Variety is the Spice of Life

Once upon a time I didn’t read literary fiction. I didn’t even know literary fiction was a thing. My drug of choice were romance novels which later turned to romantic suspense then paranormal romance then to urban fantasy. When I was hooked on a specific genre I had a pattern: discover a new author then read EVERY book listed on the bibliography page. Which was fun in the pre-Internet days because sometimes the books would be in a series or trilogy, but the bibliography would be alphabetical so who the hell knew if that book you just got was the first in the set or maybe the last. I can’t tell you how many times I read a book only to get to the next one and find out I should have read it first.

How fast I would go through books back in the day.

These days I find I don’t binge on authors as much. If it’s part of a series and they’re all published I will read them, but to read their entire bibliography back to back? Not so much. Case in point, I read all of Sarah MacLean’s Rules for Scoundrels series, but haven’t dug into her backlist yet. Not because I didn’t like her writing, but because I did. I like having those books to come back to. Same with Octavia Butler. I read Parable of the Sower then immediately snatched up Parable of the Talents, but have yet to read Kindred or the Patternmaster series. I think the only reason I can do it still with a series is because to me a series is one big story broken into chunks. And don’t give me this b.s. about how your book is a standalone but it’s part of a series. Half the time when an author says that, there is so many references to previous books that you need to know about that you can’t enjoy the story. At least in my experience.

Don’t do this. Just tell people to go read the first book(s).

 

I tried to do it with Indu Sundaresan and Chitra Banerjee Divakruni. I loved their books and wanted to read them all, but I found in my old age I have to swap around. Read a little of this and read a little of that, then I can come back to the first author or even type of book. I can’t read a lot of historical fiction in a row these days. If it’s literary fiction I can’t read too many of the same kind, I have to swap the story a bit.

My immediate TBR is a hodgepodge of titles right now. I mentioned a few on the last post. I have everything from satire by Christopher Moore to historical fiction by Eugenia Kim to science fiction by Octavia Butler to a lot of feminist non fiction. I like to see where my mood takes me.

Have you ever binged an author’s backlist back to back? What’s your M.O. to your TBR?

 

May Wrap Up

May was a good month for reading both in quality and quantity.

  • God Help the Child by Toni Morrison (print, library)
  • I am not a Slut by Leora Tanenbaum (ebook, own)
  • A Kiss at Midnight by Eloise James (ebook, Scribd)
  • When Beauty Tamed the Beast by Eloisa James (ebook, Scribd)
  • The Duke is Mine by Eloisa James (ebook, Scribd)
  • Insatiable by Asa Akira (ebook, Oyster)
  • Spinster: Making a Life of One’s Own by Kate Bolick (print, galley)
  • A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab (print, own)
  • Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente (print, own)
  • The Ugly Duchess by Eloise James (ebook, Scribd)
  • The Duchess War by Courtney Milan (ebook, Scribd)
  • Once Upon a Tower by Eloisa James (ebook, Scribd)
  • Blankets by Craig Thompson (print, borrowed)
  • Every Day is for the Thief by Teju Cole (print, library)
  • The Heiress Effect by Courtney Milan (ebook, Scribd)
  • The Countess Conspiracy by Courtney Milan (ebook, Scribd)
  • How to Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran (print, library)
  • The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy by Sam Maggs (print, own)
  • Mademoiselle Chanel by C.W. Gortner (print, own)
  • Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self by Danielle Evans (print, library)
  • Redefining Realness by Janet Mock (print, own)
  • Inferno by Dan Brown (print, own)
  • No Matter the Wreckage by Sarah Kay (ebook, own)

My diversity count could have been better this month. I managed only 26%. It was all those romance novels that did me in so that’s to be expected. I did have 86% female count so there’s that. I managed five non fiction which is higher than my usual number and one book of poetry!

Some of my favorites were

  • No Matter the Wreckage: I haven’t been moved by poetry in a long time. After seeing Sarah Kay’s TedTalk I quickly picked up this book. It’s so great. The poems she does in her talk are also in the book!
  • Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self: What I said about poetry I also feel about short stories. More often than not, I read them feeling dissatisfied. Not so with this collection. I need to pick this one up for my own library.
  • How to Build a Girl: This one reminds me of my sister. Not that she’s a sixteen year old Lady Sex Adventurer, but she could have been. I had to recommend this book to her as soon as possible.
  • A Darker Shade of Magic: Such a fun book. I look forward to the next one. Actually I really want it now.

There was only one miss on the list and I don’t really want to call it out because I feel like the author’s followers would troll me. It was pretty bad and could have used an editor…or maybe a ghost writer. I finished it because for some reason I kept hoping it would get worse. It didn’t. No, it wasn’t the Toni Morrison.

What books did you read in May? Any favorites? Any letdowns?

 

TBR shelf: May

Aw may. My birthday month. I turn 32 this year. I was feeling a bit down about it, but then I realized I’m only getting better with age. I’m bragging a bit, but it’s more of a self acceptance. I’ve spent years trying to figure myself out and my place in the world and I think I finally have an idea on who I am. That being said I wanted to read about other women who rocked. I know I did the all female month recently, but is it really something one can over-do? If your answer is yes, I’m not your blogger.

