Whitewavedarling is back for 2021...

Converses2021 Category Challenge

Afegeix-te a LibraryThing per participar.

Whitewavedarling is back for 2021...

Editat: des. 25, 2020, 3:50pm

Some of you (hopefully?) remember me... I participated in the category challenges regularly up till last year, and decided that I'd take a break in 2020. Right now, I can't remember what prompted that decision, but I've come back for 2021.

I'm Jennifer, and it's been a crazy year--as I'm sure a lot of you can also say. My husband was sick and out of work for four months with covid, but we made it through and now he's fully recovered. It was probably the longest four months of my life--especially the first two months, when he was most ill and I constantly worried--but we managed to get through it. My own freelance work (I'm a full-time editor) somehow, magically, didn't disappear as it did for so many other freelancers, which was a major blessing, or I'm not sure what would have happened.

On the heels of him recovering, another crazy thing happened. Finally, after five years of working at it on and off... I signed with a literary agent at a respected New York literary agency. I'd been querying my manuscripts on and off for the last few years, piling up rejections. I'd spoken to a few other agents who either ended up ghosting me or were clearly going to be a bad fit. And then, suddenly... the dream came true. And, truly, he feels like a perfect fit, and is excited to represent me throughout my career as an author--working with him has already been a dream come true, which is weird to say since the rest of 2020 has been such a disaster. But I've already worked with him to revise the (speculative fiction) manuscript he responded to, he's planning on sending it out on submission to publishers in January, and he'll also be reading one of my other manuscripts in the new year so that we can start working on that one.

So, all told, it's been a roller coaster of a year, with horribly low lows and crazy-high highs.

Predictably, my reading really fell off. For years, I've read around a hundred books each year (not counting the works I edit), and this year it was more like half that. I don't know if that had anything to do with me not doing the category challenge (probably not, really), but I hope to get back on track this year.

Meanwhile, it's also worth saying here that I'm having to be a bit more careful about how much time I spend on the computer, as I'm dealing with early carpal tunnel issues. With that in mind, I probably won't be able to keep up with all of the threads I used to, but I'll try to be a presence on the category threads and pop in where I can--probably mostly lurking--and I hope you'll all feel free to jump in here and chime in at will!

I'm not going to try to detail out careful categories as I have in the past--my goal, really, is going to be to get back to where I'm reading more consistently and come close to that 100-count, and participate in a few of the Cats, at least. My plan will be to write a post at the beginning of each month, outlining my plans for the month, and then count through the year...

Editat: Ahir, 9:54am

My planning thread!

As in past years, I'll work on reading through the alphabet--reading one book whose title begins with each letter of the alphabet, and reading one book whose author's last name matches up with each letter of the alphabet.

Alphabet by Title:


Alphabet by Author:


And then, I'll also be trying to keep up with the following challenges: The ScaredyKit, the RandomCat, the GenreCat, the SFFKit, and the AlphaKit. We'll see how it goes! I won't try to read one for each challenge--there'll be overlap--but I'm going to do my best to complete them!

April: The Demonologist (ScaredyKit--Possessed), Leviathan Wakes (SFFKit--Series)
May: The Scapegracers (ScaredyKit--Witches & Magic), Half-blood Blues (RandomCat), How to Dispatch a Human: Stories and Suggestions (GenreCat--Short Stories/Essays), Yesterday is History (SFFKit--Time Travel), North American Lake Monsters by Nathan Ballingrud (N AlphaKit), I'm Thinking of Ending Things (AlphaKit--I)
June: ScaredyKit--Diverse Perspectives, RandomCat, After the War (GenreCat--Historical Fiction), SFFKit--It's About the Journey, Dance on Saturday by Elwin Cotman (AlphaKit--C & D)
July: In the House of In Between by J.D. Buffington (ScaredyKit--Ghosts & Hautings), RandomCat, Eight Simple Rules for Dating a Dragon by Kerrelyn Sparks (GenreCat--Romance, SFFKit--Historical Fantasy, AlphaKit--S), Remote Control by Nnedi Okorafor (AlphaCat O)
August: ScaredyKit--Adrift in water or outer space, RandomCat, GenreCat--Poetry/Drama, SFFKit--Female Authors, Jagannath: Stories (J AlphaKit), AlphaKit--V
September: ScaredyKit--The Dead, RandomCat, GenreCat--YA/children, SFFKit--Near Future/Alternate Reality, AlphaKit--F & L
October: ScaredyKit--Real Life Monsters, RandomCat, GenreCat--Horror/Supernatural, SFFKit--Creature Feature, AlphaKit--H & E
November: ScaredyKit--Stephen King & Family, RandomCat, GenreCat--SFF, SFFKit--Short Stories, AlphaKit--B & Y
December: ScaredyKit--Horror Thrillers, RandomCat, GenreCat--Mysteries, SFFKit--Gothic Fantasy, AlphaKit--G & Q

LASTLY... I'm curious about the years I'm reading--when books were first released. I'm planning/hoping to read more new releases this year, and thus support more authors as they begin their careers. With that in mind, I'm going to include the years here, in order:

1898 (1),
1986 (1),
1990 (1), 1995 (2), 1999 (1)
2003 (1), 2005 (1), 2006 (1), 2007 (2),
2010 (2), 2014 (1), 2016 (2), 2017 (1), 2019 (3)
2020 (4), 2021 (2)

Editat: des. 25, 2020, 3:54pm

In January, I'm going to try to tackle all of the books that I MEANT to read in 2020, but didn't quite get around to, while at the same time measuring up to my CAT/KIT goals.

