Archive for December 2011
I’m happy to say, 2011 was a hella awesome year for me:
- Was my first full calendar year blogging, in which I posted 104 reviews
- I joined Twitter
- I got my first blurb on a book
- I got a promotion at work (ok, not blog related, actually, blog detrimental, but still cool)
- I got really inventive in finding new places in the house to stash books (such as inside the TV stand).
- I participated in two read alongs. We read Dune over the summer, and The Hobbit and The Lord of The Rings trilogy this autumn. If you’ve never participated in a read along, they are great fun!
I hope all my bloggy friends had a wonderful 2011 as well, and here’s to all of us having an even better 2012!
But did I reach any of my reading and blogging goals for this year? What about those pesky bookish New Years Resolutions? Way back in December of last year, I proposed that 2011 be the year of “reading what I’ve got”. Fewer trips to the library, fewer trips to the local bookstore, and more trips to the bookshelf for titles I’d purchased once upon a time, but never read. I must have had some time on my hands, because I managed to count up everything I owned, and figure out how much of it I’d read.
So, did I make any headway on reading more books that I owned? Does buying a ton of books and getting some ARCs in the mail skew the results? Cuz I bought a metric sh*t-ton of books. and got a handful of ARCs. I’m not going to count everything I own again, but we can look at the stats of what I reviewed:
of the 104 books I reviewed in 2011:
20 were off my bookshelves
28 were purchased (either new or used)
36 were borrowed from the library or borrowed from friends
20 were ARC’s received from publishers or authors
That New Year’s resolution to “read what I got” instead of buying and borrowing new-to-me titles? Can you say Epic Fail? It’s not my fault tho. . . all my bloggy friends posting reviews of books that looked awesome that I just HAD to read! and with Valente and Kent and Rothfuss and Hodder and Stephenson coming out with new stuff like every five minutes, what’s a girl to do?
I better come up with something more realistic for 2012. Like join a gym (ha! like that’s gonna happen!).
So what are you gonna be up to in 2012?
Holiday decorations take-down-ing getting you down? Winter is just beginning, so why not decorate your home with paper snowflakes? It was all the rage when I was a kid in the 80’s.
Into Steampunk? create yourself some steampunk gear snowflakes! I call ‘em GearFlakes. They are easy to make, require zero fancy tools, and you can have a lot of fun setting them up in geared patterns on your window. Let the whole neighborhood know a steampunk geek lives here! You don’t even need a compass. or a protractor. I promise. It’s six way symmetry steampunk awesome.
What’s this you say? you want step by step instructions? Today, and today only, your wish is my command!
two bowls, one larger than the other (Or I suppose you could use a compass, if you really, really wanted to)
Fenrir, by M.D. Lachlan
Published in Oct 2011
where I got it: library
why I read it: enjoyed the first book in the series, Wolfsangel
For no good reason, I had a tough time getting into Fenrir. I think I was expecting a similar opening as Wolfsangel had, with Vikings and raids and witches and such, so I was caught off guard by being introduced to so many characters who were clearly, not Vikings. Where were Vali and Feileg, the twin brothers I cried for in Wolfsangel? Where was the beautiful Adisla, whom they both swore to protect? I know my mythological friends are here someplace, for it is their destiny to be reborn, if only to be tortured by the gods again and again and again. Perhaps they were born into Vikings, or perhaps traders from the East, or perhaps Frankish Christians. Hiding Odin and Fenris in Frankish Christians who haven’t a clue what’s going on? That’s just cruel.
Aelis, a minor Frankish princess, is worth her weight in political marriages. And everyone wants Aelis. Helgi, an Eastern Viking Prince of Constantinople wants to maybe marry her, maybe sacrifice her. Her brother, a Parisian Count, opts to keep her, hoping for a better offer. Multiple Viking factions know she’s worth her weight in ransom, so the new name of the game is kidnap Aelis.
Jehan, oh, poor Jehan. Stricken with paralysis and blindness as a youth, he is now a monk, and seen as a living saint. His timing to Paris couldn’t be worse, and he is trapped in the church when the Vikings attack. The Vikings know all about relics, and the worth of the bones of a saint, so suddenly Jehan is also worth quite a bit in ransom, dead or alive. Years from now, I will still pity Jehan.
And then we have Munin and Hugin, the horrific sibling priests of Odin. More on them later.
Did I miss anything?
oh yes, Happy Birthday Sir Isaac Newton! Also Dionysus and Mithra! yay, presents and birthday candles all around.
