Monday, January 26, 2015

New Release: The Year of Reading Dangerously

Remember how I did so well posting in December? I sure thought it would last, that I had my blogging mojo back, but then the winter blues set in and, every time I opened the laptop, I found I didn't have it in me to write anything just then. Luckily, today was a glorious day in Seattle and I've felt happy and productive all day. Therefore, I'm taking this chance to start playing catch-up with reviews.

The first book I read this year was The Year of Reading Dangerously: How Fifty Great Books (and Two Not-So-Great Ones) Saved My Life by Andy Miller. It got me started on my goal to read more non-fiction this year and it also helped to remind me why I choose some of the books that I do and how I should go about choosing what I read in the future.

The premise of Miller's book is that he had pretty much stopped reading much and/or anything of quality and so, for self-improvement and a change of habit, he made a list (originally thirteen books) of books that he had always wanted to read and that he thought he should read ... because, in a lot of cases, he had already told people that he had read them. This book follows his journey through those books and also delves into his thoughts on reading, Dan Brown, book clubs, and more.
"However, what I really got from reading was this: it was the one thing at which I truly excelled."
I loved the parts of this book that told how Andy developed his love of reading as a child and the stories of the times he met Douglas Adams. I enjoyed hearing about how he finally fit reading back into his life after he became a parent. I also found it useful when he explained his process of how to chose which books to read. I've only read 9 1/2 (stupid Moby Dick) of his list of fifty books and only intend on reading 4 or 5 others but he doesn't advocate that everyone read the exact same books he did. He thinks (as I do) that a list like this is personal. You don't have to read books that are uninteresting or distasteful. Instead, read the books that you have always meant to get to, the ones that will fill in the gaps in your own web of literature.

The second appendix of this book is a list called The Hundred Books Which Influenced Me Most. I love this idea and am planning on assembling such a list of my own. If I ever get it done, I think it will make it obvious which books I should place on the next list -- Books I Still Intend to Read. I've tried in the past to co-opt other lists (e.g. 1001 Books to Read Before You Die) but I start feeling guilty as I mark books as "will never read" because they are simply ones I have zero interest in. To make my own list, one that changes as I change and as I read more and more throughout life (and as more lovely books are written, of course), seems far superior to giving in to the tastes of others.

Also reading dangerously,

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Today at The Estella Society: The Golden Compass

Today, over at The Estella Society, I'm talking about The Golden Compass. This was a reread of one of my favorite middle grade books!

Shooing you over,

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Sci-Fi Experience: 12 Doctors, 12 Stories

Remember how I said I was only going to work through my big time-travel anthology for The 2015 Sci-Fi Experience? Well, that was before I got this for Christmas --

Doctor Who: 12 Doctors, 12 Stories is a gorgeous set of stories from lovely authors who have created a new story for each of the twelve doctors (obviously ignoring the War Doctor). There's a nice one-volume set (shown below) but I really wanted the box set that has each story in its own book with the doctor represented on the cover (and a matching postcard for each one). This actually began as e-books of 11 Doctors, 11 Stories and then a compilation paperback, but Puffin decided to reissue it all after Peter Capaldi joined the gang and they added a story for him too.

As you can see, the author list for this project is amazing. There honestly wasn't a dud story in the bunch. I'm one of the fans who joined at the reboot but, even though I don't know some of the older Doctors very well, I still really enjoyed the stories featuring them. I'm not even sure I could pick a favorite story because they were all so wonderful. I highly recommend this collection for any Doctor Who fan or even for any reader wanting to get a taste of what the Doctor is like.

Waiting to become the next companion,

Thursday, January 1, 2015

2014 Stats and 2015 Goals

Happy New Year, my friends! It's time to wrap up the old year and take the first step into the new one. Let's start by taking a quick look back at some 2014 stats:

Pages read: 32545
Books read (or listened to): 105
Books from my TBR: 51
Re-reads: 16
Non-fictions read: 6
Books in translation: 3 (Spanish, German, Norwegian)
Most read author: Diana Wynne Jones, of course (13)
Longest book: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (734)
Oldest book: The Woman in White (1860)
(Not Fun fact: Both the oldest and the longest would have been Moby Dick (1851) if I hadn't quit at 370 pages in.)

