Thursday, January 31, 2013

50 Essential Sci-Fi Books (most of which I haven't read)

Sarah posted this list of the 50 Essential Science Fiction Books as decided by Richard Davis over at AbeBooks. I love lists so OF COURSE I decided to post the list here and see how I did. Not well, is the answer, but here we go anyway. Bolded titles are the ones I've read
  1. A Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne
  2. The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells
  3. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  4. When Worlds Collide by Edwin Balmer
  5. Odd John by Olaf Stapledon
  6. 1984 by George Orwell
  7. Earth Abides by George R. Stewart
  8. Foundation by Isaac Asimov
  9. The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury
  10. The Demolished Man by Alfred Bester
  11. Ring Around the Sun by Clifford D. Simak
  12. Mission of Gravity by Hal Clement
  13. The Long Tomorrow by Leigh Brackett
  14. The Chrysalids by John Wyndham
  15. The Death of Grass (or No Blade of Grass) by John Christopher
  16. Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein
  17. The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut
  18. Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank
  19. A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller
  20. Venus Plus X by Theodore Sturgeon
  21. Solaris by Stanislaw Lem
  22. The Drowned World by J.G. Ballard
  23. Hothouse by Brian Aldiss
  24. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
  25. Dune by Frank Herbert 
  26. Make Room! Make Room! by Harry Harrison
  27. Logan’s Run by William F. Nolan
  28. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick
  29. The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin
  30. Behold the Man by Michael Moorcock
  31. Ringworld by Larry Niven
  32. Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke
  33. Roadside Picnic / Tale of the Troika by Boris & Arkady Strugatsky
  34. The Female Man by Joanna Russ
  35. Man Plus by Frederik Pohl
  36. The Stand by Stephen King
  37. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
  38. Nor Crystal Tears by Alan Dean Foster
  39. Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
  40. Consider Phlebas by Iain M. Banks
  41. Falling Free by Lois McMaster Bujold
  42. Hyperion by Dan Simmons
  43. Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson
  44. Ribofunk by Paul Di Filippo
  45. Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson
  46. Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
  47. Old Man’s War by John Scalzi
  48. Little Brother by Cory Doctorow
  49. Acme Novelty Library #19 by Chris Ware
  50. Embassytown by China Mieville
So 6 out of 50 (I must have miscounted before when I commented on Sarah's post). I'm surprised it's so low given I did take an entire class on Sci-Fi lit in college. But I suppose that focus was more on short stories. There are a few on here I've wantched to check out for awhile (Do Androids Dream) but I honestly haven't even heard of a lot of the titles on here.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

E-Reader thoughts, then and now

I was going through my draft folder to see if there were any ideas for a blog post I started but never got around to finishing. I don't have a book to review at the moment. I'm still making my way through The Wordy Shipmates and my final Chamber of Secrets post won't be posted until Friday. Also I need to write it. And finish CoS. Regardless, I have no other planned posts for the week, but I want to write something.

Back in June of 2010 I wrote a post about whether or not I should get a Kindle. And then I never posted it. Who knows why. But in it I stated that I wouldn't get the Kindle and if I did decide to get any sort of e-reader I'd go with the iPad (why get a unitasker?), but not until they made some updates. That Christmas I got a Kindle. And I love it. I love it for all of the reasons I started in that unpublished post. And here are those original reasons, with my current comments:

  • I have all of my books in one place.  I was apparently under the belief that if I got a Kindle I would have to get rid of all of my physical books. And that I guess I'd rebuy all of them as digital copies? I don't even...
  • When I go on vacation I don't have to worry about the extra weight from bringing a few different books.  This is true, so long as I plan accordingly so I'm not in the middle of a physical book when I go on vacation. This usually does not work out.
  • I never have to worry about finishing a book in the middle of my commute and then having nothing to entertain myself with. This sort of builds into my last point, because on more than one occasion I've been in need of a book in the middle of a trip and just bought something new. Because why just wait and read one of the books I have sitting at home?
  • It's certainly lighter weight and more portable than a big heavy hardback. I am SO glad to have my Kindle when reading Under the Dome and A Game of Thrones. I plan on keeping the rest of the Song of Fire and Ice series on my Kindle. If/when I get around to that.
  • I won't have to wait for new books to come out in their paperback form.  I'm still waiting for Shades of Grey in paperback, so I won't have to drag the hardback copy around with me. I did buy the digital copy of this and it was awesome. I also bought a paperback copy when I saw it on sale cos shut up, that's why. I also want to make this clear that Shades of Grey is very different than Fifty Shades of Grey. I had some confusing conversations where I was talking about the Fforde book and they were not.
  • I can make notes in the margins with some versions.  (I know I could do this with a real book but while I don't mind getting a book that's been marked up, I won't do it myself.  I'm slightly neurotic when it comes to my books.) I love being able to highlight and make stupid comments in the margines of my digital copies. I still won't do it in my physical ones.
  • It's easy to buy new books instantly.  Perhaps a little too easy This is true. Though the majority of my digital impulse buys have been for the under $4 choices so at least I'm not going broke.
So yeah, I'm a fan of my Kindle. I still read a bunch of actual books. Both of the books I'm reading now are physical books. And I just went to the bookstore and bought two more books. According to my 2012 stats, 35% of the books I read were digital copies. I'm not sure why I believed getting an ereader was an all-or-nothing requirement. 