With that in mind, I plan to read:
The Doll's House by Neil Gaiman
Deader Homes and Gardens by Angie Fox
Just Another Soldier by Jason Christopher Hartley
Water Logic by Laurie J. Marks
The Colleen Colgan Chronicles Book 1 by Richard Phelan

The only one of these that hasn't already been sitting on the corner of my desk for a while is Deader Homes and Gardens, the fourth book in Angie Fox's Southern Ghosthunter series, which I've picked out for the RandomCat LOL read. I don't read much humor, but the books in this series never fail to make me laugh.

Hopefully, a few other books will sneak their way onto the January list, but at the very least, I plan to finish these!

des. 25, 2020, 6:49pm

Welcome back, Jennifer! Congratulations on getting an agent for your novel! I'm sorry to hear that your husband had covid but relieved that he has fully recovered. It has indeed been a roller coaster this year.

des. 25, 2020, 9:20pm

Good luck with your 2021 reading! How exciting about the agent!

des. 26, 2020, 3:04am

It's good to see you back here! I hope things will go more smoothly now after such a topsy-turvy year. Congrats on finding an agent!

des. 26, 2020, 5:01am

Good to see you back. Good luck with your reading in 2021

des. 26, 2020, 5:51am

Glad to see you back, Jennifer. Hope you have a good reading year and good luck with your new agent.

des. 26, 2020, 6:13am

Welcome back, and what brilliant news that you've snagged a great agent! Good luck with the submissions!

des. 26, 2020, 9:08am

2020 really did bring you some terrible lows and wonderful highs! Best wishes for a consistently good year ahead!

des. 26, 2020, 9:57am

So glad to see all of you, and thanks for the congrats, too! I can't wait to visit your threads :)

des. 26, 2020, 10:08am

Glad to hear your husband is recovering! And wow, the agent. You go girl!

des. 26, 2020, 10:41am

Welcome back! What wonderful news about the agent!

des. 26, 2020, 1:02pm

Great to see you back, Jennifer. I am looking forward to seeing the last of 2020 and have high hopes that 2021 will be a much better year for us all.

des. 27, 2020, 2:57pm

>12 majkia:, >13 LittleTaiko:, >14 DeltaQueen50:, Thanks! I'm glad to be back :)

des. 27, 2020, 10:25pm

Welcome back! Enjoy your reading this year.

des. 28, 2020, 8:00pm

Welcome back! And good luck with your manuscript and agent.

gen. 1, 2:05pm

Good to see you back and hopefully 2021 will include peace and good things for us all.

gen. 1, 4:26pm

Welcome back, Jennifer and wishing you a Happy New Year! Congratulations on signing with a literary agent! That is wonderful news! wishing you a wonderful year of reading in 2021.

gen. 3, 11:44am

>19 LadyoftheLodge: and >20 lkernagh:, Thanks! And, you too!

Meanwhile, happy new year, everyone--2021 has started!

I'm already off and reading, into both Just Another Soldier by Deader Homes and Gardens!

gen. 8, 9:37am

1. Deader Homes and Gardens by Angie Fox (read now because of the RandomCat's LOL theme)

This installment in the series felt a little darker than the earlier books--the humor was still here, but it was rather as if there were two storylines, where one was serious and one was more humorous. The book was still really enjoyable, but that separation led to the book feeling a little less light than the series has up to this point, and there were some other small things that didn't sit well with me because it felt like they were taken TOO lightly by the characters. On the whole, I did enjoy this book--I love the characters, enjoy Angie Fox's writing, and the story kept me turning pages--but this fourth book in the series didn't quite feel like it stood up to the earlier books.

I'd absolutely still recommend this series, and only give the caveat that some of the humor of books 1-3 gets lost with this one.

gen. 15, 8:10pm

2. The Colleen Colgan Chronicles Book 1: Flowers From Cannibals by Richard Phelan (Read now for Alphacat)

There's a lot to admire about this book, and that goes especially for the core concept and the storytelling. Yet, I also have to say that it was such a frustrating read, I sincerely doubt I'll be reading the next book in the series.

The issue at the center of the book's issues is editing--this is one of those self-published books that would have benefitted hugely from the traditional publication route specifically because a lack of editing is at the center of the book's issues. Bogged down from telling vs showing, needless head-hopping, and minor contradictions/inconsistencies in plot and character, there are a lot of distractions for the reader who'd like to be totally wrapped up in the story, but instead gets distracted by what amounts to a lack of editing. There's also a consistent falling back on the adult author coming through, at moments where the reader can clearly feel/sense the adult stepping in to use middle-school characters as a mouthpiece for a lesson. This isn't one of those books where it constantly feels as if an adult is writing the book that he/she thinks kids Should be reading... but there are enough moments where that happens, that it is an additional frustration.

