Miscellaneous


Can you believe it’s December already? I’m not sure where the last few months have gone–the older I get, the faster time seems to go. But somehow I survived a crazy 2012 and cannot wait for 2013 to start. Before the new year, however, we have to to make it through Christmas! If you’ve got some big readers on your shopping list this year, here are some of my favorite books I’ve reviewed on Kinda Silly Books.

For science fiction fans

Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card. This was one of my favorite sci fi books as a teen, and I still love it now almost 1o years later! The first book in a great series, Ender’s Game is written from the point of view of a highly intelligent child. As a teen I really appreciated the way Card wrote his youthful characters as fully fleshed and mature as the adults, a style that’s rare even in many young adult books. Almost all of my geeky friends and coworkers read this book as a teen and continue to reread it today, so it’s perfect for science fiction readers of any age.

The Foundation Novels, by Isaac Asimov. While there are more than three books in this series, I’ve only read the first three so far–they stop at such a perfect place, I really don’t see the need to continue. Because the three novels are all short, this trilogy would make a great gift set. The story follows the growth, partial collapse, and eventual rise of a society based on science. I wouldn’t recommend the books for young readers because the writing style can be challenging at times, but I think anyone high school aged or older would really enjoy this story of war and mind control.

For fiction fans

Mr. Darcy’s Diary, by Amanda Grange. This book is part of a set, all telling classic Jane Austin stories from the male point of view. While I do enjoy the originals better than these diaries, it was incredibly amusing to see someone’s guess at what the often clueless men were thinking. Written in a style that’s both familiar and formal, I think these books are perfect for teen readers just starting to enjoy the great classics.

The Patron Saint of Liars, by Ann Patchet. I’m pretty sure everything Ann Patchet has written makes me cry (in a good way). Her style is truthful without being blunt, and beautiful without being overly emotional. She tackles some big themes in this story (religion, unwed teen mothers, abandonment) and handles them with great care. The format of this book is really interesting, as it tells the story of a single family from three different family member’s perspectives over their lifetime. I would also highly recommend The Magician’s Assistant, which I have not reviewed but seriously love.

The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexander Dumas. I don’t think a story gets much better than this–it has action, it has political intrigue, it has romance and betrayal, it has dangerous escape plans and double crossing bad guys. Although it is an older story, and a longer one, I read this entire book in half a week because I could not stop reading. Perfect for everyone who loves a good story with tons of plot twists, although I’ve found it to be more popular with my guy friends so far.

For fantasy fans

The Dresden Files, by Jim Butcher. These books (I’ve read up through book six in the series) never fail to entertain. Harry Dresden is one of the best written characters I’ve read, and people who love snarky sarcasm will love these books. Each story tackles a different part of the magical world (vampires, faries, warewolves), so the world is slow to evolve but very detailed. While I have adored every Butcher book I’ve read, The Dresden Files are the ones that keep pulling me back for just one more read. And with over a dozen books currently out and the series still not finished, these will also last you through many gift-giving seasons!

Elantris, by Brandon Sanderson. Or honestly, most anything by Sanderson–his writing is some of the best I’ve read and his magical systems are based on science, which really sets his books apart. He is also the author picked to finish Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series. Elantris, like all of his books, jumps right into the story without much of an introduction, and it’s a wonderful game with Sanderson to figure out what’s happening before the character’s do. I may own every book Sanderson has written for adults at this point…

Rhapsody: Child of Blood, by Elizabeth Haydon. Rhapsody, the first book in the series, has been one of my all-time favorite books since I first read it in high school. The story begins with a terrible tragedy, but the main character’s incredible ability to thrive under pressure makes her a wonderfully optimistic (if annoyingly naive) person. And when you combine an innocent young girl, a career military man, and a professional assassin, you know a crazy story is sure to follow. I’ve read the entire series multiple times, but Rhapsody is one of the book I would save if my house was on fire.

For everyone else

Fresh & Fast Vegetarian: Recipes that make a meal, by Marie Simmons. This last year I really pushed myself to expand my diet to include more vegetables, a challenge I very much enjoyed. Who would have guessed that Brussels sprouts would become one of my favorite vegetables?! For the people in your life trying to make healthier dinner choices, I found some great recipes in this book. She includes a variety of dishes (sides, appetizers, soups, main courses) and every step is explained so clearly that even the most novice cook can use this book.

A Practical Wedding: Creative Solutions for Planning a Beautiful, Affordable, and Meaningful Celebration, by Meg Keene. I actually bought this book as a Christmas gift for a friend last year, and then grabbed another copy for myself once I got engaged. For those looking for an alternative to the typical big princess weddings that are so popular right now, I cannot suggest a better book than A Practical Wedding–it’s certainly been a lifesaver in my own wedding planning!

