Hour 18 Mini challenge 

Next mini challenge wants 3 of my favorite books of the year from a list of categories. 

  • Best book of my reading year: Sunstone by Stjepan Šejić
  • Best fiction book of my reading year: Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
  • Best science fiction of my reading year: The Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler
  • Best nonfiction of my reading year: Smoke Gets in Your Eyes by Caitlin Doughty
  • Best historical fiction of my reading year:  The Fair Fight by Anna Freeman

Do you have any favorites this year yet? 

Mid Week Shuffle

I’m hoping to get some posts up soon, but we swapped internet providers kind of (we went from Comcast business to Xfinity) and we’re still working out the kinks. I just wanted to stop in and do a little book check in.
On Sunday my husband went in to start the outline of the sleeve tattoo he’s masterminding (it’s going to be intense) so for eight hours it was just me and the spawn. They were allowed a day of Wii-U and I settled down with a stack of books I’d been neglecting. I got so much finished! Some had been ones I’d been working on for awhile and some I managed to finish in one sitting.

  • Sex Criminals Vol 2. by Matt Fraction(print)- Another solid installment. I like saving SC as a trade. It’s definitely one of those binge comics for me. If I didn’t do the trade I totally see myself letting it stack up until I had the complete arc anyway.
  • Ms. Marvel Vol 2. by G. Willow Wilson (print) – MM is the same for me. I like having this chunk of storyline to read instead of just a sliver. Loved the Wolverine cameo.
  • The Geek’s Guide to Dating by Eric Smith (print) – I thought it was a mostly fun read. The friend zone section kind of made me sad, but all in all, I’m glad it wasn’t of another pick-up-artist nature.
  • In Real Life by Cory Doctorow (print) – I used to play World of Warcraft years ago and this one struck a cord with me. Go for the art and stay for the message.
  • Island of a Thousand Mirrors by Nayomi Munaweera (print) – This was an impulse buy from my local when I saw it on their signed shelf. I was not disappointed.
  • Dark Debt by Chloe Neill (ebook) – This is the latest in Neill’s Chicagoland Vampire series. I’m pretty sure the series is getting close to finishing up and I’m still hooked. I like a lot of snark with my violence so this was on the mark as usual.
  • War Dances by Sherman Alexie (print)- My first Alexie! I was enthralled which says a lot since I have a hard time with short stories. I need to pick up some of his other ones next.
  • Men Explain Things To Me by Rebecca Solnit (Scribd) – Loved this collection of essays. Like Bad Feminist it struck a lot of cords with me.

That was just one day! In the last few days I also finished a few.

  • Empress by Shan Sa (Oyster) – I was almost 50% through before I remembered I’d read this before. I wasn’t sure because it’s similar to Empress Orchid by Anchee Min which I’ve also read. I finished it anyway because I couldn’t exactly remember how it ended. Well worth the reread.
  • The Fair Fight by Anna Freeman (ebook)- Amanda from Book Riot has been RAVING about this one. Still, silly me, I took her ravings with a grain of salt. Silly me. I kept getting mad when I had to put it down to help out the kiddos with something. It’s probably one of my favorites of the year so far. Go get it. Now!

What’s your reading been like so far this week?

 

 

Comfort Reads

I just spent the last few days suffering from stomach flu I received from my loving husband who we think got it from our beautiful children. I’ll spare you the details, but basically it left me in bed and miserable. So when I wasn’t… you know, or sleeping, I had time to read. I found I wasn’t able to focus on anything heavy or detailed. Here’s what I was able to read.

  • Rereads of favorite books. Wild Things by Chloe Neill. A little violence and snark always makes me feel better.
  • Romance novels. Loretta Chase was recently recommended by Rebecca Schinsky at Book Riot so I thought I’d give her a go. I only got into the beginning of The Lion’s Daughter, but it was perfect for a sick day.
  • Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. I don’t have a category for this. I’ve been told to read this and it didn’t disappoint. The content is fun and adventurous.
  • Comics. Hello Sex Criminals Vol 2. Which is the closest I felt to being frisky at all.

 

What do you like to read when you’re sick (if you feel up to reading)?