I'd love to say that I love and can recommend this book, but the truth is that the unfinished quality of it really ruined it for me, constantly taking me out of the story. I'm not somebody who's against self-publishing--there's a ton of amazing self-published work out there--but it's abundantly clear that this book suffered from a lack of professional editing. I'd love to try another work by Phelan if he ends up publishing traditionally or if I discover he's hooked up with a professional editor, but until then, I'm afraid I can't see giving his work another shot, much as I hate to say it.

I suppose it's worth noting here that I am a critical reader--I'm a full-time editor, and a lot of my income comes from self-publishing authors. But more than anything, that helps me see the huge potential in this work, and what it could have been, which is why it ended up being such a frustrating read for me. I'm sure another reader would find a lot of enjoyment in it, but for me, it was just too unpolished to be what it should/could have been.

Editat: gen. 17, 8:17pm

3. The Sandman #2: The Doll's House by Neil Gaiman (read now for ScaredyKit)

There was a point in the second half of the book where I felt the story lagging, but on the whole, I really enjoyed this installment in the series. I can't quite say it lived up to the first volume, which had me entranced from page one on through the duration, but where the story here held to the main characters it followed, I truly enjoyed it. As would be expected, the storytelling and the artwork were both stellar, and I look forward to moving into the next book in the series.

gen. 22, 1:28pm

4. Just Another Soldier: A Year on the Ground in Iraq by Jason Christopher Hartley (read now for GenreCat)

I first became aware of this book right around the time it came out. I'd been teaching STS--Science and Technology in Society--for a few years by that point, and part of the course's goal was to look at how the development of new technology influenced society, and vice versa. Even before the book, I'd been aware of Hartley's blog and the censorship discussions it had prompted. In short, if you haven't heard about the controversy surrounding the blog, it comes down to this: A soldier started keeping a blog while he was deployed in Iraq, and even though his goal was to talk about the life of a soldier (going to pains to avoid giving up any information which could potentially compromise national security), his military superiors requested he take it down as soon as it was discovered. Later on, when he put it back up toward the end of his deployment, he was demoted and penalized for doing so. At the time of the blog's writing (2003-2004), the military wasn't yet prepared for soldiers' widespread use of the internet while overseas. Policy hadn't caught up to technology, so there was a loophole allowing for a soldier to, essentially, informally report his day-to-day life to whoever wanted to read it.

In the case of Hartley's blog (though his wasn't the only one), the blogs talk about everything from food to sex to fighting, with particular focus on average soldiers' positions and thoughts.

When we talked about it in my class, this was a real-world, current example of technology and the government being out of step when it came to capability and policy, and we had some amazing discussions in relation to some of the blog entries I shared. As a result, I always meant to get around to reading the whole book... and finally got around to it now.

I have to admit, it was hard to read at first. Not because of the war, but because of the unflinchingly sarcastic and non-PC comments that, on some level, I guess I've gotten used to not seeing (especially not coming from a voice that I'm already preconditioned to be sympathetic to). So, it took me some time to get used to Hartley's voice, and also to remember that all this was written nearly two decades ago, when what could pass for jokes--even if seen in bad taste--were still on some level seen as acceptable and not to be censored. Do I think that this, as it stands, would get printed today? Probably not without some of those non-PC jokes being removed. (And I don't say this lightly, but I admit I cringed at a number of moments, especially in the beginning when I wasn't quite prepared for some of what I was walking into, or had just perhaps forgotten some of the jokes I'd come across in reading original entries.) At the same time, there's something to be said for this being a snapshot backward in time, and providing a real look at soldiers on the ground, so in some ways I actually appreciate that none of it was toned down.

Can you tell I've got mixed feelings about the voice? Well, there you go.

That said, Hartley's writing is powerful, and the honesty that comes from the pages is more powerful because he doesn't go to pains to over-analyze what he's saying or censor himself. What's printed in the book is, in large part, simply a printing of the blog that he wrote while on the ground in Iraq, which he was writing even when he wasn't allowed to post online. I'm glad to have read it now, and I'm glad it got published in this form; ultimately, I'm also glad that Hartley kept writing, and pushed the boundaries of what he was "allowed" to have an opinion on as far as the army was concerned. The book is worth reading for all of those reasons.

Would I recommend it? Well, it depends on the reader. It is a snapshot backward in time. If you're looking for the thoughts of an average soldier in those days, or a look into the day-to-day stressors, mindsets, and difficulties, it's worth reading. Hartley's talent for bringing the people around him to life in few words, and for not censoring himself, make the book a powerful one that's got a lot of sincere thought, and no little amount of humor. It is, at times, hard to read, and it's not meant to be a full story of the war or politics in any way, so if you're looking for a full history in that dimension, this book isn't it.

