Thursday, June 30, 2016

#ReadMyOwnDamnBooks - June


June turned out to be another slow reading month. First I was busy getting Z (and myself!) through the end of the school year and then I was catching up on all of the sleep I have lost over the last ten months. It is amazing how different you feel after a full night's sleep from which you wake up naturally. I have been making the most of the extra energy I have with lots of house and yard work and a rekindled interest in making ice cream!

A photo posted by @klpm on

(Cherry chocolate chip w/cream cheese and roasted apricot sorbet)

For this challenge, my goal is 80 books for the year from my own shelves, whether they're new books from the TBR or rereads.

June

Among Others by Jo Walton
The Boy Who Lost Fairyland by Catherynne M. Valente
Mendoza in Hollywood by Kage Baker
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (reread)
Mairelon the Magician by Patricia C. Wrede

Monthly Total: 5
Yearly Total: 40

My favorite of these books was probably Among Others but I really loved my reread of Ready Player One as well. I originally listened to it and a lot of the details had already faded away so it was almost like a fresh read. Among Others was amazing though in its world building and emotional weight. I grabbed a copy of Tooth and Claw as my next Jo Walton read. She's quickly becoming a favorite!

So, even after a couple of slow months, I am still in a good position to reach my 80 book goal. July might be a bit slow as well because I am going to have two extra kids for a week (nieces!) but then the dog days of summer will follow and I'm sure I will fill many of them with lazy reading days.

What was your favorite book of June?

Eating ice cream (naturally),
K

Monday, June 20, 2016

The Road Ahead

Come along, then! We must run a little faster to catch up with our boy. We must chase him down through second and third and fourth grade, past fifth and sixth, all the quick years of primary school, which do not obey the usual rules of time and space, as any mother could tell you. School-time runs separately from usual time, like a certain country on the other side of the Equator, or the other side of a dream. School-time spins up and sputters and whirlwinds, all hopped up and in a hurry. Only once Summer comes round again, with its bindle full of adventures and bendings of rules and unwatched, unfettered, unending days in the sun does time return to its favorite pace, slow and golden and warm.
These were the words that I read in Catherynne Valente's The Boy Who Lost Fairyland just as my own boy finished his run through primary school. I'll admit that I was the parent who cried the hardest at that final assembly. All of that time that rushed by caught up with me and, though I thought I had prepared, I still wasn't quite ready for it. When some of his caretakers and friends gave me hugs, I fondly remembered how they were there for him through all the years. And when they showed his baby picture in the end of year slideshow, I couldn't help but miss that tiny boy that I haven't seen in so long. But I was also immensely proud of my Z and his ability to overcome so many obstacles to become a bright and thoughtful and funny young man.

Now we have what I hope will be a glorious summer ahead of us. I am looking forward to adventures and bendings of rules (bedtime for the kiddo has already gone out the window) and a slow and golden and warm pace.

Looking forward into the sun,
K

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Gone Livin'


I was going to participate in Andi's Week-Long Reviewathon this week but am opting instead to spend my time offline, to be fully present as Z completes his last week of 6th grade and elementary school. I can catch up on reviews later but I can't ever have this week back with him.

Z's mid-preschool graduation
Cherishing time,
K

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

#ReadMyOwnDamnBooks - May


I almost forgot to write this post because I'm totally focused on getting through these last two and a half weeks of school and everything else is just a distraction. Summer vacation is so close I can taste it. Right now I find it hard to focus on a book for too long. I can't wait to have task-free days where I just sit in a lawn chair (in the shade) with a book and a huge glass of iced tea. Still, I've been walking more lately so I'm getting through audiobooks faster than normal and I've tried to make at least a couple of them ones that I have the paper copies of on my TBR. This wasn't a great month for progress on this challenge but I'm still in a good position to meet my goal.

For this challenge, my goal is 80 books for the year from my own shelves, whether they're new books from the TBR or rereads.

May

Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore
Adventure Time: Candy Capers by Yuko Ota and Ian McGinty
The Apothecary by Maile Maloy
The Memory of Blood by Christopher Fowler
Elijah's Mermaid by Essie Fox

Monthly Total: 5
Yearly Total: 35

I'm going to try my best to read more TBR books in June. The main obstacle to that will be the fact that I listened to The Raven Boys last week (OMG!) and I anticipate most of June will be filled with me rushing through the other books as soon as I can get them from the library. I'm also continuing on with the audios of The Apothecary series but only the first book was on my TBR. Oh well!

