I just decided not to read another book, but it’s for a good reason! I think it’s a good reason, anyway. I read (and enjoyed) Gentlemen and Players by Joanne Harris about eight years ago, so I happily picked up another book by her last week. I started to read it last night, thought it sounded awfully familiar, and then realized it’s the sequel. It’s probably not exactly the same story as Gentlemen and Players (as John pointed out, it is called Different Class), but it’s set at the same school in the year right after that book ends, and the main character is the same and you know? I don’t want to. It’s another thriller with another mystery about some former student who has it in for the same teacher and while I’m sure it’s good – it’s probably good – I’m out. Back to the library this book will go. Instead, I will read one of the cheap paperbacks I have picked up since we got here so I can discard it before we move. I will be practical, and I will be done with Joanne Harris. Since this will be the second Joanne Harris book I have put down in a row (I gave up on The Gospel of Loki a year ago April), she gets no more chances from me. Except that I will almost certainly read Chocolat at some point. I love the movie. I’d like to read the book.
Some more thoughts on The Gate to Women’s Country, all entirely non-spoilery. Or maybe less about this book in particular and more about, well, let me get to that.
I have read a large number of books that left me wanting more when they were over. More books in a series, more information about the world that was created, more information about the characters or their families or their earlier adventures. Sometimes I have questions, maybe a mystery was left unsolved, or maybe something mysterious happened in the past that drove a character to do something, but that mysterious thing was never explained. I usually consider this a good thing, even if it’s mildly (at best) frustrating. It meant I was fully engaged. I want to know more. The author did something right, and if I’m lucky, I’ll get those answers in later books. I’m not always so lucky. Robin McKinley is a good example. Off the top of my head, I can name three books of hers, all stand-alone novels, set in three distinct worlds. All three books were complete on their own*, but the worlds in those books had histories, the families had problems, and the books were about one event, one adventure, just one snippet of those worlds. I want to know more about those worlds and those characters. What was the cataclysmic event that happened to the world in Shadows before the story that was written began? How did a world that was basically our own turn into that world? In Sunshine, what is up with the main character’s family? It’s clearly important to her character, but wasn’t necessary information for the story itself so it’s only hinted at, not included. I don’t remember having a lot of questions after I read Dragonhaven, but I want more family history AND more dragons, please.
The Gate to Women’s Country falls on the opposite end of the spectrum. Everything is explained at the end, even a few things that the very smart main character should have already figured out. Some of it is explained to the main character, some of it is explained to someone else, but all of it is explained, and I find it very satisfying. No loose ends. No open questions (except the reader’s own questions about the future of this civilization, which are totally acceptable). There’s clarity at the end, the kind that makes you go back and re-read the first few pages now that you’ve been enlightened. Sheri S. Tepper tends to do that, to lay everything out for the reader at the end, to spell out the things you’ve suspected or point out the things you missed.
I don’t know which approach I prefer. I like it when things are wrapped up neatly. I like knowing everything there is to know about a fictional universe. (There’s a reason I own two companion guides each to Anne McCaffrey’s Pern and Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time.) On the other hand, hinting at the richness of another world leaves so much scope for the imagination. I find it harder to let those books go and move into something else, and I can’t think that’s a bad thing.
*I’m not talking about books without resolutions, like one by an author I really like that is billed as a mystery and that moves like a mystery and HAS a mystery in it but is really just a cover for character development so it ends WITHOUT SOLVING THE MYSTERY.
I finished reading The Gate to Women’s Country today. For the third or fourth time – I don’t remember. I love this book. Since I read it this time for my NOW book club, and since it was my pick, I read it more carefully and took notes. I feel so virtuous. And I’m excited for book club, but we don’t meet for another week (the other reason notes were important).
Happily, Elaine finally remembered to bring me my very own personally autographed copy of Beauchamp Besieged, so I’ll start it tonight. I’m a little nervous. I want to like it because she’s so nice, but what if it’s bad?