I clearly didn't go with the iPad, though I've been playing with Boyfriend+'s and I have decided that why should he have all the fun? So I've been thinking of getting one of those, though I think I'll still use the Kindle for most of my reading. And my reasoning for that now is the same as it was in that other post: my eye doctor told me my eyes are getting messed up because of all the time spent staring at screens. I look at a computer all day for work, and then spend my time at home looking at my phone or watching TV. I like the Kindle screen and it doesn't cause the eye strain that the other backlit screens do. Of course I also said I wasn't going to get an ereader so I'm obviously full of shit and will probably end up reading most of my stuff on the iPad if/when I get it and my Kindle will be set aside.

Anyone have both a Kindle and an iPad or some other tablet? Do you use both of them?

Friday, January 25, 2013

Harry Potter must not go back to Hogwarts

It's Friday again so it's time for another Harry Potter readalong post! HUZZAH. As with all of these posts, there will be spoilers so reader beware.

So this week we finished up the first half of Chamber of Secrets which, full disclosure, is probably my least favorite of the series. It's certainly the one I forget about the most AND the one that didn't interest me enough to keep reading the series. I'm glad my friend convinced me to read the third book because I would have been happy stopping the series after this one.

I was very plot-hole-pokey with my Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone posts, so I'm going to try and not do that so much this time.
Even though, I would like to stress, that the plot holes did not diminish my love for the series. I really only noticed them because I love the series and therefore have spent waaaay too much time thinking these things over. It's probably not healthy.

This does not mean I'm going to be able to put together a coherent post. This is still going to be a bunch of random thoughts. But they'll just be more positive.

Any book in a series that isn't the first is going to have a bit of "Last time on..." and Chamber of Secrets is no exception. I hate these parts. I mean, I get they're necessary and I don't think it's bad that we get a little recap of what happened before, but I just finished SS and don't need a recap on the rules of Quidditch. Therefore, there was a bit of skimming through the first half.

Gilderoy Lockhart is such a wonderful character. I mean no one I'd actually like to deal with but man is it fun to watch him turn every conversation over to himself. Even though I read the book before I saw the movie, I still can't help but picture Kenneth Branagh in the role. Way to be an egotistical oblivious ass. And I mean that with love.
Cos come on, Harry's detention with Lockhart answering fan mail? Genius. Also nice to see that Hogwarts figured out that sending children into the Forbidden Forest is a bad idea. Especially when you consider flying a car to Hogwarts is a WAY worse offense than being out after dark.

I'm a little confused about Ron's wand breaking. Not how it broke or why it's malfunctioning, but how do you get a new one? I mean, he needs to get a new one, right? But getting a wand seems like such a big deal and "the wand chooses you" and all that jazz. So isn't it a big deal when you get a wand? And doesn't that mean you can't just replace it with any other wand?

Given Filch's reaction to seeing Harry read his Kwikspell letter, I get the feeling that being a non-magical person in the magical world is almost worse than Harry being a wizard while living with the Dursleys. Alright, no the Dursleys are worse, but still pretty awful. And very condescending.

On top of the squib thing, I feel so bad for Filch. His poor cat, Mrs. Norris. Side question, why Mrs. Norris? Did Filch have a kitty wedding at some point? Where's Mr. Norris? Is Mrs. Norris a widow? And now I feel bad for Filch for another reason. Poor guy.
UPDATE: From Alice, Mrs. Norris is named after a character in Mansfield Park. Though I have an easier time believing she's a widow cat than I do Filch is an Austen fan.