Two years ago I had no idea who Jim Butcher was, and now I can’t put his books down. His writing is snarky but intelligent, and incredibly fast-paced. The characters he creates, and the worlds they live in, are both fantastically magical and realistic. And since I can easily finish a Butcher book in a day or two, I’ve had to work hard to not read all of them in a single month-long marathon reading session!

Butcher has two series I’ve started and hope to finish soon–the Codex Alera books (I’ve reviewed the first book, Furies of Calderon, and am current reading the fourth book) about a boy without magic struggling to succeed in a world where literally every other person has magic, and the Dresden Files (I’ve read and reviewed through book six, Blood Rites) about a crime-solving wizard in Chicago. Harry Dreden, title character from the Dresden Files, is easily one of my favorite literary characters. Harry and Achmed, from Elizabeth Haydon’s Rhapsody series, are my two biggest character crushes.

If you’re looking for something easy to read, incredibly entertaining, and mildly though-provoking, I cannot recommend Jim Butcher enough. His books are not great works of literature, but his characters are beautifully developed and that’s my main requirement for a favorite author. Throw in fun magical systems and a few bloody battles, and I’ve developed a serious author crush!

 

So who are your author crushes? Any book characters you not-so-secretly want to meet? Share in the comments!

If you looked at my Google Reader on any given day, I seem like kind of a spaz. It’s filled with feminist blogs, cooking blogs, fashion blogs, literary blogs, gaming blogs, animal blogs, and marketing blogs. Among other things! And the books I read are similarly random. But I’ll admit, I don’t always finish what I start–just see my “books I started but never finished” list on the Currently Reading page! So when I saw this article on The New Yorker about promiscuous reading, I knew it was something I could relate to!

“The reason I don’t finish books is not that I don’t like reading enough; it’s that I like reading too much,” academic and book critic Mark O’Connell admits. “I can’t say no.” He suggests two main reasons he can’t stick with most books through the end–there are just too many good books waiting to be read, and the internet. A theory my random Google Reader seems to support–tons of different topics and I still can’t focus on just one article.

In response to O’Connell’s post, The Atlantic Wire wrote two articles that are a book lover’s personality test. While none of the reading types in this first article perfectly fit me, I loved seeing what aspects of myself were reflected in each one: The Hate Reader, The Chronological Reader, The Book-Buster, Delayed Onset Reader #1, Delayed Onset Reader #2, The Bookophile, The Anti-Reader, The Cross Under, The Multi-Tasker (based on Mark O’Connell), and The Sleepy Bedtime Reader. One of the best parts of the article are the suggested reads for each type.

The second Atlantic Wire article, A Diagnostics Addendum, adds twelve new reading personality types: The Book Snob, The Hopelessly Devoted, The Audiobook Listened, The Conscientious Reader, The Critic, The Book Swagger, The Easily Influenced Reader, The All-the Timer/Compulsive/Voracious/Anything Goes Reader, The Sharer, The Re-Reader, the It’s Complicated Reader, and The Cat (gotta love those cats!)

Admittedly, the All-the-Timer/Compulsive/Voracious/Anything Goes Reader is probably the most accurate! The description reads: “Wherever you go, whatever you do, there’s a book with you. It doesn’t matter what it is, really, so long as there are pages with words on them, or an e-reader with words on it. We can’t really suggested anything here because you took it with you to the grocery store or subway or library or laundromat or coffee shop, and you’re standing in line or sitting down and reading it right now.” Just ignore the two books at work, the book in my purse, the book in my work bag, the book on my bedside table, the book on my computer desk, and the book on the living room table…

So what’s your reading personality type? Share in the comments!

One of my favorite things in school was the recommended reading lists my English teachers would hand out the last day of class. The lists usually contained a few books that would be required reading next year (but I had usually read those already) and some more advanced books to keep our brains active during the three months of freedom (I usually had only read half of those, so there were a few books of interest every year). This visual guide to summer reading, from Teach.com, is perfect for anyone looking for great reading over the summer and the best part is I’ve only read 25 of the 101 books featured so it looks like I will have a lot of reading to do!

Summer Reading Flowchart

Via Teach.com and USC Rossier Online

I’ve been reading Les Miserables by Victor Hugo for several weeks now, but I’ve only managed to got 107 pages into the book. The characters really interesting, I love the musical, and it’s a book I’ve always wanted to read…but I’m struggling to read even 20 pages a night. Going forward (I’m determined to enjoy this book!), these are my tricks for reading a book I’m struggling to finish.

Research the time period to provide context

A large part of my struggle with Les Mis is that I know next to nothing about French history, especially the time period when the story takes place. So when large sections of the book are devoted to giving historical context, I tend to stop reading because I just don’t understand who all these people are and what they are doing.