Until today, every time I have been turned off by a book, it’s been because of the plot (or lack of it) or the writing. I started reading Interface by Neal Stephenson and J. Frederick George yesterday, and I’m having a hard time getting into it. I don’t think it’s the writing – I’ve always liked Neal Stephenson. I don’t think it’s the plot – it’s a science fiction political thriller. What’s not to like? It did start a little slow – we got the main character’s full family history in the first eight or so pages (snooze), but the action picked up after that.
Even with something actually happening, though, I’m not that excited to pick up the book and read, and I think it might be the physical book at fault. This has never happened to me before. I know I’ve been reading a lot on my Kindle, but I like physical books. I like the weight, I like the way the paper feels…and the paper might be why I’m not crazy about THIS book. It’s smooth. Like, silky. Practically laminated, but smoother. And it’s a heavy trade paperback that barely opens, so I feel like I’m using a crowbar to see the pages. The very very smooth pages. I never knew I could be this picky about the physical qualities of a book.
I’m 58 pages in, and I’m giving this one at least 100 pages before I give up. Maybe I’ll get over it and maybe it’s just that I started it yesterday after watching The Crown all day long and maybe I was just tired and I’ve been working all day and maybe it’s not the smoothness of the pages at all and maybe it’s nothing and I’ll forget all about this in another ten pages if I can just find 15 minutes to focus on reading.
(But when I’m into a book, 15 minutes to focus on reading finds me.)
(Sh. I’m still in denial.)
Of course we went to Powell’s when we were in Portland last Saturday. No trip there is complete without a visit to Powell’s. Because I’m still trying to avoid buying THINGS, I only bought one book, but I found a TON of books to add to my to-read list, and I had a couple of interesting conversations with random strangers in the science fiction section about Seanan McGuire’s InCryptid novels and The Wheel of Time. Not in the same conversation. It was a good way to spend several hours.
The one book I did buy is Jo Walton’s What Makes This Book So Great: Re-reading the Classics of Science Fiction and Fantasy. I was likely to buy it anyway (it’s Jo Walton – I like her), but I was hooked when I saw she wrote an essay on Neal Stephenson’s Anathem, which I was moved to write about when I read it, although I think for a totally different reason. Jo Walton’s book is a collection of blog posts she wrote for Tor.com, and the table of contents is the best to-read list (or to-re-read, in many cases) EVER. This may seem stupid, but I’m, like, furiously happy knowing this book exists.
Seriously, I’m a little emotional.
I met ANOTHER actual published author today. I met her months ago, actually, but I found out she’s an author today. She works (or maybe volunteers for riding time?) at the farm, so I see her once or twice a week. We exchange hellos, we know each other’s name, but we haven’t said more than a few words to each other before today. She seems shy. Today, she was walking with me as I took Tigger to the indoor arena, and she mentioned going somewhere for book research. Book research? I pounced. A little. Nicely.
Turns out she wrote three historical romance novels for Harlequin in the early 2000s, at least one of which sold a quarter of a million copies. She said she’s had writer’s block for a decade (writing stopped being fun and became stressful instead), and she wants to branch out of romance.
Anyway, I’m super curious, and I will be reading the first of her books soon. By Tuesday, I expect to have a signed copy of Beauchamp Besieged by Elaine Knighton.
The SWV NOW Book Club meeting (we discussed Negroland) was really good. Of course it was – these are good people. We ate, we chatted, we drank a little wine, we talked about the book. (Don’t tell my other book club, but this was more fun.) That was on a Thursday night. My other book club was meeting the following Tuesday to discuss Our Souls At Night, so I read my way through that, made a couple of notes, and then totally flaked on the meeting. I didn’t remember until the next morning. Maybe it’s a sign that I should just stop going to that one. I haven’t been since the end of March.
Back to the SWV NOW book club and how it’s just better: our next book, The Gate to Women’s Country, was my choice, and it really didn’t take much convincing to get the others to agree to read it.