Can't wait for part two. And more than that, I can't wait until we're finished with this book and can move onto the next. Cos out of all of them, this is my least favorite HP. Whomp.

I'm not sure how to end this post so, Alley out!*
*Please be prepared to see this gif again. There is a good chance I am going to use this as the ending to all of these HP posts. Because I love Adam Scott so.

Title quote from page 19

Rowling, JK. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Scholastic, 1999.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Constitution's been canceled in The Mill

I just finished Stephen King's Under the Dome and man. That was a long and stressful journey.

I don't really mean to read so much King. It just sort of happens, usually because I find copies of his books on sale and go "why not". Besides, if I ever want a book that's going to suck me in, King is a good way to go. And he's written roughly 2 bazillion novels so there is a LOT to choose from. And Laura was kind enough to put together a list of King books I should read based on his other stuff that I like.

The plot itself is very simple: one day a dome of some sort closes off the Maine (of course) town of Chester Mill from the rest of the world. No one knows what the dome is or where it came from but you can't get out and nothing can get in. And IMMEDIATELY shit starts to go wrong. Sort of Lord of the Flies mixed with a little An Inconvenient Truth.

There are a TON of characters to keep track of. I really should have made a chart. Except the chart would have to have been constantly revised. But there weren't so many characters that I couldn't follow or didn't enjoy it. I liked having so many characters to watch and it really made sense when you consider it was an entire town of around 2,000 people trapped together. Some are more directly involved with the action but everyone in town is affected in some way.

Big Jim Rennie is one of the best villains I can think of. He's intelligence, conniving, power-obsessed, narcissistic asshole. Every time he's around you know something bad is going to happen and the way he is able to manipulate people is disgusting and a bit impressive. The hero characters (Dale "Barbie" Barbara, Julia Shumway, Eric "Rusty" Everett) are all good and interesting people but it's not the same. There isn't really a lot of grey area with the characters. Sure, not all of them are as evil as big Jim, but for the most part all of the characters fall into one camp or the other. Which is fine and works with this story.

I said the story is long and stressful, and it is. It's 1,092 pages, at least according to Goodreads. I read the thing on my Kindle so I'm not exactly sure how long it is, other than I'm really glad I was reading a digital copy instead of a physical one. And it's stressful because OMG there is so much that happens to our poor characters. And just when you think nothing else awful can happen to them you realize you have nother 500 pages to go and your heart sinks a little because you know things are just going to get worse before they can (hopefully? maybe? please?) start to get better.

Here's my only problem with Under the Dome. I love the premise that there's this town completely cut off from everything but this dome. I love watching how the citizens react and how things start going downhill real fast. What I was less interested in was the dome itself and why it's there. And that's the problem. You can't just plunk down this dome and then have no explanation for it. That sucks. But if you DO explain it, then you spend time with the characters dealing with that instead of the craziness going on with the other people, and then I start to lose interest. I can't think of a way that this could have been remedied and still keep the dome so whomp.

TL;DR? Good, but not GREAT King with excellent build up but a bit of a let down ending.

There is apparently to be a TV mini-series adaptation of the book coming out this summer (so sayeth Wikipedia). If so I'll need to make sure to catch it. I know King adaptations can go very badly, but I still like to give them a try. Plus I liked the mini-series adaptation of The Shining so maybe that's the way to go with his stuff.

Title quote from location 3440

King, Stephen. Under the Dome. Scribner, 2009. Kindle edition.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Tuesday Top Ten: Settings I'd like to see more of

This week's Top Ten Tuesday list (hosted by The Broke and the Bookish) is literary settings I want to see more of.

1. New York City - Because I heart it here so why wouldn't I want to see more stories set here?

2. Boston - Because I used to live there, and I like seeing stories where I know the geography.

3. Italy - Because it's gorgeous there, and I was able to forgive a lot of problems with Angels and Demons based totally on the fact that it took place in Rome.

4. Bookworld - Because Jasper Fforde created such a fun world that I never want to leave it. So please keep the Thursday Next books coming.

5. Dystopian futures - Because I like seeing what could happen if things go very, very wrong in the present.

6. Somewhere in Maine - Because this means that Stephen King has turned out more books.

7. Seattle - NOT because of Twilight but because I heart that city.

8. Shakespeare's plays - I don't think this counts but I'm already not going to make it to ten so I'm getting very loose with the definition of setting. But I do love modern books that take place in the realm of Shakespeare works (Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, Fool)

OK so with a couple exceptions my whole list is "American cities I am a fan of". So, yeah. Not the most exciting list but I guess the setting is secondary (or tertiary) in terms of things that are important to me. My favorite book, Lamb, takes place in Biblical times but I'm not really clamoring for more of that.