But not understanding the historical or social context of the book is easy to fix–read a book or do some Google searches about it! I have several books about Napoleon and the French revolution, and there are many great online teaching resources I can access. While I won’t know every single thing the characters talk about, I’ll understand enough. You can do this with most any time period, and while it’s not fun to put down your main book for a day or two, it’s essential to research if you’re getting frustrated.

Find someone who can answer your questions

Despite researching French history, I still have some questions. History books are great at explaining WHAT happened, but they never get as deeply into the WHY as I would like. But my boyfriend and his father have both read Les Mis and are huge history buffs, so they can answer my constant “But WHY are they doing that, I don’t get it?!” questions.

Find someone who has read the book before, or who knows the time period. This person can help ground fictional characters in the real world context, with more emotional explanation than a text book. This person might also give you clues to what happens next–I hate when I have a theory about what’s going to happen and then it turns out I was horribly wrong. So I’ll usually pass my theories by someone who knows the book so I can stop looking for evidence I’m right.

Set a realistic timeline

My high school offered two advanced placement classes, English lit and Government and Economics. They were inconveniently at the same time, and I picked Gov and Econ because I figured I would read all the required books for the AP lit class on my free time anyway. What really happened was I never developed the skills from that class to fully understand and enjoy complicated books. I do read them on my own for fun, but I always feel like I’m missing the deeper points because I’m so focused on understanding the writing style.

When I read a book out of my comfort zone, I rarely adjust my reading style. I know I’m a fast reader with a comprehension level far above my education level, so I expect to easily read 100 or 200 pages in a sitting. With Les Mis, I need a break every chapter or two, because it’s a lot of data to process. Instead of getting frustrated with how slow my progress has been, I need to accept this book will take more time and effort than my normal books. Reading slowly and carefully isn’t a bad thing, but it can be a bit of a culture shock when you’ve read nothing but science fiction and fantasy for the last few years.

Accept you may have to reread the book

Some of my very favorite books have so much going on, it’s basically required to reread them to figure everything out. Since I’ve been reading for so long, I’ve developed a system that works for me. The first reading is about the character plot lines. The second reading focuses on the social and political context. The third reading lets me really understand the underlying moral themes.

Les Mis is a huge book (my hard back copy is over 1,000 pages). It’s going to take time to read once, let alone two or three times. But if I really want to appreciate the book, I may need to accept that fact. This reading will be to familiarize myself with the characters; next, I’ll research French history and understand the political and social context; finally, I’ll read it again to figure out what all of it means–right now all I’ve got is rich people suck.