I hope they like it. It’s one of my favorites. If they don’t like it, I might cry. I’ll certainly suffer from flashbacks to when my first book club didn’t like World War Z. Most of them didn’t even read it. Snobs.
Michelle supplied actual wisdom to this website in her comment on my post the other day, and I have decided to apply it to my life. Life is too short to read books that don’t grab me, so I just won’t. I did finish my NOW book club book (it was good, it was interesting, I didn’t love it), but the very next book I was supposed to read was for my other book club: Our Souls at Night, by Kent Haruf. The blurb wasn’t interesting to me, and the Kindle version was $11.99. The library had it, but it was out and there was a waiting list (and book club meets in less than a week). Was it worth $11.99 to me if I might quit after 50 pages? Not really. But I joined the book club to talk about books with other readers, and if they introduce me to good books I wouldn’t ordinarily pick out for myself, that’s a good thing, right? I would feel a little guilty going to a book club meeting without having finished the book we’re talking about, but a) that doesn’t make my opinion less valid (why didn’t I like it?), and b) no one says I have to go that month.
I took my dilemma to John. Given these circumstances what would he do? He would find a free download of the book or otherwise look for a cheaper way to get it, that’s what he’d do. Smart, although not officially condoned by me. Without going into any specifics (ahem), I did get a copy of it, and I started it with every intention of giving it 50 pages (or in this case, since it’s digital and I know the paper version is only around 200 pages, giving it 20 or 25%) before putting it down.
Who is surprised that I was hooked by the third page?
The other day, I added 36 books to my to-read list in Amazon in the space of half an hour because of two articles on Tor.com, both about space opera novels and series. My list has 427 books on it, and that doesn’t include the books already on my Kindle that I haven’t read or the books I own that are in storage that I haven’t read or the subsequent books in all the serieseses I’ve started and haven’t finished yet OR the ones I haven’t heard of yet that I want to read.
I am not going to live long enough to read all these books, am I? I need to quit my job and spend all my free time reading. That’s feasible, right?
The two articles:
I’m reading too slowly this week. I need to finish my current book and then read Negroland by Margo Jefferson for the new SWV NOW book club meeting next Thursday, and as soon as I finish Negroland, I have to read Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf for my other book club meeting the following Tuesday. I don’t have time to write to you. I must read!
I hate to say I don’t want to read, but neither of those books excites me. And now I feel like a bad person. This is good for me! Expands my horizons! Personal growth! “Someone is staring at you in Personal Growth.” Aw, Carrie Fisher.
I can’t find that clip on YouTube, but you know what? I shouldn’t be looking for it. I have to read!
Hi. Sorry. Still here, just fighting a cold or maybe allergies or whatever. It comes and goes, but it’s enough to keep me off my computer once work is over. Mostly. Today, Mindy sent me a delightful Martin and Lewis video neither of us had ever seen, and the latest story arc on Agents of SHIELD is the best since they tied in with Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and my third library book (the vampire one) was WAY better than the two before, so I’ve been pretty well entertained the last couple of otherwise miserable days. (Seriously – yesterday was a 3-crisis, 10-hour workday, on top of feeling crappy. I haven’t had a work day that stressful since I took the new position last fall. Not fun.)
Anyway, I’m going to bed with my new book and hopes of less congestion tomorrow.
I’m in a mood. A reading mood, but it’s not the kind of mood that only means I want to read. This is the kind of mood that means I’m hyper-critical of what I’m reading. I picked up three books from the library yesterday, all books that had been recommended to me or that had appealed to me on some trip to a bookstore or something.