Friday, January 18, 2013

It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live

It's Friday again and we're finishing up Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Book one of Alice's HP Readalong completed! THE FEELS. Because I am loving this and remembering how much I love them and I'm so excited to be reading these with everyone.

I finished up enough of Pottermore to get my wand AND get sorted. Both processes were a little bit...meh. Not that I know what I was expecting. I think actual magic. But ANYWAY, I am in Ravenclaw.
Where are the other eagles? (Even though we should totally be ravens cos it's RIGHT IN THE NAME and also ravens are way smarter than eagles. Those majestic bastards get everything.) Also my wand is 11 1/2 inches, hazel with dragon core and it's flexibility is unyielding. I'm not really sure what that means, other than the unyielding part, which I'm pretty sure means I'm stubborn. So. Yeah.

Before I get into the post I just want to put the spoiler reminder. Cos this is going to just full of them. Also I thought by now I'd be able to form coherent thoughts about the book overall but NOPE, we're going with random bullets again. Maybe for Chamber.

I love Dumbledore. Enough to overlook the fact that he is very lucky none of his students die on his watch cos he is CRAZY negligent. But he's so twinkly that I don't care. The scene with the Mirror of Erised. And the end after Harry has fought Quirell. THE BEST. So Twinkly.*

I'm so happy Harry and Ron and Hermione are now best friends because those were some tough chapters when they weren't. Even if Hermione was was completely insufferable, still, DID NOT LIKE. Plus they calm her down.

We finally learn about Quidditch, and I know I linked to this already, but I'm going to leave this Cracked article right here: A Harry Potter Protest (aka Quidditch is Bullshit). Cos for serious? This sport does not work. Well it works to make Harry Potter the super hero and the rest of the team pointless which is not the purpose of team sports. Sorry Rowling. Awesome job creating a magical world, not-so-awesome job creating a new sport with rules that make sense.

The Mirror of Erised chapter is so sad. Poor Harry when the only thing he wants is a family. Doesn't it make Ron's desires seem shallow. Especially the image of him sitting on the ground and just gazing into the mirror and watching his parents and distant relatives. SAD.

So most of the time magic is awesome and way better than living in the real world. But there are a few things that I can't help think that if wizards would just embrace some Muggle technology, they could save themselves a lot of trouble. You know, like when it came to looking up Nicholas Flamel. I bet Harry, Ron, and Hermione would have LOVED Wikipedia to be available.

I know this is a children's book and we NEED Harry and Ron and Hermione to be the heroes and get to the Sorcerer's/Philosopher's Stone and save the day. But really? These great wizards and witches put together elaborate obstacles to keep the second most powerful wizard and his accomplices from the stone and 3 first year students are able to figure it out. Two of whom didn't even know wizards were a THING until like 8 months earlier. I mean, if this was an indication of the type of defenses the good side was going to put up against the evil one, we're screwed. (Yes I did put myself in their world.)

One thing I was happy to see was that Voldemort didn't start hanging out on the back of Quirells head until AFTER Harry had already met him at the pub before heading to Diagon Alley. Therefore it makes sense that Harry's scar didn't hurt then. Plot hole closed. Plot hole opened, Harry doesn't mention his scar hurting every time he's in Quirell's class. Unless the scar only hurts when Voldemort is super pissed and during class time he was sort of just hanging out back there. Probably thinking the turban was smelly cos who would want to be cooped up there all the time, evil incarnate or not. Except he didn't have a nose so he's prob fine.

AND NOW we can move onto Chamber because it has been super hard to not just pick it up and keep reading.

*I can't remember which one of you described him that way but it is the perfect description. So if it was you let me know and credit will be given.
UPDATE Jennifer over at Soy Chai Bookshelf described D-dore as Twinkly. Credit given!

Title quote from page 214

Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Scholastic, 1997.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Reading Word Cloud, now on Wednesday

I was trying to think of what to blog about this week. I don't have any books I'm waiting to review. I'm currently in the middle of Stephen King's Under the Dome which is very good and veeeeeery long. Seriously, how do I still have like 400 pages left to go? I'm also participating in Alice's Harry Potter Readalong ALL THE GIFS and I finished Sorcerer's Stone but can't post about that until Friday. So what to do till then?