Yet, I'm glad to have read it, and as jaded as some of its pages and reportings are, there's a lot of goodness to take from it, too.

gen. 22, 4:13pm

5. Accra Noir edited by Nana-ama Danquah (prioritized in reading list as an LT early reviewer book)

Over the last few years, I've become a huge fan of the Akashic Noir series, and Accra Noir is no exception to the series' quality. Maybe more than any other collection I've read, it brings its focus city to life, so that Accra becomes a real place and character explored through the pages of the stories collected here. The voices are so varied, there's a lot to be admired here, and my only complaint is that many of the authors represented here seem to be new voices...which means I can't find more of their work so soon as I'd like! Truly, though, that speaks to the quality of this wonderful collection.

My favorites in the collection included works by: Kwame Dawes, Ernest Kwame Nkrumah Addo, Anne Sackey, Nana-Ama Danquah, Eibhlin Ni Chleirigh, and Anna Bossman.

Absolutely recommended.

gen. 27, 9:45am

6. A Short History of the Island Butterflies by Nicholas Christopher

Nicholas Christopher's poetry here offers stories and meditations which come across in such gorgeous, telling detail, and whether a given poem leans toward the surreal or the emotional, each poem is so crisp that a reader can't help being affected by the vision and the language. More than the other collection I read from him, many of these poems feel almost cinematic in their beginnings--otherworldly, detailed openings to something much larger--but they are always more than simple observations or depictions in the end.

I adore Christopher's poetry, and I'm sure I'll be revisiting this collection in the future.

gen. 31, 3:42pm

7. Water Logic by Laurie J. Marks (read now for SFFKit & AlphaKit)

The third book in Laurie J. Marks' Elemental Logic series, Water Logic picks up where the earlier books leave off, and absolutely lives up to their magic. Partially made up of dual narratives that echo each other in a gorgeous line of symmetry, the book pulls together all of the magic and wonder from the earlier books, and only builds upon it all. As true-feeling as the characters are, the book's world is one that you can't help being sucked into.

I'd absolutely recommend this series, and I can't wait to read the fourth.

gen. 31, 3:46pm

I've got one more book I hope to finish today--Sorrow's Anthem by Michael Koryta--and another one I already finished that's just waiting for a review, but meanwhile, looking forward...

In February, I plan on reading:
These Nameless Things by Shawn Smucker
Kill the Dead by Richard Kadrey
My Battery is Low and it is Getting Dark (anthology)
The Avocado Drive Zoo by Earl Hammer
and Skin Shows by Jack Halberstam

gen. 31, 4:37pm

Attention: The below review is for one of those VERY rare books which I'll probably carry with me always in my head, and which I wish I could put into every reader's hands. It's worth reading. (Do read to end of review for some potential content warnings, though they're clear from the blurb for the book also.)

8. Depart, Depart by Sim Kern

In a work that sits at intersections of climate justice, prejudice, queerness, and social justice, Kern brings together a number of issues that would seem to be far too much for a slim work like this. Yet, Depart Depart is a powerful and beautifully told story, and as difficult as it is to read, the humor and empathy of the central character, Noah Mishner, make it all but impossible to put down and walk away from. Instead, Noah is a character who will carry readers through the journey told in the book, and then accompany them outside of the pages to demand that more thought be given to his story.

What makes this book work so well is that no one issue monopolizes either story or reader. What would probably be chaos in another book works here because it is all telescoped into the continuous, lived experience of a single trans man and his found family as they live through the aftermath of a an unprecedented hurricane. Is it overwhelming? Often--for the reader as well as Noah. And that's why it works--because the reader is brought so close to Noah that they cannot deny the way all of these issues are brought together in his life during these days after the storm.

As such, this is one of those books that I know will stick with me. It's a book that ought to be carried around and passed on and talked about--that's how timely and necessary it is, difficult as parts of it may be.

There's a lot here, and readers should be aware that the book doesn't flinch away from confronting lived experiences of transphobia, anti-Semitism, and trauma. But at the same time, this book has such an incredible amount of heart--packed into every page--that it is one I would absolutely recommend to every reader out there.

feb. 1, 9:31pm

9. Sorrow's Anthem by Michael Koryta

This is a solid procedural with great, believable characters and a twisting story that keeps the pages turning. The one problem? Koryta is even better now than he was then. And that really is the one problem. I discovered Koryta through his more recent works, so I went into this book with incredibly high expectations. I've since discovered that he wrote this when he was only 22--TWENTY-TWO!--and the debut book before it when he was only 21, which is remarkable, and as a procedural or mystery, it really is a great book. The problem, though, is that Koryta has gotten better over time, and his more recent books are fantastic. Call this an 8 on the procedural scale, and call his more recent works 12 (on a 10-point-scale) of thrillers.

So, would I recommend this book? This series? Absolutely. But if you've discovered Koryta through his more recent works, know that the books in his Lincoln Perry series are more traditional procedurals, and written when he was a younger, still developing writer--albeit an incredibly talented one already. And if I'd discovered him through this book, I'm sure I still would have picked up more of his work, which is probably all that needs to be said.

feb. 13, 11:10am

10. These Nameless Things by Shawn Smucker (for AlphaKit T, and because this had been sitting & waiting from LT's Early Reviewer Program)

I received this book from LibraryThing's Early Reviewer Program for free, in return for an honest review.