  • Kindred by Octavia Butler
  • The First Bad Man by Miranda July
  • The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery
  • Honor by Elif Shafak
  • The Emperor’s Children by Claire Messud
  • Spinster: Making a Life of One’s Own by Kate Bolick
  • A Short History of Women by Kate Walbert
  • The Girls of Atomic City by Denise Kiernan
  • Hammer Head by Nina MacLaughlin
  • Redefining Realness by Janet Mock
  • The Scarlet Sisters: Sex, Suffrage and Scandal in the Gilded Age by Myra MacPherson
  • Flow: The Cultural Story of Menstration by Elissa Stein
  • Anything Goes: A Biography of the Roaring Twenties by Lucy Moore
  • Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self by Danielle Evans
  • Hausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum
  • Bachelor Girl: The Secret History of Single Women in the Twentieth Century by Betsy Israel
  • God Help The Child by Toni Morrison

My digital shelf

  • Euphoria by Lily King
  • The Architect’s Apprentice by Elif Shafak
  • Sophia: Princess, Suffragette, Revolutionary by Anita Anand
  • I Am Not a Slut by Leora Tanenbaum
  • American Rose: A Nation Laid Bare: The Life and Times of Gypsy Rose Lee by Karen Abbott
  • The Story of My Life by Helen Keller

This is just too good of a pile I’m hoping I can make a sizable dent in it. Which would you be reaching for first?

Ladies Reading Ladies Who Write Speculative Fiction

Remember when I said I have a love/hate relationship with book clubs and that I’d just joined a new one? The new club is comprised of a group of ladies reading speculative fiction written by women writers. I was invited to join after I’d tweeted about how I was adding more diversity to my reading. This is another added benefit of befriending your local booksellers as the person who invited me works at the local indie. From there I’ve also been exchanging tweets with another member so now it’s a double rainbow of awesome. Not only am I expanding my literary horizons, but I’m getting opportunities to talk books with other readers and make new friends.

Book friends got the hookup.

 

Our first book pick was Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler which was so fucking amazing to me that I immediately read the sequel Parable of the Talents. I wasn’t able to attend the first meeting due to a previous promise to attend a friend’s baby shower.  This month’s book was The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. Le Guin which I found to be pretty straightforward science fiction. Le Guin spelled out everything she wanted the reader to know so there wasn’t a lot of brain work being done. Not a bad book, but it could have been a bit longer.

I will get to what actually happened at the meeting, but I wanted to give a little background here. Wikipedia defines speculative fiction as “a broad literary genre encompassing any fiction with supernatural, fantastical, or futuristic elements.” I tried to get some stats on female authors in speculative fiction, but Wiki for one, seemed to just focus in on the science fiction angle instead of the other sub categories.  However, I stumbled upon the Internet Speculative Fiction Database and on their statistics page, it looks as if in 2012 they had over 98 thousand author entries. They unfortunately do not break it up by gender which would have been extremely helpful as well as adding in some kind of way of finding out their ethnicity.

Thanks for making it easy to get numbers….not.

 

The fact that speculative fiction is such a broad category is remarkable as it allows a lot of different fans in. I was thrilled to find out historical fiction tends to be considered speculative fiction as I’ve been reading that for years. Also literary fiction has representation also as in such books as Life After Life by Kate Atkinson since the main character Ursula seems to reboot her life whenever she dies which is completely fantastical. I also am a pretty big fan of urban fantasy which apparently is also considered speculative fiction. Suddenly I’m not as big of a newbie as I thought.

But I’m trying!

In addition to that, you know my commitment to reading more diverse authors as well. So it would be great to keep it going within the book club. Along with the aforementioned Le Guin and Butler, and our next pick is Catherynne M. Valente’s Deathless so we are at a 33% ratio of reading diverse authors which would be nice to see maintained since we know the discrepancy of diverse authors in publishing and I assume it’s an even greater gap in genres like science fiction and urban fantasy (Daniel José Older put together a list of diverse urban fantasy writers and about 50% were female, but the list was only 33 names). Goodreads has this list that I’d like to be able to pull some names from.

Some diverse titles in our TBR suggestion list

  • The Woman Who Thought She Was a Planet by Vandana Singh
  • Lagoon and Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor
  • The Killing Moon by N.K. Jemisin
  • Mindscape by Andrea Hairston

On to the meeting!

Six of us met at a local bakery that has delicious food, sat outside and got started. I admitted I felt a bit out of my element with science fiction. I’m a relative newbie in the genre and want to learn more so the discussion of scifi themes and tropes is new to me. I’m trying to learn more about dissecting books and their metaphors. Luckily as I mentioned before The Lathe of Heaven is pretty straight forward. In the meeting I was spellbound listening to these other five ladies debate evil vs inaction and gush over turtle-shaped aliens. Everyone was really polite with one another and let each other talk and even when they disagreed, there was respect. I’ve been in some groups where this does not happen. Feelings get hurt when someone doesn’t like a point you make or there is the opposite where no one wants to have an opposing opinion because they don’t want to be wrong. I didn’t see this happen, but I believe what will happen is no one will be judgmental of the person who was inaccurate. All in all I can’t wait for our next meeting.

What speculative fiction titles would you suggest? What do you like to see in your book clubs?