We made latkes (cheese cloth is your friend. as is ventilation), we made Stollen (soak fruit in rum for an hour? bah! try all afternoon!), I totally hearted the geek out love on The Nerdist on BBC last night and will be watching Doctor Who all evening while eating greasy carb filled Chinese food. Oh, and in case you were wondering, Chris Hardwick’s interview with David Tennant was adorable. Also, not the only reason I watched the show. you can listen to the whole thing here
Cuz I’m lighting ye olde Chanukiah I got to open prezzies last week. Husband and I exchanged mostly gag gifts, and he managed to find what I am now calling the best gift EVAR. behold, the Frank Lewis book of Crosswords! A cryptography and crossword building genius, the late Frank Lewis created The Nation crossword every week until shortly before his death. Not for the faint of heart, so far I’ve gotten one clue on the first puzzle. I figure I’ll finish this crossword book sometime around the year 2058. It is teh brainteasing awesome.
and on the subject of polar opposites I’ve been reading M.D. Lachlan’s Fenrir along side Tina Fey’s Bossypants. I couldn’t get enough of Lachlan’s Wolfsangel, and I’ve a major girl crush on Tina Fey. and Liz Lemon? totally my workplace role model. Not sure if that’s a good thing or not, but oh well. Review of Fenrir should go up in a few days, as I haven’t even finished it yet.
the Vintage Science Fiction not a challenge starts next week, and if I’m going to make my goals, I better start reading NOW. it’s not the books, it’s the business trips. I wonder if the library has any Asimov, Norton, or Heinlein audiobooks?
and just for random fun, here are some random holiday geek out pictures for you:
The Doctor and The Kid by Mike Resnick (sequel to The Buntline Special)
Published Dec 2011
where I got it: received review copy from Pyr
why I read it: enjoyed The Buntline Special, the first book in the series.
A fun, easy read, The Doctor and The Kid should probably be categorized as Young Adult. There is some mild swearing, and references to sex, but there is nothing in this book your teen hasn’t read before. With a fairly simple plot and fun characters, it’s a good foil to all the heavy dense doorstopper melt-your-brain books that have been floating around lately.
It’s known, that I’ve a major weakness for tragic characters. And do they come any more tragic than Doc Holliday? Wracked with consumption, as unflinchingly honest as he was bitter, he knew death was right around the corner, so why fear anything in life?
Resnick’s The Doctor and the Kid most certainly is not the true story of Doc Holliday, but it is a fun one. Advertised as a steampunk western, The Doctor and the Kid doesn’t have a lot of action in it, Doc simply hasn’t got that kind of energy. More a character study of Holliday and how he’s forced to realize that people don’t care that he’s classically educated or coughing up blood all the time – all they want to know is how many people he’s killed. He’s not at all the person people think he is, and that was my favorite aspect of this book.
The Fuller Memorandum (a Laundry Novel), by Charles Stross
where I got it: purchased new
why I read it: enjoyed the previous Laundry novel, The Jennifer Morgue
Bob Howard has a problem. it’s that he’s too good at his job. The office manager leaves him alone; his boss, Angleton, is sending him on special errands; and his wife, Mo, has started bringing work home with her. When you’re a computational demonologist, none of those can be good things. You see, Bob works for the ultra secret British government agency called The Laundry. Think James Bond meets Torchwood, but instead of fighting the Russians and aliens, they’re fighting the Russians and unthinkable Cthonic soul sucking horrors from another dimension. When the end comes, make sure you’re armed with a shotgun (same goes for when playing Arkham Horror, btw).
Although The Fuller Memorandum is mostly action, usually involving Bob getting the crap kicked out of him, it was the slower parts that were some of my favorites. Things like getting to know more (perhaps too much) about the mysterious Angleton. What Mo actually does with that bone white violin (she needs her own book. period). How to jailbreak an iphone in three easy steps (step one, allow a professional hacker into your house). How to handle Russian zombies and drunken cultists, and what the British secret service really thinks about Americans. And Bob Howard, accidental computational demonologist, armed with a jailbroken unauthorized iphone running illegal apps, better solve all these problems before his soul gets sucked out by cultists who’ve awoken something far more evil than they were expecting. The slower bits might have been all interesting, but the crazy action bits? Totally over the top frakin’ awesome.
If you’re grinning, you can skip the next paragraph, however if you’re a bit confused, quit skipping around and stop feeling bad.
Heart of Iron by Ekaterina Sedia
Published in 2011
where I got it: library
why I read it: have heard very good things about the author
In an alternate 1850’s Russia, Alexandra Trubetskaya takes too much after her unorthodox Aunt. Aunt Eugenia may have the ear of the Emperor, but she is a brash spinster, too clever by half, and sees marriage as a waste of a good woman. Torn between tradition and opportunities that are suddenly available to women (such as attending University), Alexandra plans to have it all: an education, possibly a career, and marriage if she meets the right man.