First, I want to say two things. The first is that I think this book does itself and readers a disservice by holding back the author's inspiration from the blurb. I think it would be more likely to attract interested readers, and also be more engaging from the beginning, if that literary point of inspiration/connection were advertised. As it was, the early chapters feel more vague than satisfying--enough so that I paged to the back in search of some sort of author's note. This isn't something I normally do, but it seemed so certain that I was missing something, I didn't see what choice I had. Sure enough, I found an 'Author Note' that referenced a particular piece of classic literature as a reference. I won't mention it here since the blurb holds it back, and so I suppose it would have to be considered a spoiler, but considering how directly the author works from that point of reference, and that he says he hopes this book will be 'a mirror' to that one... well, again, I think it's a disservice to readers, to pretend that that isn't a crucial piece of information. I've read other books that used the same reference point beautifully, and I would have read this one, too--with even more excitement--if it had been advertised in that fashion.

The second thing I want to say is that, so far as I can tell, I'm the exact target audience for this book. I love mysterious, speculative works. I'm always glad to see literary allusions and reference points. And I love genre fiction as much as I love literary fiction.

So, on to the review. As you've probably guessed by now, just from that beginning, this book just didn't hit the right chord for me. There were some fantastic scenes where the writer's talent shown through, but so much of the first half (especially) was based more in atmosphere than story, it was incredibly hard to engage with the book. And I never got to a point where I felt any real momentum, or compulsion to keep reading. I think the central problem is that the author was working from such a direct reference point, but he was trying also to make this book its own book that could stand on its own. As a result, we ended up with a fairly drawn-out story that didn't have a particularly cohesive or clear plot--until you understood the reference, at least, and could get some better feel for what was happening. But, at that point, it just seemed belabored.

I think this probably could have been a fantastic novella. Or maybe it even would have been a great novel, if the writer had embraced his reference point a bit more and made it clearer from the beginning, really leaning into it. As it is, though, I kept reading simply because I'd started reading, and it's hard for me to imagine recommending this book except in a situation where readers wanted a work feeding off of that literary reference I mentioned.

feb. 20, 10:05am

11. My Battery Is Low and It Is Getting Dark edited by Joshua Palmataier (read now for SFFKit Sentient Things)

When I picked up this anthology, I somewhat feared that the stories would become repetitive even though the theme itself intrigued me. Instead, I found that the fourteen stories here are all utterly distinct and original, each one written by a talented author whose writing made a whole world come to life within only 10-15 pages. It's rare that I can say I truly enjoyed every story in an anthology, but in this case, it's true. Although there were two or three where I didn't love the writer's style, even those stories were so vibrant and original that the reading experience itself was more than worthwhile. An added bonus is that most of these authors were new to me, and now I'm looking forward to looking up the novels that they've written.

Some of my favorites in the collection were: "Ganbold and the Best Drone in Mongolia" by Dana Berube, "This Cold Red Dust" by Merc Fenn Wolfmoor, "Traveling Hopefully" by Jacey Bedford, "Brewing Insurrection" by Jose Pablo Iriarte, "Sassi's Last Ride" by Alethea Kontis, and "Beneath the Pall" by Edward Willett.

I would absolutely recommend this anthology to lovers of science fiction.

feb. 21, 11:05am

12. The Avocado Drive Zoo by Earl Hamner

There are some sweet and incredibly amusing anecdotes about animals in this book, and it was also interesting to get to know the voice/writer behind two of my mom's favorite old shows (The Waltons and The Man from Snowy River)--but, at the same time, I'm not sure I'm all that likely to recommend this book to anyone (let alone my mom, who I would have thought of first). On the animal front--because, truly, that's why I picked up the book to begin with--Hamner has such a practical attitude, and is so unsentimental, that there were times when I just wasn't sure I wanted to read further. Animals' deaths were, for the most part, related so casually and with so little affect in the beginning that I learned a 'bad ending' would often enough follow up an anecdote; or, if not bad, at least sad or not good. As a result, every time I put the book down, I had mixed feelings about picking it up again. And while my interest was truly in the animals--and that's what the book proclaims itself to be focused on, after all--it often felt like Hamner was a little more interested in talking about his feelings about different animals, versus the animals themselves. So, where I would have expected them to feel a bit more real and distinct, that didn't always happen.

I think this came from the realist's perspective, but it put me off a bit. For instance, I have five animals now--each one of them has a distinct personality and quirks, as has been the case with every other animal I've had over the years. Yet, we didn't really see those 'quirks'/'personalities' of the animals in this book. We saw how the humans interacted with them, and we saw what the humans felt was worth observing... but for the most part, the animals felt more like props in the story than the focus of the story, and with Hamner's ultra-practical and rather curmudgeonly attitude throughout the book, the sweetest of the moments in the book were harder to fall in love with not because they were so rare or so sweet, but because the voice they were coming from and what they were surrounded by.

Am I glad I read the book? I'm not sure, to be honest with you. There were some great anecdotes, and it was a fast read, but a lot of it struck me in a sort of off way, and the parts about animals were so fast, so without detail that would have brought the animals/scenes to life, that I'm unfortunately hard-pressed to say I enjoyed all that much of the book. I was amused, often enough, but I'm not sure I can say more than that.