I put the first one down after 24 pages. All of the exposition was in dialogue between a brother and a sister, and it was SO. PAINFUL. They clearly both remembered a thing that happened, but they had to talk through every detail in a way real people would NEVER DO. It’s like this radio commercial I HATED in Virginia for Warman Home Care (you know, like warm and caring? UGH) where a wife says to her husband, “you know how you’re worried about your dad getting older and living by himself and how he won’t be able to take care of himself but how we can’t do it either?” and every time I heard it, I cringed because NO ONE HAS THAT CONVERSATION! People use shorthand! They refer to conversations they’ve had before without going into every detail. Good writing would remember that and use references like clues to pull the reader in. This book was like that commercial and it was so irritating. And then the author tried REALLY HARD to make sure you knew how old the characters are now and were then. On one page, he said straight out that one character was 33, the sister was two years younger than that character, and the brother was three years older. Got it. Okay. A few pages later, the narration explicitly says that a certain event happened 23 years previously. At that point, I did the math – brother was 13, sister was 8. I’m with you. Then, at the bottom of the SAME PAGE, the brother asks the sister, “so, how old were we when that happened?” and she says, “well, I was 8, so you must have been 13.” OH MY GOD I GET IT.
I quit after that.
I picked up my next book right after that and nearly put it down after seven sentences. The main character, making dinner at home with his family, was julienning an onion. The pretentiousness oozed off the page. Are you a chef? No. Is this book about food or cooking? No. THEN YOU’RE CHOPPING THAT GODDAMN ONION. On the next page, we learn he lives in a brownstone. A page later, we learn that he’s going to his local bar, steps away from his brownstone. Then he goes to Whole Foods with his canvas bag, which is just blocks away from his brownstone. Guess what, guys? Mr. Perfect lives in a brownstone. I’m kind of glad he got kidnapped.
For reasons, I don’t understand, I’m still reading this book. I’ll finish it tonight, and I can move on to a book where the Queen is a vampire. I’m expecting better from the paranormal.
Here’s the thing I don’t like about my book club: I think they’re book snobs.
There are at least two people who like science fiction, but not many more than that. And I can understand not liking it (well, I can’t, but I’m not going to give anyone a hard time about it), but that doesn’t mean you should look down your nose at it. They read The Martian sometime last year, and that has become their go-to joke when they need an example of a science fiction book they all hated. Really? The Martian? That book was more science than fiction. If you want an example of bad science fiction, I can help you out, but The Martian ain’t it.
They’re not completely against light fiction. Most of the group liked The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, which is pretty light, but even then, a couple of them dismissed it as candy. Our next book is by Elizabeth Gilbert, which is a necessary antidote to The Sympathizer, but I expect half the group to think it’s twaddle, too.
Of COURSE not everyone in the group is going to like each book, but you can dislike something without dismissing an entire genre as beneath your notice. At the end of the last meeting, someone suggested we go around the table and say what we’re reading now, and I didn’t want to. I’m reading science fiction, and I didn’t want to have to deal with their judgment*. That is not a nice feeling.
I need to find (or start) an SFF book club. I guess it’ll have to wait until we stop moving. It would suck to start one up and then move away.
*Can someone explain to me WHY “judgment” is more correct than “judgement”? It looks SO WRONG.
Some days something happens, and I can sit down and write about it. Other days, maybe nothing happens, but I’m thinking about something, and I can sit down and write about it. Today, I started writing about something, decided it was stupid or boring, and deleted it. Then I did it again, but about something else. And then I did it again, but about a third thing. Considering what I do decide to post most days, that should tell you just how stupid or boring those three different things were.
So what have I got for you? Well, I finished The Sympathizer, finally. It only took a week, but it felt like an eternity. That’s not to say it wasn’t good… Tonight was book club night, and everyone had pretty much the same reaction except for a few people who LOVED it and one person who put it down after 30 pages and refused to finish it.
So far I don’t love my current book, but at least it has a plot.
That might be all I have for you.
I went to the library today, and now I have six books to read in three weeks. Can I do it?
Don’t be ridiculous. Of course I can do it. Have you met me? I can do that with both hands tied behind my back.
I saw a flyer today for a book club called Eugene Book Talk that meets once a month. The flyer was old (the books were for October and November), but I’ve read one of them (The Snow Child) and liked it, so that’s a good sign. On impulse, I emailed them right then and there, and the person running the account (no name except for the name of the book club) responded right away. S/He said they’re still active, and since they couldn’t meet in December, they’re meeting this Tuesday to discuss The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry.