Special Shelfies 

For a reader, part of our personality is our bookcases. How we organize them. What kind of bookcases to get (I want built-ins so badly). What we put on them. I found that along with my regular categories (fiction, nonfiction, classics) I needed some special categories. Or ways to make my TBR more manageable. Not pictured are my unread and read shelves. I have two bookcases in my living room of my unread books. Then I have three bookcases in our game room of books I’ve read.

This shelf is on the bookcases in the living room where the unread books live. Since I decided to read more diversely this month I thought it would be easier to pull the related books from my shelves so I could see them all at a glance. Also on the shelf are my unread comics. Mostly because this is the emptiest shelf. This shelf will change depending on what short term reading goal I’ve adopted. I didn’t pull all my diverse titles, but the ones that appealed to me the most.

On the two shelf bookcase that used to belong to my father, I have my long term book goal. When Book Riot announced their #readharder challenge, I spent about an hour pulling books that could possibly fit the categories. I pulled multiple titles for each category to give me some options. The reason the shelf looks kind of empty is I’ve either put back books that no longer appealed to me or already read a category and put its corresponding book back. I need to go back and curate this shelf I think.

My comics shelf which is below my #readharder shelf. Both my husband and a friend of mine commented on a picture I posted on Instagram of my stack of comics telling me I needed a shelf to keep them separate from my other books. My husband apparently doesn’t live in the same house as I do because this is that shelf. One I’ve had for awhile now. To be fair he stays out of the library/game room, so there is a little forgiveness there. Since I’m still a newbie at the comics game, it’s sort of empty, but also I’ve lent a few comics out (including two-thirds of Y: The Last Man). I figure I’ll expand it to the #readharder shelf, moving those books either back into my collection or cull a bit to make a new empty shelf.
Do you have any special shelves?

Book Club Angst

I have a love/hate relationship with book clubs. I’ve been in a few. I helped create one. They’re awesome and awful all at the same time for me.

My first book club was started at a library I worked at for a brief time. I joined partially because I was trying to help bump the numbers and also because I really was interested. The first book was…actually I don’t remember. What I do remember is that it devolved pretty quickly for me. For Halloween they picked a spooky book, which turned out to be the fourth book in a series that only one person had read. Which is a horrible choice for a book club. There was way too much backstory that we weren’t getting. (Note: It was Still Life With Crows by Preston Child.) The majority of the actual meeting was him telling us what we had missed. After that, I don’t remember every book except it started to feel like we were only reading that guy’s favorite books and suggesting new books was pretty much not allowed. The good news was I ended up quitting the job (for a completely different reason) which made backing out easier. Also the book club met in the library and had several library staff as members which apparently the librarian didn’t like so meetings tended to be a bit edgy and not fun. The librarian was one of the evil sort that didn’t like FUN at all.

She also censored books…

The other big book club was the one I helped to create. It was a classics book club. We started out on Facebook because as founders, myself and the other lady involved, we’d just moved to new, separate cities. So we started getting members the old fashioned way…harassing our friends and family. That started okay. Except as Zuckerberg is currently finding out, Facebook sucks for book club discussions. So we moved our happy butts to Goodreads. All was going pretty well. We were fine tuning things. It was manageable…until Goodreads featured us as a book group. Suddenly in something like a week we’d gone from maybe 50 people to over 1000. And it just grew. So did the expectations and the pressure. Now people were wanting us to do our choices a different way, or debate what a “classic” was (if I never have to have that debate again, it will be too soon). We had at our peak around 3000 members, but only maybe 100 were participating. If I could do it over, I think I’d have to have a mandatory participation clause, maybe. I got overwhelmed and honestly, a bit bored. For a year it seemed all people were voting on were dystopian sci-fi. Woman cannot live on dead white guys alone (because they almost always were dead white guys). And oh my gods, the snobbery. The people who wanted to look down on the rest because they weren’t getting the metaphors or allegories. I stepped down as a mod and lurked a bit out of habit, then quietly left.