And now for my 2015 goals:

First, I want to spend some of my reading time with some long-awaited rereads. My list will change based on my mood throughout the year, of course, but right now it looks like this --
Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell (before the miniseries),
To Say Nothing of the Dog (and possibly Blackout/All Clear),
a few of Josephine Tey's books,
Un Lun Dun,
some DWJs (Eight Days of Luke, The Islands of Chaldea, The Time of the Ghost),
and I'll have a few rereads for the 100 Chapter Books project: His Dark Materials series, The Little Prince, My Father's Dragon, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, The BFG.

Second, I want to get to some of these new-to-me authors:
Jo Walton
Kate Milford
Patrick Rothfuss
Peter S. Beagle
Anthony Trollope

Third, I'll give in and set some "number" goals. I want to read at least 50 books from my TBR again. I also want to read more books in translation (10+) and more non-fiction (8+).

Finally, here are some 2015 new releases that I'm looking forward to:
As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust - Alan Bradley (6 Jan)
Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances - Neil Gaiman (3 Feb)
Get In Trouble: Stories - Kelly Link (3 Feb)
The Boy Who Lost Fairyland - Catherynne M. Valente (3 Mar)
The Last Bookaneer - Matthew Pearl (28 Apr)
Two Years, Eight Months and 28 Days - Salman Rushdie (?)
and a new Kate Morton (?)!

So which book have I decided to start 2015 with?

Which book are you starting the new year with?


Wednesday, December 31, 2014

#amonthoffaves: 5 Fave Post Titles From This Year

The final prompt from A Month of Favorites is to share our Five Favorite (or Most Popular) Blog Posts from the year. I want to be honest with myself and all of you so I have to admit that I didn't have the best blogging year. When I did get posts up (besides a post a day for DWJ March), they were usually quick and to the point. And while I was glad to share some great books with all of you, the posts weren't the most thoughtful or imaginative of my blogging career. I *am* still amused by a couple of my post titles though so here are my ...

Five Favorite Blog Post Titles of 2014

One Cop, Two Cop (Countdown City, The Yiddish Policemen's Union) - 30 May
A Three-Story Trip Through London (Ten Second Staircase, The Pigeon Pie Mystery, This Other London) - 3 June

I hope you've enjoyed these Favorites posts this month. It's been fun to share so many aspects of my 2014 blogging with you all and I do feel like I've gotten a bit of my blogging mojo back. So I also hope that you all decide to stick around through 2015, while I try to entertain and share even more wonderful books!

Happy New Year's Eve,

Saturday, December 27, 2014

The City of Dreaming Books

The third book in Walter Moers' Zamonia series (but definitely readable as a stand-alone), The City of Dreaming Books is an amazing adventure in a city where books and authors are of extreme importance. I am having trouble finding the words to tell you exactly how amazing this book is so I'll use some of the author's own* words --
   It's not a story for people with thin skins and weak nerves, whom I would advise to replace this book on the pile at once and slink off to the children's section. Shoo! Begone, you cry-babies and quaffers of camomile tea, you wimps and softies! This book tells of a place where reading is still a genuine adventure, and by adventure I mean the old-fashioned definition of the word that appears in the Zamonian Dictionary: 'A daring enterprise undertaken in a spirit of curiosity or temerity, it is potentially life-threatening, harbours unforeseeable dangers and sometimes proves fatal.' 
   Yes, I speak of a place where reading can drive people insane. Where books may injure and poison them -- indeed, even kill them. Only those who are thoroughly prepared to take such risks in order to read this book -- only those willing to hazard their lives in so doing -- should accompany me to the next paragraph. The remainder, I congratulate on their wise but yellow-bellied decision to stay behind. Farewell, you cowards! I wish you a long and boring life, and, on that note, bid you goodbye!
*As the original of this book is in German, I want to give major credit to the translator, John Brownjohn, who has done a flawless job of bringing this story to English. Here's an interview with him from November 2012 about translating and Moers.

