Sunday, December 31, 2017

2017 in Review

It is the end of 2017 and I am exhausted (just like my fat cat was after Christmas Day). I'm not sure why though because I apparently spent the whole year just escaping into books! Here are some of my stats --

Total Books Read/Listened To: 115, representing 36,000+ pages
Non-Fiction: 12
Review Copies: 26
Books in Translation: 5
Number of Rereads: 36
Library Usage: 31 (some of these overlap with rereads)
Books From My TBR: 36

I'm quite proud of that non-fiction number. That's better than I've ever done in a year. And having my rereads number back up so high makes me very happy.

Here are a few of the best reads (and rereads) from my year:
The Shepherd's Crown and Thief of Time - Terry Pratchett
Conrad's Fate and The Pinhoe Egg - Diana Wynne Jones
The Invisible Library and The Masked City - Genevieve Cogman
The Zoo: The Wild and Wonderful Tale of the Founding of London Zoo - Isobel Charman
The Hotel Under the Sand - Kage Baker
The Book that Changed America - Randall Fuller
The Boneshaker and Greenglass House and Ghosts of Greenglass House - Kate Milford
Meddling Kids - Edgar Cantero
The Wonderling - Mira Bartók 
A is for Arsenic: The Poisons of Agatha Christie - Kathryn Harkup
Race to the Bottom of the Sea - Lindsay Eager
The Gates - John Connolly
The Screaming Staircase - Jonathan Stroud

I seem to have really enjoyed middle grade books and sciencey non-fiction this year. Fantasy as my genre of choice was a no-brainer. I needed the escape for sure.

Now for 2018!

These are the books that I got for Christmas and I plan to enjoy most of them this year. I'll also be doing my reading for the Back to the Classics Challenge, running DWJ March/March Magics (this year 's theme will be short stories!), and keeping this trend toward rereads going. I hope to at least get twelve non-fiction reads again and raise that books-in-translation number. Otherwise, I just hope to have as enjoyable a reading year as I did in 2017. It saved my sanity (mostly).

How was your reading year? What goals do you have for next year?

Closing the book on 2017,

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Bathing the Lion

I know it's time to write up my end of the year post but first I wanted to mention one more book for the year, one I just finished reading today even though I was fighting a heinous headache. I just couldn't put this one down for any reason. Bathing the Lion by Jonathan Carroll is another gem from this not-well-enough-known author. It is science fiction turned on its head, a thoughtful musing on what our value is as human beings. I don't want to get too into the plot because the unfolding is beautiful so I'll just say that it starts with one set of truths and then turns those on their heads and applies an entirely different set of rules and facts.

The blurb on the back from Neil Gaiman says "[BTL] is a departure for Jonathan Carroll" but I humbly beg to differ. The three Carroll books I have now read have one thing in common -- they allow readers a complete escape whilst simultaneously exploring the deepest truths of humanity and relationships. In fact, I was having a Carroll-esque dream last night when who should appear but Gaiman (and his adorable son, Ash), whom I chastised for his blurb. I apparently felt quite strongly about this!

I just have one more Carroll book on my TBR so my next mission will be to seek out copies of some of his other books -- and to dive into rereads, of course.

Exploring and extolling,

Monday, December 18, 2017

A Stack of Eight

As the holidays approach and I get closer to having houseguests, I keep looking at all of the things that need to be tidied up and my stack of unreviewed books taunts me from the coffee table. Five of these are review copies too (as I've been trying to pare down yet another stack in another room) so I NEED to tell you about them. I don't know if I'll get to full reviews but I want to at least give these all a mention so here goes --

Reincarnation Blues by Michael Poore
I actually finished this story (of a man nearing the end of his reincarnation limit) at the beginning of November but could never figure out just what to say about it. There were things I liked about it and a couple of things that I didn't but it had me thinking for weeks about reincarnation and death and many other things. My spreadsheet note says "all over the place but mostly in a good way".

The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry
This was more of a character development book than a plot book and I enjoyed meandering through it. There was also a feeling of sadness about the whole story. The main character was incredibly damaged and that followed her everywhere.

Supernova by C.A. Higgins
This is the second in a trilogy and it was ridiculously dark and, quite honestly, painful to read but it inspired a lot of thought about rebels and revolutions and the cost of bringing down an empire. I definitely want to finish the trilogy but I'll need a bit of a break before I dive back into the darkness.