I looked it up, downloaded the sample, enjoyed the first couple of pages, and now I have a mission. I put aside the book I’m in the middle of (again – I put it aside for Temeraire book 8 when the library e-book became available), and now I have 49.5 hours (from right now) to read the whole thing.
It’s a good thing I don’t have to work tomorrow. If it’s interesting enough, I think I’ll make it. THEN we’ll see how I feel about joining a book club again.
I love Robin McKinley. I’ve read 90% of what she’s written, and the only book I didn’t love without reservation was Sherwood, her take on Robin Hood. Mostly, she writes her own versions of fairy tales (she’s written two very different versions of Beauty and the Beast) and folk tales, but she’s written non-fairy tale books (still fantasy) and short stories and it’s all so good!
Then I found out she has a blog! How wonderful! And…it is, but I’m pretty sure I only think so because I already love her. For someone who likes her okay or is more indifferent than that, I think the way she formats her blog posts would come across less whimsically challenging and more hell-no-what-a-pain-in-the-ass-I’m-not-reading-this. Of course, that person probably wouldn’t be interested in her blog regardless of her footnote formatting, so it doesn’t really matter.
See for yourself. Footnotes within footnotes within footnotes. Because I love her already, and I like puzzles, and I like footnotes, I think it’s great. And I get sentences like “There are some vaguely luminescent white stripes in approximately the area where you might have expected a tab, but these are a snare and a delusion.” in a funny post about trying to open a package.
I need to find a way to work “but these are a snare and a delusion” into normal conversations.
John and I started watching The Man in the High Castle (Amazon Prime) a few days ago. We got hooked fast, and we basically binged it all weekend. We started Season 2 today.
The thing is, I know I read the book, and I know I didn’t particularly like it (I’ve felt that way about every Philip K. Dick book I’ve read), but I don’t remember enough about the plot to have any idea just how much the TV show differs from the book. I imagine it’s quite a bit different, but in what ways? I have no idea. And now that we’re hooked on the show, I don’t want to re-read the book (or even google a plot summary) because I want to avoid spoilers.
Maybe I do read too fast (as I have been accused). Or maybe I just don’t remember details of books I don’t love. Of course, since I’m so spoiler-conscious, maybe it’s just as well I don’t remember the book much.
End of the year musings? Sure, let’s be like everyone else.
There are plenty of reasons to call 2016 the worst year in recent history (TRUMP and the untimely deaths of Bowie, Prince, Carrie Fisher, Alan Rickman, George Michael, Anton Yelchin, and so on), but personally it wasn’t so bad. It feels like forever ago, but we moved to OR in 2016, John got his rec pilot’s license, he’s in a band, I’m riding, Emily had a baby, Corey and Christine got engaged, and I got a new job (same company) that lowered my work stress by 50% at least.
I discovered Temeraire and Captain Laurence and time-traveling historians and the Others and a ton of other new books and series to love and…WOW. Well, I have to declare 2016 a good year for me, despite the rest of the world, because I read nearly twice as many books this year as I did last year and four times as many as I read in 2013. (There are advantages to keeping a book list.) Yay for more reading time!
The last two days have been…something. Some good (I’m running more than 4 miles again – YAY – and I’m done with physical therapy – DOUBLE YAY), some sucky (my nose hurts and work has been super-stressful).
It’s Friday, and I’m going to make pasta for dinner and have a glass of wine and try to make this weekend last longer than its sad two little days. Maybe we’ll do something festive.
I can’t make my brain do much right now. I’m hungry and easily distracted, and John is playing the blues down the hall. It’s great, but I keep stopping to listen and when I focus on the screen again, whatever scraps of coherent thought I had (if I had any – who can tell?) are gone.
The news is all bad. I think I’ll go read about some dragons.