Is there a book that you couldn't resist this month that tempted you away from your TBR?

Reading here, there, and everywhere,
K

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

New Release: The View From the Cheap Seats


I was very lucky and got an early review copy of Neil Gaiman's collection of selected nonfiction, The View From the Cheap Seats, which is out today. I always enjoy Neil's introductions and essays and am glad to have many of them in one place now. And though I've read some of the speeches and introductions before, I am finding that sitting and reading them as a collection is helping me really appreciate what a brilliant and thoughtful man he is, how he uses his words to present big ideas in ways that all readers and listeners can understand, and how invested he is in the entire world of books, stories, authors, and readers.

From the introduction --
This book contains speeches, essays and introductions. Some of the introductions made it into this volume because I love the author or the book in question, and I hope my love will be contagious. Others are here because, somewhere in that introduction, I did my best to explain something that I believe to be true, something that might even be important.
The fact that this is an introduction to a group of introductions just struck me as funny. Anyway ... if you haven't yet tried Diana Wynne Jones or Terry Pratchett or Douglas Adams, Neil's kind and adoring words about them might get you interested in finally picking up one of their books. And if you weren't already familiar with the art of Dave McKean, you'll probably find yourself curious enough to start Googling. And if you've never thought about the definition of genre, you just might find yourself discussing it with your hubby at 2am when you should be sleeping (this one could just be me).

And, in a strange, coincidental way, Jenny's Law about DWJ has turned out to be Neil's Law about Gene Wolfe --
How to Read Gene Wolfe:
...
3. Reread. It's better the second time. It will be even better the third time. And anyway, the books will subtly reshape themselves while you are away from them.
(Neil's Law dates back to at least 2002 when he wrote this for the program book of The World Horror Convention but it doesn't make Jenny any less of a genius.)

So, while The Art of Neil Gaiman is about everything that Neil has produced, this book is about many of the things that have gone into his lovely brain over the years and steeped and become those very things that we have already enjoyed about him and his work. It is a sampling of the essence of Neil Gaiman and it can't help but make fans even more ardent.

Devouring all of the food for thought,
K

Friday, May 20, 2016

My Journey to Becoming an Audiobook Listener


Before September 2013, I hadn't really listened to audiobooks except for a couple of Harry Potters that I had bought for road trips. I was one of those jerky readers that didn't believe that listening counted as reading. I also didn't want to sit at my computer for hours on end and I didn't have a commute. Then came Ready Player One and the discovery of the Overdrive subscription through my wonderful library system. I couldn't resist listening to Wil Wheaton as narrator of an instant geek classic and thus began my conversion.

I have now tried out a lot of different kinds of audiobooks and listening situations. What works for me is this:

1. Middle grade, YA, or genre fiction: I tried listening to Victoria: A Life but I just couldn't keep up with names and timelines on audio. I needed the ability to look at relationship charts and photos. I need plot-driven fiction! I did listen to the Amy Poehler memoir but that was entertainment non-fiction, not the learning type.

2. A narrator with a good accent and good representation of various characters: I tried a theater group performance earlier this year and they were just too dramatic for me. There was also a Judy Blume book that I listened to where the adult narrator just made all of the kid voices whiny. It was awful.

3. The ability to listen on 1.25x or 1.5x: I am impatient and I don't want a book to last more than a few days. There have only been one or two times that I couldn't understand the narrator when I sped up a book.

I started by listening while taking walks and then added in some time during housework and yardwork, when settling down for a weekend nap, and finally just while sitting in the sun on a beautiful sunny afternoon. I've even been known to listen to the end of a great story through an entire evening.

A few of my favorites so far have been:

The Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury, read by Bronson Pinchot
Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis, read by James Avery
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, read by Jim Dale
Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo, read by Cherry Jones
The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett (and all the other Discworld books and Nation and Dodger -- all read by Stephen Briggs)
The BFG by Roald Dahl, read by David Walliams
Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones (and other titles), read by Jenny Sterlin
Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell, read by Tantoo Cardinal
and Neil Gaiman reading any of his own books

One of the best things I've found about audiobooks is that I can actually listen to one book while having a different physical book in progress. I used to be a monogamous reader but now I have fun dipping into multiple stories through different mediums. Somehow, I'm able to keep the stories separate this way. The only thing I'm apparently not able to do is remember to review my audiobooks because they don't end up on my review stack. Oops.