I could talk about the announcement of the new Dan Brown novel but eh. He's not my favorite author by any stretch of the imagination but I may read this one cos about something something Dante's Inferno something something. And I read Da Vinci Code (cos really, who didn't?) and Angels and Demons. Neither of which were very good but then again, I also read Twilight and sometimes you need literary junk food.

I could talk about my TBR list. I'm fairly confident I will never read anything on the list. Not because it's SO HUGE that it's unmanageable but because I add books to the list far faster than I read them. And then instead of picking a book off that list, I end up going with something else entirely. Cos that's how I roll. Now what?
Good idea Snape/Metatron, but I have one more idea. Word Cloud! I haven't done one in awhile and I was playing around with Wordle at work when I thought "oh hey, I could do this for the blog." And here we are

I'm a bit surprised that I said "Harry" almost as much as I said "book". I mean, I get that I'm talking about Harry Potter a lot but still. I do like "need" and "time" showing up next to one another which I know is coincidence but still TRUTH.**

Also get prepared for more HP talk. Like for the next few months. Also if you haven't joined that readalong you are missing out. Assuming you're looking for a readalong full of snark and GIFs and people-poking-holes-in-the-plot-but-really-it's-out-of-love. So yeah, come play along. We're pretty cool.

**I say this, as I sit on the couch typing this and watching episodes of Chopped.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Harry - yer a wizard

It's time for the first Harry Potter readalong post about the book (as opposed to the intro post which is like the foreward to the whole readalong). THE EXCITEMENT
We're beginning this with the first 9 chapters of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (or Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone if you're not American and therefore, you don't get babied. Because apparently we are too stupid for any book that has "Philosopher" in the title.) And warning for everyone, there will be spoilers. And not just for those first 9 chapters. The whole series is fair game, though I'll try to only bring up spoilers when it's actually necessary for whatever ridiculous argument I'm trying to make. But this will mostly be made up of random thoughts.

I love the opening sentence. "Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet drive, were proud to say they were perfectly normal, thank you very much." It's the "thank you very much" that does it. You can tell from that one sentence the stick up their collective ass is huge.

I don't so much mind the exposition dump when Dumbledore and McGonagall are waiting for Hagrid to show up with Harry. I have much more of a problem with the fact that Dumbledore's device is called "the Put-Outer". That sounds like the name you give something as a stand-in while you come up with something better. Come on now, Rowling.
The beginning spends a lot more time with the Dursleys than I remembered. But then again, I mostly remember the Dursleys as those few pages that happen at the beginning of the book before we get to Hogwarts and the magic. But that's cool cos I like those chapters. You gotta see how awful things are for Harry at home so he can be so excited and not-at-all homesick while at Hogwarts. Besides, I like the scene in the zoo with the snake. Although, how exactly was the snake planning on getting to Brazil? It's a bit of a ways away from England. I fear things don't end so happily for the snake.

It seems like the only place for you to buy all of your Hogwarts supplies is at Diagon Alley. Does that mean all of those stores have a monopoly on spellbooks and wands and cauldrons? That said
I love the scene at platform 9 3/4. Mostly because we get to meet the Weasleys and let's just admit that Mrs. Weasley is one of the best characters (and we can discuss how terrible the twins are later). Except I don't understand. Why doesn't the letter tell you how to get to platform 9 3/4? We've established kids born to Muggles get these letters so why should we assume they know what they're doing.

Why is Ravenclaw's mascot an eagle? Not a raven? No? Is there a clever reason behind that?

Man, Hermione is insufferable early on. I mean, more than normal 11 year olds. I don't like her not being friends with Ron and Harry, but I'm actually more surprised they all ended up besties. It just goes to show how awesome she is that her good qualities out weigh her know-it-all-ness. But I mean, someone has to have all of the answers throughout the series.

Here's something that randomly bugs me about the series, even though it's totally just me thinking WAY TOO HARD into this series and I should really just accept that it's a children's series. So the Dursleys HATE Harry and treat him like dirt and make him sleep under the stairs with the spiders. They've been his guardians since he was 1. And yet Harry is amazingly well adjusted. I keep thinking "Harry, wouldn't you be more of a sociopath? How are you able to form bonds with people if you had been completely neglected through your formative years? Rowling, why haven't you done extensive research into childhood psychology to answer these questions?" I know. I need help.

