith. This book was exactly what I needed. I have read lots of books about writing, and they all had things I could try, and I tried them. But ultimately, most of them just slowed my writing down. This book, though, largely confirmed what I was already doing and legitimized it. That, and Smith’s example, has done more to spur my writing on than anything I have read in a long time.

So that was it for January.  Let’s see what February brings!

 

Looking ahead to next year’s reading

In the past, I have had various schemes for my reading. Some of them have been successful and others not so much. I am thinking that this next year I want to try to add some structure to my reading.

This morning on The Guardian, I ran across a list of the 100 best nonfiction books. I have read a few of them but not many. That got me thinking: maybe I should make that a category this year. And then I saw a link to the 100 best novels written in English. I had read more of them but certainly not all. And many of the ones I read, I read more than 50 years ago! The more I think about it, the more I think I will add these two categories and I will consciously try to read as many of them as I can.

In addition, I will continue to read mysteries and speculative fiction. I think I will eliminate the categories of Historical Fiction and Short Fiction — unless I find myself having to add them in later because I cannot categorize something I have read any other way.

The inclusion of the nonfiction books will probably lead me to go to the library. I have read ebooks for so long now that it will seem strange, but maybe that will be good for me, too!

So this is my plan at the moment. I reserve the right to change my mind, of course!