Editat: feb. 21, 5:50pm

13. Skin Shows: Gothic Horror and the Technology of Monsters by Judith Halberstam (read now for ScaredyKit)

Skin Shows is one of those books which landed on my shelves when I was in academia, but which I was so curious about that I kept it around to read (eventually) even after leaving that world behind me. And, truly, I'm glad I did. Although this book is undeniably academic in nature, it's also so accessible and readable that I found myself reading far more in one sitting than I ever would have expected. Halberstam's analysis and discussions of horror, as grouped around both classic literary texts (such as Frankenstein and Dracula) and more recent films (such as Silence of the Lambs and Texas Chainsaw Massacre), range from covering the ground of literary theory on to psychoanalysis, so that an incredible amount of thoughtful commentary is packed into the relatively short book. The ideas are offered with a depth and thoughtfulness that add weight to each discussion of the monstrous and what it entails.

For anyone interested, I'd certainly recommend the book.

feb. 28, 10:24am

14. Kill the Dead by Richard Kadrey (read now for AlphaKat K)

I absolutely adored the first Sandman Slim novel, but for some reason, I had a harder time getting into this one. The voice and characters were there, and Kadrey's writing swept me along pretty quickly, but somehow the story in this one just didn't catch me as being so compelling or engaging me in the same way. I'm not sure how much of it was me being distracted by the world and how much was the book, but this one somehow felt more chaotic than truly engaging, and I just didn't enjoy it nearly as much as I did the first in the series. There wasn't as much tension, certainly, and that sometimes made things drag. Still, I'm looking forward to reading the third one still, and hoping to be picked back up by the experience I remember having with the first one.

feb. 28, 10:28am

And, for March, here's what's up on deck....

Wounds: Six Stories from the Border of Hell (ScaredyKit--Short Stories),
Murmur by Will Eaves (Surprise RandomCat),
The Lie Tree (SFFKit--Indiana Jones in Space/Fairyland),
Sleep Donation by Karen Russell (R AlphaKit),
Utopia (GenreCat for Military/Spy/Thrillers & AlphaKit--U)

I'm anxious to read The Lie Tree, but even though it was on the list pulled up for that Kit, I'm not 100% sure how well it fits. So, I'll try to get into it sooner than later to see whether or not I should try to fit something else in. I'm already loosely halfway through Utopia, and I'm hoping to start Wounds: Six Stories from the Border of Hell today.

Editat: març 4, 5:00pm

15. Utopia by Lincoln Child (read now for GenreCat and AlphaKit)

This is the most enjoyable thriller I've read in a while. With great writing, engaging characters, and a good, twisting story, it had everything I could have hoped for in a thriller. There was also a nice element of tech/science fiction that added the perfect amount of atmosphere without taking things over the top or to where I felt like I was reading science fiction rather than suspense, or where I felt lost in the details. Instead, it felt like it was used masterfully to up the ante and atmosphere, making the most of the setting of a high-tech amusement park.

Absolutely recommended for folks who enjoy fast-moving suspense with just a bit of tech.

març 8, 9:22am

16. Murmur by Will Eaves (read for Surprise RandomCat)

This is a tough one. The prose is gorgeous, and it often felt like I was reading poetry more than prose, but the dreamlike sections combined with the disjointedness of the narrative made for a tough read in terms of content, and if I hadn't known what the book was loosely about, I think I might have been mostly lost. As it is, I appreciated the language and the intent, and could even understand what it seemed the author was going for, but I didn't enjoy this as much as I would have liked and probably wouldn't recommend it.

març 10, 9:03am

17. The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge (read now for the SFFKit)

With the feel of a fairy tale, this is one of those books that seems to straddle middle grade and YA territory, but be stronger for it. The protagonist, Faith, is someone who a reader can't help but fall in love with (particularly if they love natural science and snakes, like I do), and the writer's attention to historical detail, historical customs, and details of natural science and archaeology bring what is a sort of fantastical mystery to another level of intrigue and magic.

For animal lovers, I feel like I do have to mention that there's a quick scene related to the game of a dog catching rats, and as much as I'm not a fan of rats particularly, it was graphic enough that it was hard for me to read it. In fact, I'd planned on finishing a chapter and going to bed, but ended up deciding there was no way I could stop or go to sleep on that scene. I know that, if I'd read that as a child, it would have bothered me a lot more, which is why I mention it--if you're a parent considering this book for your child, and they're an animal lover, it's worth considering.

That said, this was a quick bad moment in a book that's otherwise smart, magical, and absolutely worth falling into. I'm sure I'll read more of Hardinge's work in the future.

març 10, 3:51pm

18. Sleep Donation by Karen Russell (Read now for AlphaKit R)

This is a fast, fascinating read, and the Viking paperback I have has the most gorgeous illustrations which are themselves well worth sinking into. The concepts, ideas, and images here sucked me in almost immediately, and in the end, I read the book in only a few sittings. And... yet. And yet, I have to admit that I ended up wanting more. More from the characters, more from the plot, and more especially from the ending. In some ways, it felt like 90% of the book's energy went to world-building and imagery, leaving only 10% or so of the energy to go toward plot and character. In some ways, it may be that the world-building and concept were so vibrant that they were more than enough to hold up the experience of the book, so all else was deemed secondary, but especially by the time the book ended, I found myself simply wanting more.