I was going to find my Hogwarts house by going through Pottermore and I made the username and everything and now it's telling me I need to go through chapters before I can get sorted. So what I'm saying is I haven't been sorted yet. Perhaps before the end of this readalong I'll get my house figured out. But I have really important places to be in the meantime

Title quote from page 50

Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Scholastic, 1997.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

God Is Change

Ever since reading Kindred (and to a lesser extent the Lilith's Brood trilogy) I've wanted to read more Octavia Butler. Mostly because she kicks ass. I mean she was a black, female sci-fi author, with her first books published in '76. Look at all the shit "fake geek girls" get now for daring to hang out in a space typically reserved for white males. It's a nice bonus that makes my author stats look better. So whenever I went to my local bookstore I would browse the stacks to see if they had any of her books, especially Fledgling. For whatever reason, her books are hard to find. Or at least they're not regularly kept in stock at bookstores. In any case, there was only 1 Butler book, Parable of the Sower. The summary looked interesting ("unattended environmental & economic crises lead to social chaos", "night of fire and death", "flight for survival", "birth of a new faith") but the copy was a little battered* and I always found an excuse to put the book back. Yes, "always" because each time I went to the store, the same copy was sitting on the shelf. Eventually it tugged at my heartstrings enough** that I HAD to bring it home. And once again, Butler does not disappoint.

Parable of the Sower starts in 2024 in a dystopian world where the US has been plunged into what seems to be the Great Depression to the nth degree. The main character, Lauren Olamina, is born into this world and while her father remembers the world as it was, we never get a clear idea what happened to cause this chaos. There's ecological disaster (it hardly rains anymore), extreme poverty (a few companies have managed to set up situations where indentured servitude is a pretty good deal), and rampant drug abuse (in the form of a new drug that makes people set fire to EVERYTHING). So yeah, not a fun place.

Long before the book starts, Lauren has been keeping a journal she calls Earthseed: The Books of the Living as sort of an understanding of her world through a new understanding of God, which I know I just made sound pretentious or preachy but it's not. The book itself is made up of Lauren's journals, but only a sentence or two at the beginning of each chapter is from Earthseed. The rest is her talking about her life, her family, and once her home is destroyed, her travels as she and her band of survivors try to make it out in the world. How can humanity survive in such chaos?

My favorite thing about Butler is she creates some of the strongest female characters AND she realizes that "strong female character" doesn't equal "like a dude, but with boobs". Lauren is smart, a leader, tough but vulnerable. Actually vulnerable. Lauren has something called "hyperempathy" which means if she sees or hears anyone else in pain, she feels their pain. It can get to the point that she will start bleeding if she sees someone else bleed. A world where it's every man for himself and you better be prepared to defend yourself (with lethal force if necessary) this condition is a bit of a handicap.

Parable was supposed to be a trilogy but Butler only managed the second book, Parable of the Talents, before writer's block and then a case of "death" kept her from writing the final book.

While this isn't my favorite Butler book it's still an excellent book and if you guys still have yet to read any Butler, you should really fix that. Cos seriously, she kicks ass.

Oh hey, look, I've already completed one of my 2013 reading goals. Success!

*I always try to find the MOST PERFECT copy of any book. I'll grab the bottom book in a stack cos that is the copy least likely to have any folded edges.
**Damn you Brave Little Toaster!!

Title quote from page 3

Butler, Octavia E. Parable of the Sower. Grand Central Publishing, 1993.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Reading Goals for 2013

I usually stay away from making goals for the year. Or any type of resolution. Because, you know
But this week's Tuesday Top Ten (hosted by The Broke and The Bookish) asked what your reading goals are for the new year and I figured I'd try to come up with some.* So in no particular order, some reading goals

1. Read more ladies - I don't think making sure I read a diverse collection of authors is the MOST important thing because the story itself is the most important thing. That said, I need to read less guys. Not that male authors are BAD but perhaps get a different point of view every once in awhile.

2. Read more non-white people - Ditto for some racial diversity in my authors.

3. Read more non-US authors - Also some authors from somewhere other than my home country. And yes, I COULD have just said read less white guys from America but that would have been 1 goal instead of 3.

4. Go to more author signings - I don't have any in mind or have any idea when authors I heart have books coming out and thus will be doing a book tour, but the 2 I went to last year were so fun I WANT MORE. Goal 4b is be less awkward at said book signing. I didn't make this a separate goal because I'm pretty sure it has no chance of happening. But I thought I should mention it.