Because Tina Fey is almost always appropriate for the situation

Recently I found myself in another book club. This one is science fiction and fantasy written by self identified ladies. This is pretty exciting to me. For one, I’m not running it so I can sit back and enjoy. Two, I’ve been needing a group to get out and talk to. Due to my introvert nature, I tend to be a homebody. Books are pretty much the only way to convince me to get out. Three, reading books by diverse authors is something I’m trying to get better at. Also I don’t have a great background in science fiction/fantasy so I’m looking to broaden my horizons there too. Our first book was my first Octavia Butler which was exciting. We read Parable of the Sower and even though I had a prior engagement so I couldn’t go to the meeting, I  read the book. And the next one. I also bought Kindred. Our next book is Ursula Le Guin’s The Lathe of Heaven. Another first for me.

I have concerns. I tend to get antsy about books that I’m supposed to read. Even books that I set up for myself. Why is that? I freaking don’t know. Flashbacks from high school? Also I worry about my social anxiety. I worry (see what I did there?) that I’ll worry too much and talk myself out of going. I get stressed out that I won’t “get” the metaphors and then feel too dumb to participate.

This is your cue…

I’d like to also find/create a book group where books aren’t assigned. Where we get together x amount of times a month and just sit around drinking wine/beer/coffee and talk about all the books we’ve read since the last time we met and about the ones we want to read. Maybe set up some little buddy reads, but nothing formal. I might do this. I might already have, but with comics. Along with two other ladies, we informally decided to get together and trade the comics we own and chat about them. I’m sure regular books will get added to the conversation. When have I not used an opportunity to talk about books?

We’re talking about the new ToMo book, right?

How do you feel about book clubs? Are you in one?

This Broad’s Life – Literary Ladies suggestions

Jezebel just started a video series ‘in which Hillary Crosley Coker trails interesting and kick-ass women as they navigate this thing called life.’ The first guest was trans activist, author, and the all around awesome Janet Mock (fun fact: I walked in the SF Pride Parade last year and she was the Grand Marshal).

So I was thinking which bookish broads would I like to see interviewed. This list is just the beginning so blow up the comments section with others you’d like to see as well.

*Roxane Gay – It’s no secret that I love her. So a whole interview? Bring it on.
*Toni Morrison – This feels like a gimme. Of course Hillary should interview TMo.
*Mallory Ortberg- She’s hilarious and talented and does amazing commentary with classic paintings featuring the ladies.
*Kelley Sue DeConnick – Comics count too! KS is a freaking powerhouse and is making awesome things happen with comics like most recently Bitch Planet.
*G.Willow Wilson- We can’t leave her out. It’s not fucking allowed. Not only a great novel writer (Alif the Unseen) she also writes the Ms. Marvel comics.
*Jennifer Weiner – Genre always gets left out. JW is a champion for the ladies getting love in literary circles and not only writes some great books, but also has on point The Bachelor live tweeting skills .
*Seanan McGuire – I just love what this lady does. She just helped kickstart Queers Destroy Science Fiction and writes in a variety of genres.
*Jacqueline Woodson – Just won so many awards for Brown Girl Dreaming which might have changed my mind about poetry.

Who else would you add?

The Pull List and Literary Loot Unites!

 

 

IMG_0150I love it when a plan comes together…okay, not so much a plan as when my bookish interests unite. Earlier in the week I had gotten an email that my copy of The Buried Giant by Kazou Ishiguro had come into the library and I planned at some point this week to pick it up, then two of the books I ordered for my oldest spawn were ready to pick up at our local indie bookstore. “What two books?” I hear you asking because who runs a book blog and then doesn’t title drop? That would be mean. The titles were Tuck Everlasting and How to Train Your Dragon. He’s reading above his grade level so it’s been fun to find classic books that will engage him without being too difficult in content. That’s a post in of itself. I also knew it was Rat Queens day which has been on a not so regular schedule as they dealt with new babies and abusive artists. Now there’s a new artist whose work I’ve pretty much fallen for and they’re back on track. I wasn’t going to pick up Rat Queens today except…it is also Saga day. And that felt like too much awesomeness to pass up.

While I was at Bookshop Santa Cruz picking up the spawn’s books, I noticed The Elegance of the Hedgehog in their used bin and I’d promised myself to buy it if I ever saw it in that bin (don’t ask why it had to be on those parameters, probably just to cut down on my spending). Then on the way to the customer service desk I lit upon Kindred by Octavia Butler of which I’d heard nothing but praise and why yes, I’m (mostly) only reading diverse authors this month so of course I’m going to buy it.