So, would I recommend the book? Well, yes, but with some reservations, and with the caveat that this is a book to be read for the concepts and the world and the images playing it forward, vs for the primary story or any sort of conflict. I'm not sure if I'll read more of Russell's work, truly--if the sound of a story fascinates me, I probably will. If not... I probably won't.

març 22, 10:19am

19. Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro (read now because it came in the mail, and I couldn't resist it)

I knew I wanted to carve out a time when I could immerse myself in this book for a few hours to get started. Ishiguro has long been one of my favorite authors, and I'd been looking forward to this one for months. What I didn't expect was to be so enraptured, I'd read the book from beginning to end in one day, with only one break for dinner. It's very possible that one of the pages toward the beginning has a drop of coffee on it, and one of the pages toward the end has a drop of wine, with some of the pages in between having drops of tears. And here, more than a week later, it's still sitting at my desk and waiting for a review, swirling in my brain--because, for a somewhat simple story if you only look to the blurb or summary, it is so utterly weighted with meaning that I struggle to put words to it.

Told from the perspective of an Artificial Friend, Klara, the book is layered with meaning in the best of ways. As with some of Ishiguro's other works, Klara and the Sun tackles the biggest of questions with such nuance that they might almost be missed--coming of age, religion, progress and technology, and, of course, revolution and love. What's brilliant here, though, is that none of these conversations are at the forefront. At the forefront, of primary importance, is the story of a single Artificial Friend named Klara, and what she thinks of the world.

I don't think there's any way to describe this book in a way that will do it justice, but that's the power of Ishiguro's writing. The subtlety defies summary, and the beauty of his story-telling is itself something to witness. So, I'll finish this review by saying that, yes, you should read this book. You should pick it up for the humor, for the beauty, for the intelligence of it, and for the pure power in the pages.

març 24, 9:26am

20. Wounds: Six Stories from the Border of Hell by Nathan Ballingrud (read now for Scaredykit)

Although I've had Ballingrud's first book, North American Lake Monsters, on my radar for a long time, this collection was my entrance into his world, and I'm so glad I stumbled upon it. The horror here is written with such casual style and grace, it's difficult to compare it to other horror collections at all. Here, each story is such a completely realized world, with so much character and atmosphere, the reading experience doesn't actually feel like what you get from reading a collection at all. This doesn't just apply to the last two 'stories' in the book, which are closer to novella length. The first four stories, all at about the length you'd expect for a short story, feel like worlds unto themselves. And although the last, longer novella felt a little bit slower than I might have liked, I suspect that's only because it might have been trying to demand an even longer form, the concept was so deserving.

My favorites here are, without question, "The Atlas of Hell" and "The Visible Filth". Both are stories which I felt compelled to read in one sitting (though "The Visible Filth" is the other story in the collection that's closer to novella lenght), and which I imagine I'll end up reading again.

Certainly, I recommend this to all horror readers, and I can't wait to pick up Ballingrud's first book, as well as whatever he writes next.

març 24, 9:47am

With my official March reading done, I'm already looking on to April! I am still reading Brightness Reef by David Brin, and expect I'll finish that up right around when April hits. For April, I've got the following books up on deck:

The Demonologist by Andrew Pyper (ScaredyKit--Possessed)
The Turn of the Screw by Henry James (Librarything RandomCat)
Come On Up by Jordi Nopca (GenreCat--Literary Fiction) (also reading now since it's an LT Early Reviewer Book I got recently)
Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey (SFFKit--Series)
Witch Fire by Anya Bast (AlphaKit--A & W)

març 27, 7:26pm

21. Brightness Reef by David Brin (read now for no particular reason beyond whim/desire)

I admit I had some difficulty getting into this. I was fascinated by the characters and the world, but that's not quite the same thing as being engaged and understanding it all. Despite this being the first book in a new Uplift series--and perhaps my problem is that I hadn't read Brin's earlier Uplift books, though I'd been told I could enter into this one instead--it really felt like I was entering into the middle of a series. The learning curve was a big one, and although I could get wrapped up in scenes and characters' stories easily enough, the larger picture was never easy to grasp. And, truth be told, I'm sure I missed quite a bit. I'd like to say that I'll go and read the earlier Uplift books and then re-read this one, but that's a big ask for a 700 page book which left me wishing that there'd been a bit more clarity and story included, vs. all of the incredible world-building (because world-building and character-building alone don't make books).