Do you listen to audiobooks regularly? Do you have a favorite that I should try?

Happily converted,
K

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Making Series Progress

Because I've been in the mood for genre reads lately, I've used it as an opportunity to catch-up with some of the series I've got going.


The Laws of Murder by Charles Finch is the eighth Charles Lenox mystery. There's just one more book to go before I'm caught up on this series and I own that one so I anticipate getting to it this summer. I started reading the series in 2008 when I borrowed A Beautiful Blue Death from the library. Here are my brief spreadsheet thoughts on each book of the series --

A Beautiful Blue Death: a good start but a bit tame - would like to see another in the series
The September Society: enjoy Lenox very much - the anti-Poirot
The Fleet Street Murders: a bit oversentimental at times but strong
A Stranger in Mayfair: a high point in the series
A Burial at Sea: a slightly bumpy start with a great finish
A Death in the Small Hours: touching and unexpected
An Old Betrayal: fantastic and went in the direction I had hoped

As you can see, I have enjoyed the series more and more through time. Charles Lenox is a great protagonist that has a few qualities that make him rather unique in the literary detective world. I don't know how many more books Finch intends to write but I do hope he continues the series through at least a few more stories!


The Memory of Blood starts with the mention in the Acknowledgements that Christopher Fowler didn't think the series would make it this far, to book nine of the Peculiar Crimes Unit mysteries. And, as I look to buy book 10 (of 13), I'm finding that it doesn't even seem to have been released in paperback even though the hardcover came out in 2013. I'll need to go search for a cheap used copy because I definitely intend to reread this series at some point. Bryant and May are unique in both their age (they should have retired many years earlier) and also their unusual skill set (in this latest one, Bryant recalls his ventriloquism skills after being hypnotized by a white witch). The story in this one was a bit creepier than I like -- I have a fear of "talking" dolls and puppets and this tale incorporates the history of Punch and Judy shows. ::shiver:: But, once again, Bryant and May and the hard working people who toil with them in the PCU managed to engage me despite this fear.


And finally, I got to the end of the Graceling/Fire trilogy with Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore. This series was just WOW. I really didn't think it would be for me as bloggers like Ana were talking about it a few years ago but a lovely publicist had a set of the three books to give away and I decided to give them a shot and got to enter this beautiful and horrible world. I didn't write about Graceling because I ended up listening to it and I always forget to mention my audiobooks. But I thought that it was a great story with a strong female lead. Then I read Fire in February of this year and it had a different strong female lead and I couldn't get enough. So I was quite surprised in Bitterblue that, though the main character, Queen Bitterblue, has actual power, she's actually quite weak and this is the story of her progress in finding the strength that she envies in others. I loved that she was on a different journey than Katsa or Fire experienced. It was harder to side with Bitterblue when she was being irrational or petulant but then a learning experience would happen and she would win me over again. The world building in this series was fantastic as were the variety of relationships portrayed. I'm very happy that I eventually read this trilogy.

What series are you enjoying at the moment?

Reveling in murder and mayhem,
K

Monday, May 16, 2016

Catching Up


The other day, I noticed that my blog wasn't loading at all and I was getting DNS errors. My kind hubby got things working again and Trish happened to check it for me and asked if it should be coming up with a last post on April 30. Why yes, another two weeks have passed without a blog post. I have decent reasons this time though!


We've had unseasonably warm weather up here in Seattle and I've been doing lots of yard work -- reshaping trees, clearing forest paths, cutting tea roses away from the fire hydrant, reclaiming my driveway from errant bushes, and weeding, weeding, weeding. I've also had a little thing that I've had to get ready for -- Z turning twelve last Friday! For some reason this one is hitting me harder than I expected. It's probably a combination of the facts that he's only got five weeks of elementary school left and that he's only about an inch or two shorter than me now. The days of him being my baby are gone for good. I love the young man he's becoming but it's strange to not be the parent of a "kid" anymore.


Still, I've done a lot of great reading lately and I really want to start catching up on telling you all about it. Stay tuned!

Making excuses,
K