Not pictured are the ebooks I bought on Amazon. There were three authors that came out with the latest in their respective ongoing series, Chloe Neill’s Dark Debt in the Chicagoland Vampires, Anne Bishop’s Vision in Silver in the The Others series, and Seanan McGuire’s Pocket Apocalypse in the Incryptid series.

What comics or books did you pick up this week?

 

 

 

Task 16: An Audiobook: Marvel Comics: The Untold Story

My introduction to comics in general, let alone Marvel comics, has been relatively new. I think like a lot of people, I was introduced through the movies. Iron Man to be specific. Before Iron Man, I could have probably named a few superheroes, but ask me which publisher they belonged to? Fuggedaboutit. Then came Iron Man with Robert Downey Jr., an actor who I had been a fan of way back in his Less Than Zero days. I knew absolutely nothing about the character, but man, that movie was good. I didn’t jump right into the comics, but I did start paying more attention to all the different comic characters. Either reading Wiki pages or what not. Anything but reading the source material because man, that stuff was still overwhelming. Marvel Comics: The Untold Story by Sean Howe as an audiobook was a great find for the information as well as I really prefer my audiobooks to be nonfiction.

I now have read a few Marvel comics, even subscribing to Marvel Unlimited, a digital comics subscription and have Storm, Black Widow, and Elektra on my pull list (I had X-Men, but once they ended up in space decided to take a break). When I saw there was an audiobook talking about the history of the company I jumped on board. Aside from a short special they showed in place of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. last year, I knew Stan Lee as that guy who cameos in the movies and maybe he wrote a bit for them and that was it. So that being said, cut me some slack on this one.

I’m having a hard time processing the history Howe describes. Part of me, the fan wants to think he pulled a lot of disgruntled employees and DC lovers and had them tear up Marvel, but the rational side of me realizes that Marvel isn’t the rainbows and hearts company that we are presented with now. There were some things that stood out to me.

Starting at the beginning comics were considered frivolous. In the thirties when money was tight due to the Great Depression and then the rationing of the Second World War, they just weren’t a priority. Writers like Stan Lee, who even created the pseudonym we all know him by so his comics work wouldn’t get in the way of ‘his real writing,’ weren’t exactly proud to be apart of the industry. I learned about the different ways Marvel reinvented not only itself as a company, but its characters and comics as a whole. Howe also talks about the creators/artists/writers of some of our favorite characters and their ginormous egos. That really shouldn’t have come as quite the surprise as it did. I think that there is a certain quality that most people attribute to people of a creative nature. Then when you have a company that wants to make the most money possible, things start to get interesting. I had no idea how comics worked in the ownership sense. How the artists/writers who came up with Iron Man, the X-Men, The Fantastic Four, etc. didn’t actually own their creations which created a lot of trouble for everyone involved.

In light of the recent Spider-woman debacle, I was pretty unsurprised to see how women and diverse characters were treated. It’s gotten better, but man we have a long way to go. Also how comics served as PSAs for drug use and other messages the government wanted delivered to kids.

I need to go back and do some research into the specific comics Howe talks about. See that epic issue where Gwen Stacy dies, read Civil Wars where Cap and Iron Man are pitted against each other, and find the issue where Dark Phoenix destroys whole planets.

What audiobook did you pick for this challenge? Do you prefer fiction or nonfiction?

Reading Snapshot

Every once in while I’ll share what I’ve got going on book-wise.

Right now I am reading

IMG_0147

  • Gulp by Mary Roach (print) : MICROHISTORY task
  • Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed (print -I really wanted to read it = two print books) : SELF HELP task
  • Dragonfly Dance by Denise K. Lajimodiere (Oyster) : POETRY task
  • Marvel the Untold Story by Sean Howe (audiobook) : AUDIOBOOK task
  • Civil War (Marvel Unlimited) : because I broke down and bought a MU subscription during its last sale.

What are you reading?

 

*Update: corrected an author’s name.

End of the Year

I am making my vow right here. Next year I’m going to do better at writing this blog. I’m not sure I want to put a definite amount of times a week I’m going to be posting, but I have to do better than what I’m doing now.