I am going to try to move into the next book in the series at some point, though I need a break before then. I'd recommend readers not enter into the Uplift universe through this book, though--I was told I could, but I suspect that wasn't an ideal choice.

març 29, 9:36am

22. All Systems Red by Martha Wells (read now for no particular reason beyond whim/desire)

I'm late to trying the Murderbot books, but I enjoyed this entrance into the series. It did take me a little while to engage with the story, but with each chapter, I felt a little bit more connected to both character and story, so the momentum kept building throughout. The last few novellas I've read, I've wished they were longer, but this felt like the perfect size for what it was, and in some ways, it came off as a character introduction as much as anything, so I'm anxious to see what the second book has in store for readers.

març 29, 9:49am

23. The Haunting of Tram Car 015 by P. Djeli Clark (read now for no particular reason beyond whim/desire)

Clark's depiction of a fantastical Cairo at the beginning of the twentieth century offers such a gorgeous blend of magic, historical place, and chaos, it's hard not to fall in love with it. From the moment I started the book, the city and the characters felt so real, and so perfectly realized, that I couldn't put it down. Too easily, I could have believed that this djinn-full world was just another piece of history--that's how beautifully Clark brings it to life, and speaks to how well he melds historical detail and character with fantasy.

This is a short, fast read, but I'm excited to have discovered a new writer to follow, and I'll certainly be picking up the other works he's already published. Absolutely, I'd recommend this one.

març 29, 12:44pm

>47 whitewavedarling: OK, OK, I'll take the BB hit! :)

març 31, 8:04am

>47 whitewavedarling: Welp, adding that one to my list - thanks for the great review!

març 31, 9:38am

>48 christina_reads:, >49 scaifea:, I'm glad I found the book and author some new readers :) The author also has a full-length novel coming out (in this same world/universe) in May!

abr. 6, 8:10pm

24. Witch Fire by Anya Bast (Read now for AlphaCat)

This was a fast, enjoyable escape for fans of paranormal romance, and the world-building/magic system especially impressed me as being really well thought out for this genre. There were moments where the actual chemistry between the characters, as well as the explicit scenes, began to feel a little bit repetitive, but Bast's writing combined with the magic system and the believable characters made up for that to the extent that I'm planning on reading the next book in the series. There's nothing truly surprising here for fans of paranormal romance--it's exactly what you'd expect from the blurb--but the writing and the story are both so strong as to make the read a real escape and fully engaging, despite the lack of surprises around the plot. I will say that the ending and the final resolution felt a bit rushed, but all things considered, I enjoyed the book as a whole and wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to fans of the genre.

abr. 8, 3:12pm

25. Come On Up by Jordi Nopca (Read now for GenreCat)

Described in the blurb as a 'group portrait of contemporary Barcelona, beaten by the economic crisis and divided by a secessionist movement', Come On Up is a collection of short stories that are, in every way, slice-of-life stories. Centered on believable characters with generally mundane lives and concerns, the book is weighted with a sort of apathetic trudging forward; the inertia of the stories is built from strong writing and realism, with only the sort of absurdity that feels true to life, but the stories blend together in a way that makes me think these might have been more successful separated out among journals vs all collected together in a single volume. Because, as it is, most of the stories held the same flavor and the same tone, with little to distinguish them beyond the particular lives at their center--the problem being that these lives/characters were, in many ways, themselves single-toned and interchangeable.

I'd be curious what a novel from the author would look like, but in general, this collection suffers from what too many single-author short story collections suffer from--a sort of repetitiveness of mood and lack of progression. And when that is added to the fact that the stories themselves are somewhat downtrodden and casual in focus, this ends up being a hard collection to recommend.

abr. 10, 11:00pm

26. The Turn of the Screw by Henry James (Read now for RandomCat)

I've read The Turn of the Screw in the past, and though I don't often re-read books, the recent Netflix adaptation inspired me to come back to it. And, it was an interesting experience. Henry James is a master of the uncanny and the eerie, when he chooses to be, and even all these years after The Turn of the Screw was first published, the sense of ungroundedness in this book is still such a powerful thing. All through the book, it's difficult to know what's real and what's not, who to trust and who can't be believed. And yet, from moment to moment, the discomfort the reader feels is built from just how realistically this story is presented. All these years later, that style and power remain undiminished.

This is one of those reads that, I suspect, can only truly be experienced to its full potential once. What I mean by that is that the first read has such incredible power--so many twists, eerie moments, and surprises--there's no way to unremember what you've once read. Even though I hadn't read this book for more than a decade, coming back to it was both familiar and unfamiliar--but I couldn't revisit that first reading experience, and the horror and fascination I felt upon first discovering it. Was it still a powerful, worthwhile read? Absolutely. It just wasn't the same as it once was. Perhaps that can be said for most books, but because of the eerie, unfolding progression of this book, I suspect it's more true for this book than most others.

This book is so well-known, what more can be said? If you haven't yet read this book, you should.

abr. 11, 1:26am

I haven't been able to catch up on threads all year and just reading yours. So glad to see you back again and so sorry to hear about your husband being ill.

>53 whitewavedarling: I agree that The Turn of the Screw is probably one of those one-time reads. The surprise element is missing on a second read.

abr. 13, 9:35am

>54 VivienneR:, Thanks for coming around! Catching up on threads around here is a never-ending carousel :) Well-wishes appreciated, too!

I will say that re-reading The Turn of the Screw left me even more impressed with the Netflix adaptation and how they both honored and updated it, but as you said, the surprise element is such a big part of the book, losing it for a re-read takes a lot away from the book.