There isn’t a timeline for this, but I want to read all 100 books on NPR’s Top 100 Science-Fiction and Fantasy Books list from August, 2011. I’ve been working on it for three months now and the following is my progress (this initial list includes books I’ve read before in addition to the ones I’ve read since starting this challenge). My notes on uncompleted series are in red.
  1. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, by J.R.R. Tolkien
  2. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams
  3. Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card
  4. The Dune Chronicles, by Frank Herbert (I’ve read the first two books)
  5. A Song of Fire and Ice, by George R.R. Martin (need to read the newest book)
  6. 1984, by George Orwell
  7. Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury
  8. The Foundation Trilogy, by Isaac Asimov
  9. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
  10. American Gods, by Neil Gaiman
  11. The Princess Bride, by William Goldman
  12. The Wheel of Time Series, by Robert Jordan
  13. Animal Farm, by George Orwell
  14. Neuromancer, by William Gibson
  15. Watchmen, by Allen Moore
  16. I, Robot, by Isaac Asimov
  17. Stranger in a Strange Land, by Robert Heinlein
  18. The Kingkiller Chronicles, by Patrick Rothfuss
  19. Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut
  20. Frankenstein, by Marry Shelley
  21. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, by Philip K. Dick
  22. The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood
  23. The Dark Tower Series, by Stephen King
  24. 2001: A Space Odyssey, by Arthur C. Clarke
  25. The Stand, by Stephen King
  26. Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson
  27. The Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury
  28. Cat’s Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut
  29. The Sandman Series, by Neil Gaiman
  30. A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess
  31. Starship Troopers, by Robert Heinlein
  32. Watership Down, by Richard Adams
  33. Dragonflight, by Anne McCaffery
  34. The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, by Robert Heinlein
  35. A Canticle for Leibowitz, by Walter M. Miller
  36. The Time Machine, by H.G. Wells
  37. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, by Jules Verne
  38. Flowers for Algernon, by Daniel Keys
  39. The War of the Worlds, by H.G. Wells
  40. The Chronicles of Amber, by Roger Zelazny
  41. The Belgariad, by David Eddings
  42. The Mists of Avalon, by Marion Zimmer Bradley
  43. The Mistborn Series, by Brandon Sanderson
  44. Ringworld, by Larry Niven
  45. The Left Hand of Darkness, by Ursula K. LeGuin
  46. The Silmarillion, by J.R.R. Tolkien
  47. The Once and Future Kink, by T.H. White
  48. Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman
  49. Childhood’s End, by Arthur C. Clarke
  50. Contact, by Carl Sagan
  51. The Hyperion Cantos, by Dan Simmons (read the first book)
  52. Stardust, by Neil Gaiman
  53. Cryptonomicon, by Neal Stephenson
  54. World War Z, by Max Brooks
  55. The Last Unicorn, by Peter S. Beagle
  56. The Forever War, by Joe Haldeman
  57. Small Gods, by Terry Pratchett
  58. The Chronicles of Thomas Convenant, The Unbeliever, by Stephen R. Donaldson
  59. The Vorkosigan Saga, by Lois McMaster Bujold
  60. Going Postal, by Terry Pratchett
  61. The Mote in God’s Eye, by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle
  62. The Sword of Truth, by Terry Goodkind (read through book four)
  63. The Road, by Cormac McCarthy
  64. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, by Susanna Clarke
  65. I Am Legend, by Richard Matheson
  66. The Riftwar Saga, by Raymond E. Feist
  67. The Shannara Trilogy, by Terry Brooks
  68. The Conan the Barbarian Series, by R.E. Howard
  69. The Farseer Trilogy, by Robin Hobb
  70. The Time Traveler’s Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger
  71. The Way of Kings, by Brandon Sanderson
  72. A Journey to the Center of the Earth, by Jules Verne
  73. The Legend of Drizzt Series, by R.A. Salvatore
  74. Old Man’s War, by John Scalzi
  75. The Diamond Age, by Neil Stephenson
  76. Rendezvous with Rama, by Arthur C. Clarke
  77. The Kushiel’s Legacy Series, by Jacqueline Carey
  78. The Dispossessed, by Ursula K. LeGuin
  79. Something Wicked This Way Comes, by Ray Bradbury
  80. Wicked, by Gregory Maguire
  81. The Malazan Book of the Fallen Series, by Steven Erikson
  82. The Eye Affair, by Jasper Fforde
  83. The Culture Series, by Iain M. Banks
  84. The Crystal Cave, by Mary Stewart
  85. Anathem, by Neal Stephenson
  86. The Codex Alera Series, by Jim Butcher
  87. The Book of the New Sun, by Gene Wolfe
  88. The Thrawn Trilogy, by Timothy Zahn
  89. The Outlander Series, by Diana Gabaldan
  90. The Elric Saga, by Michael Moorcock
  91. The Illustrated Man, by Ray Bradbury
  92. Sunshine, by Robin McKinley
  93. A Fire Upon the Deep, by Vernor Vinge
  94. The Caves of Steel, by Issac Asimov
  95. The Mars Trilogy, by Kim Stanley Robinson
  96. Lucifer’s Hammer, by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle
  97. Doomsday Book, by Connie Willis
  98. Perdido Street Station, by China Mieville
  99. The Xanth Series, by Piers Anthony
  100. The Space Trilogy, by C.S. Lewis

I should be reading one of the three books I’m currently working on. And I should be reviewing the growing stack of finished books on my desk. At the very least, I should finish the reviews I already started! But I can’t, because I’m still thinking about a book I read months ago.

After finishing the Wheel of Time series in November, I thought I was done with the books until the last one is released sometime in 2012. But apparently I just can’t let the book, and its wonderful characters, go. So I’m sharing some advice about how to finally get over a book and move on.

  1. Have one final fling, if you really must. After two months of studiously not thinking about how much I hate Rand (seriously, one of my least favorite characters ever), I finally gave in and had one more conversation/argument proving I was right. People had thought I’d given up that argument months ago, but no! I just couldn’t let it go.
  2. Realize you’ll never convince anyone you’re right. It may be the best fantasy series ever, but not everyone will agree. You may think that Matt was totally a better person than Rand or Perrin, but no one will agree. And you may think all of humanity deserves to die a fiery death rather than see Rand succeed, but it’s guaranteed no one will ever agree. So just give it up.
  3. Console yourself with other books. Indulge in a bit of frivolous fun–read a YA novel, a historical fiction, or a delightful memoir. Realize it’s your right to have fun and enjoy reading, even if you’re still secretly stewing over that one dumb character.
  4. And if all else fails, a bottle of wine and a good romance book can cure anything!

And that, my dear readers, is how you let go of a bad relationship with a fictional character.

Next Page »