Whistling in the Dark by Shirley Hughes
I adored this story of children in Liverpool during the Blitz. Hughes was a young woman during WWII and her experiences definitely come through and give this story depth and authenticity.

Yesternight by Cat Winters
This one was weird. It was atmospheric and bizarre and I'm not sure I liked the ending.

Good Evening, Mrs. Craven by Mollie Panter-Downes
These WWII homefront pieces that were originally published in The New Yorker were almost all from points of view that I had never read/heard before. Some of them were rather depressing, others inspiring. Again, it was educational and entertaining to read a different point of view that usual.

Ocean of Secrets, Vol. 1 by Sophie-chan
This is Sophie-chan's first manga and she says she has been working on the story for years. It is a good twist on the secret-princess story. The second volume comes out in a couple of months and I think this will be a fun one to follow.

Hogfather by Terry Pratchett
And this one was a bit hard to get into for some reason. By the end I enjoyed it but I think that there are other better books in the Death series. However, there were also a few things in it that I loved -- like the scenes with the wizards. They were especially funny this time.

Well, now I get to put all of these books away and make room for presents. Yay! If there's one you want to know more about, let me know in the comments and I'll write a real post in the new year.

Tidying up,

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Back to the Classics Challenge - 2018

I haven't participated in a challenge for ages but, for some reason, Karen's Back to the Classics Challenge called out to me right now. I have many unread classics on my TBR and I would love to get through a few of them next year!

Here are books I might read in each of the 12 categories:

1. A 19th century classic - any book published between 1800 and 1899.
Our Mutual Friend (Charles Dickens, 1865)

2. A 20th century classic - any book published between 1900 and 1968.
One of Ours (Willa Cather, 1922)

3. A classic by a woman author.
The Linwoods (Catharine Maria Sedgwick, 1835)

4. A classic in translation. Any book originally written published in a language other than your native language.
The Ladies' Paradise (Émile Zola, 1883, French)

5. A children's classic.
Treasure Island (Robert Louis Stevenson, 1883)

6. A classic crime story, fiction or non-fiction.
The Leavenworth Case (Anna Katherine Green, 1878)

7. A classic travel or journey narrative, fiction or non-fiction. The journey itself must be the major plot point -- not just the destination.
Three Men on the Bummel (Jerome K. Jerome, 1900)

8. A classic with a single-word title.
Emma (Jane Austen, 1816)

9. A classic with a color in the title.
The Red House Mystery (A.A. Milne, 1922)

10. A classic by an author that's new to you.
Lud-in-the-Mist (Hope Mirrlees, 1926)

11. A classic that scares you.
To the Lighthouse (Virginia Wolfe, 1927)

12. Re-read a favorite classic.
David Copperfield (Charles Dickens, 1846)

Well, I've ended up with two Dickens on here but that may change. Otherwise, I'm excited by this list. Half of the authors are women and that's great! I'm going to pull these books and put them together on my TBR and try to get to them earlier in the year. I was already planning on Our Mutual Friend and The Linwoods in January so I'm hopeful that I will make good progress.

Reading the past,

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Moving Forward with Tremontaine

You might remember that, back in June, I sang the praises of Ellen Kushner and Company's Tremontaine, a serialized story published by SerialBox. I read the omnibus version of the first season and fell in love with the swordfighters, the scholars, and the lovers. I wanted to continue with the story but I assumed that the seasons were just in audio form and on the web and I didn't know if I had enough listening/computer time to make much progress in the series. I also thought that you had to keep up with their schedule and I was already hopelessly behind. Luckily, SerialBox reached out and got me onto their app and I discovered that each episode is actually in audio AND print form and is available forever. There are even extras included, like posts from each author as the episode they penned airs -- and they are all archived. Now I've started listening to Season 2 (or reading when I forget my earbuds or only have a moment or two to fit in a scene) and I'm not feeling at all rushed, even though the story has already moved on to Season 3, episode 8. I can buy episodes ($1.59 each -- what a deal!) or whole seasons at any time and just download them when I'm ready. However, I still can't decide whether to binge or take my time and savor each episode, like I would with the choicest Kinwiinik chocolate.

And if I do happen to finally catch up, Serial Box has seven other stories going right now in all different genres. More than one of them has already caught my eye!

With a cup of heaven (or maybe a tomato pie),