On the train to the University, she meets a young Chinese man, Chiang Tse, who is part of an Asian contingent of students also invited to study at the University. The plan of course, is for the women and foreigners to fail miserably, thus allowing the university to ban their attendance in the future. Along side the verbal abuse from other students and instructors, the women get top grades. Chiang Tse and his compatriots however, are quickly arrested for petty crimes, with one of them being thrown in prison and the rest deported back to China.
The rules for my “best of” post were simple: I had to have read and reviewed the book in 2011, and it couldn’t be a reread (otherwise this list would taken over by Lynch, Powers, Brust, and others).
In no particular order (saving me the impossible task of choosing my utmost favorites), here are my top reads of the last 12 months. I’m surprised so many of them are new-ish books, as that wasn’t really part of the plan. Enjoy the little teaser then click on the title for the full review.
Grey by Jon Armstrong (2007) frantic, insane, completely over the top, hilarious, refreshing, and at times completely sick. This is dystopia like you’ve never read before. This is body modification and mortification, life imitating art to the nth degree, and performance art like you’ve never imagined. This is fashion punk.
The Third Section by Jasper Kent (2011) The third in Kent’s Danilov Quintet, one of the most brilliantly frightening books I have ever read, and brimming with betrayals and violence, seductions and patience, this is the series you’ve been waiting for if you prefer your vampire fiction to be more Bram Stoker than sparkly.
The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of her Own Making, by Catherynne Valente
Published May 2011
Where I got it: the library
What can I say, I love everything Catherynne Valente writes. Every story, every myth, every character, every metaphor she touches, they all turn to golden quicksilver – slippery words that swim towards each other to create something so very true and very magicial. If you still haven’t read her – if Deathless looks a little too heavy or dark, if The Habitation of the Blessed looks a bit too intense, if you’re simply not quite sure about this strange woman that I refuse to stop talking about, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of her own Making is a perfect place to start. Why? Because this is a young adult book. Although adults will joyously zip through it, smiling at the adventures found by a girl named September, and wiping away a tear when she finds what she’s looking for. It’s part Alice in Wonderland, part Wizard of Oz, part hero’s quest story and part growing up story, part losing something and finding something, it’s all the pieces that grow up to become the person we’d all like to be.
Young September has the kind of childhood many of us will recognize – a boring one. She craves adventure and gets to wash dishes instead. She misses her father, and he’s a continent away, fighting a war she doesn’t understand. When the Green Wind appears at her window and asks if she’d like to accompany him to Fairyland, September doesn’t even think about it. She just goes. Fairyland is as wonderful and as amazing as she’d always hoped. But it’s also frightening, confusing, and slightly feral.
Very lucky younger children will have parents who read this book to them, one delicious chapter at a time, at bedtime. Those children will dream the most magnificent dreams, and their school teachers may bring up their strange school drawings at parent-teacher conferences. Even luckier children will read this book back to their parents, not understanding why their parents are laughing their heads off at the oddest moments. Those parents will dream the most magnificent dreams, waking wistful, yet satisfied in a rather kaleidoscopic way.
Lots of things have been jumbling around in my mind this week. Such as:
I caught a rerun of a 2008 Mythbusters episode where they debunked the myth that the 1969 Moon landing was faked. I loved the scene where Adam was hopping around in his space suit.
Reading Scott Lynch’s Queen of the Iron Sands that features an earthling being thrilled how far she can jump on Mars, because the gravity is lower.
Reminiscing about my love for physics and rollercoaster mechanics with a retired physics professor, while discussing many other wonderful things (if he’s reading this, he knows who he is).
Tor’s Exoplanet article.
What do all of those things have in common? they all have to do with gravity and planets and physics and everything that’s fun in the universe! So much science (fictional) fun to be had here! and a little bit of silliness, of course. I suddenly feel like an 8 year old who just discovered an astrophysics encyclopedia!
What would roller coasters and bungee jumping be like on the Moon? Maybe we’d need magnets to get the thrill of falling.
Speaking of falling, if you were born and raised on a planet with lower gravity, might you never develop a fear of falling?
If your planet had two (or more) suns, would you need extra sunblock?
Would people grow taller on planets with lower gravity? How many generations would it take for the mutation to “take” in humans? Would plants grow taller? would their roots not go as deep into the ground?
How would changes in gravity affect waterfalls and water erosion?
How would multiple moons affect ocean tides?
How would different gravities affect fashion? Something I read recently (I think it was Anderson’s Bitter Angels), talked about how on a lower gravity planet people used weights in their clothes as fashion accessories, and the poor tied or sewed rocks into the hems of their clothing. What about shoes? What about hair styles? And I don’t know about you, but I’d rather not be wearing a Star Trek Unitard.
Sometimes the most important thing is coming up with the questions.