Here we are in December and I’m on my second stretch goal. This year didn’t go as planned in the sense that I made goals that were ridiculously overambitious in the sense that I was trying to read a lot of the bigger, tougher books. Nothing wrong with that, but it took on the guise of being ‘assigned reading’ at that point. I ditched the list about halfway through the year and while I ‘missed out’ on some, I picked up some amazing books this year that were so much fun or that are going to stick with me in one way or another. For the sake of clarity I’m going divide my favorite books between books published this year and backlist.

Books published in 2014

  • An Untamed State and Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay. For me, this was the Year of Roxane. She rocked my world with both these books in two completely different ways. I can’t take about one without talking about the other. An Untamed State was breathtaking. I had to remind myself to breathe the whole time I was reading it which I did in one sitting because I couldn’t bear to put it down. Bad Feminist is one that spoke to my ideals. I want to give a copy of this one to everyone I know.
  • Station Eleven by Emily Mandel. I was resistant to this one because I generally don’t do the whole dystopia thing as a rule, but Station Eleven was so much more than that. Mandel really delved into the plight of humanity instead of focusing on the event of the flu epidemic.
  • The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen. I had to force myself to put TQotT down so I could savor it. I’m anxiously awaiting book two of the trilogy. Strong female protagonist, strong world building, and a gripping plot all made it work for me.
  • Yes Please by Amy Poehler. I listened to this on audio and she made me almost want to go back and binge on Parks and Rec (my husband and I are probably the last people to watch it). She’s amazing and inspirational.
  • The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriques. Can we have more books about the immigration experience like this? I need to go back and read everything in Henriques’s backlist now.
  • As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride by Cary Elwes. My husband introduced me to The Princess Bride when we first started dating. My parents were more rom coms and Stallone type action movies. I was an instant fan so I felt pretty great getting the audio narrated by the Cary Elwes and the surviving cast (except Mandy Patinkin and Fred Savage). We loved the hell out of this. It’s a great bit of nostalgia where you relive great moments but find out there was more going on than you realized. The bits about Andre the Giant were the best.

Backlist

  • Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Achidie. I also read Half of a Yellow Sun and watched Achidie’s TedTalks. I know I said it was the Year of Roxane, but I would be remiss in also naming it the year of Achidie as well in terms of making me think of things in a different, better way.
  • Rat Queens Vol. 1: Sass and Sorcery by Kurtis J. Wiebe. I credit this trade in getting me into comics. something I always wanted to do, but was super intimidated by. Rat Queens led me to Saga, Sex Criminals, The Wicked and the Divine, among many others that have been fun to lose an afternoon in.
  • The Gentleman Bastard series by Scott Lynch. So much fun. A fantasy series that has amazing world building, strong interesting characters and my new favorite quote. “A boy may be as disagreeable as he pleases, but when a girl refuses to crap sunshine on command, the world mutters darkly about her moods.”
  • Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman. I had read American Gods last year, but Neverwhere was amazing. Coupled with the BBC radio performance starring James MacAvoy, I was blown away by the fantastical characters and setting.
  • The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka. To be honest, the way Julie Otsuka wrote this threw me off at first; first person plural is a rare method, but it brought the book together nicely. I couldn’t help, but be drawn into the plight of the women in the story.
  • Parnassus on Wheels by Christopher Morley. I love books about books. This is a gem of a book that  isn’t that well known as far as I know. It made me want to buy a bus and fill it with books and drive around the United States.

I also kept up on a lot of series that are auto buy for me. I wasn’t disappointed in any of the newest installations of any of them. Seanan McGuire’s October Daye and InCryptid series, the last book in Kim Harrison’s The Hollows series, Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid Chronicles, and Chloe Neil’s Chicagoland Vampires all were everything I have come to expect from them.

I really don’t want to talk about the disappointments I’ve had in books. The good far outweighed the bad this year. I did better about not forcing myself to finish books I wasn’t connecting with. I’m seven books away from finishing my stretch goal of 300. I’m thinking I’m going do some rereading since the month tends to get busy with Christmas and vacations. Next post I want to tackle next year’s goals and books I’m looking forward to. So get your thinking caps on now for yours as well.

What were some of your favorite books this year, either backlist or published this year?