This book is funny and exciting and charming and imaginative. Each book I read in this series is more amazing than the last. Moers is a genius in the vein of Terry Pratchett or Jasper Fforde, using wordplay in a witty but seamless manner. I'm sure that I have missed well over half of what was really in this story. Rather than discouraging me, it just makes me look forward to rereading the book before too many years have passed. I'm also excited to see that the sequel to this is out in English and the third book in this side series will be out soon as well.

Always dreaming books,

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

#amonthoffaves: 5 Hyped Books That Deserved the Hype

Five Hyped Books That Deserved the Hype

All of these books were ones that I heard (almost) nothing but love about before I picked them up. I was hesitant to grab a couple of them for just this reason. But they all turned out to be great reads and I would recommend them myself now.

The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken was one I somehow missed in my childhood but it still managed to be thrilling and tense when I finally picked it up last year. I still need to read the sequels.

The Supernatural Elements by Edgar Cantero was praised even before it came out for its beautiful cover. The story inside was even more amazing.

Escape From Mr. Lemoncello's Library by Chris Grabenstein was such a smart book but the kids weren't all "nerds" and they still managed to be smart even while liking things like video games. The sequel to the book is coming out soon and Z and I are both excited about it!

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman was just totally unexpected and unique. I am eagerly anticipating the sequel to this one too.

Where'd You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple was crazy but was really fun for a Seattle resident like me to read (it's set in this lovely city). I don't read a lot of modern fiction so it's nice when I give something a chance and end up enjoying it.

And a bonus: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern which I put off until late last year because of the hype and then, of course, loved. This year when I reread it, I loved it even more -- so it managed to outperform my own high praise and thoughts!

Did you join the adoring fandom of a well-loved book this year?

Now a believer,

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

#amonthoffaves: 5 Books I Almost Put Down and I'm Glad I Didn't

Today, I'm talking about Five Books I Almost Put Down and I’m Glad I Didn’t. I only had one DNF this year but there were a few books that I was either hesitant to read in the first place or thought about putting down after starting.

Shada - Douglas Adams and Gareth Roberts
This is the novelization of a 1980 episode of Doctor Who written by Douglas Adams. The episode never came to be due to a strike at the BBC. Though I watch Doctor Who (from the reboot) and love Douglas Adams, I was still hesitant to pick this one up when I saw it at the library. It just seemed too nerdy. BUT! It ended up being a really fun (and strangely visual) read and had some of the seeds for Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, my favorite DA book.

The Glass Sentence - S.E. Grove
This one was highly recommended around the internet but I was having trouble getting into it after the first couple of chapters. LUCKILY!, a short passage dragged me back in and I sped through the rest of the book. Now I'm impatiently waiting for the sequel.

Confessions of a Latter-Day Virgin - Nicole Hardy
I had heard of this book and wasn't super keen on reading it. Then a friend recommended it to me based on some conversations we had AND SO! I picked it up anyway. It ended up giving me a lot of food for thought. It was strange to see some parallels to my own experiences and also to have a few "this could have been my path if I hadn't veered sooner" revelations.

The Ghost in the Electric Blue Suit - Graham Joyce
This one was weird. There were some times where I didn't know what was happening or things went too far away from where I thought they should have been. BUT! this was a review copy so I stuck with it and I'm glad I did. It never ended up being what I thought it should be but it was a good book on its own.

Doctor Proctor's Fart Powder - Jo Nesbø
I really didn't want to buy this book for Z but I had a feeling he would love it. Then he wanted to read it together as his bedtime book. I was super hesitant and ready to just grimace and bear it BUT THEN! it turned out to be a really fun story with lots of adventure and some cool, unconventional friendships and a bit of Norwegian culture. I'm actually looking forward to reading the second book in the series with him this spring.

Which book were you glad you stuck with until the end?

Expanding my horizons,

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