5. Get my review of The Parable of the Sower just written already - It's been awhile now. And it's not that I don't WANT to review it. I'm just lazy with reviews.

6. Finish the Harry Potter readalong - I'm confident I'm going to accomplish this goal, but I want something on this list I know I'll be able to check off. Man, I really hope I didn't just jinx myself.

7. Do a better job answering review requests - I'm not trying to make this a humble brag cos I really don't get that many review requests. Which really just makes it all the worse that I have a tendency to just not answer most of the requests I get. Which is rude and I need to answer people, even if it's just to say "thanks but no thanks".

8. Read The Corrections - This has sorta been a goal for years now. Which is stupid. This book needs to stop mocking me. I CAN DEFEAT YOU, FRANZEN.

9. Listen to more audiobooks - preferably while running (or at least walking) since that was something I was PLANNING on doing when I got all of the HP audiobooks

10. Do a better job reading the newspaper - I know this isn't quite the "reading goal" TB&TB people were asking about (I assume, anyway) but we get the NYT delivered each weekend and I pretty much read: the magazine (especially Chuck Klosterman as The Ethicist column), the Real Estate section, and the Book Reviews. I only randomly pick up the other sections, and I should really make an effort to have an idea of what's going on in the world. I cannot get all of my current event knowledge from Twitter.

So, what are your reading goals for the year?

*Did you also figure out which goal is a the reason I decided to write this post instead of working on another one? Yeah. I'm starting off my goals by putting them off. Good job, me

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Mini-Readathon Time

How are you spending your Saturday? Is it joining in a mini-readathon? Cos it should be.

Because this is a mini-readathon it's only 8 hours AND there is a mini-theme. Which in my case is going to be try to figure out any possible reason (no matter how convoluted) that the book I'm reading or the snack I'm eating count as mini. Because I couldn't be bothered* to actually pick up mini-foods, even though we spent so much time coming up with good options.

There's a check-in around hour 4 and then a wrap-up post and I'll probably post updates whenever I need a break from reading/more snacks. FIRST UP

Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson
Clementines, which are kinda like tiny oranges
I'm actually prepared with this post because I woke up around 9:50 thinking the readalong started at 10. I figured screw it, I'll start late and then realized no one else had posts up. At which point I actually double checked the time and realized I had an hour. See, sometimes my inability to pay attention to details (like the clock) works in my advantage.

UPDATE: Bryson is still guiding me around England, but I decided I needed more food. So snack number 2, mini-grilled cheeses
What's that? You say it's just a normal size grilled cheese but cut down to smaller pieces and served on toothpicks? Quiet you.

ANOTHER UPDATE: While I am enjoying Bryson's trip around England, I need something else. I considered switching to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (mini because written for children, aka mini-people) because all the cool kids are doing it, but I think I'm going to go with The Complete Works of William Shakespeare [abridged] by the Reduced Shakespeare Company. I've read/watched this enough that I sort of have it memorized (and I've destroyed my original paperback and VHS copy in the process) so this should be a quick one. I also need more food so this time it's apples and peanut butter, which is mini because it is a snack generally enjoyed by children, which we've already decided are mini-people.

MORE UPDATES: Just finished The Complete Works of William Shakespeare [abridged] so that with the Bryson I've thus far read puts me at 287 pages read. Woo! I'm going back to Bryson but before that MORE SNACKS

I forgot that I just happened to have mini Toblerones sitting around. How convenient. And I decided it's time for a cocktail and I just happened to have a tiny bottle of Maker's hanging around.

WRAP UP: I'm in the same place I was after the last update. I had good intentions to get more reading done but I decided to just see what's going on on TV. And VH1 is doing a countdown of top songs of the 2000s which I JUST WATCHED but apparently I can't look away. So I got another 4 pages read. Oh well.

Total pages read: 291
Books read: 
1/2 of Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson
The Complete Works of William Shakespeare [abridged] by the Reduced Shakespeare Company
Snacks consumed: 
Tiny grilled cheeses
Apples & PB
Mini Toblerone
Whiskey & cola made with a teeny bottle of Maker's

Good times, everyone. Good times.

*This is only kind of true. Another part of the "couldn't be bothered" is due to the fact that we have 1 car between Boyfriend+ and I, and he usually has it. Cos it's his and all. So if I want to pick up food I need to a) do it when I'm in NYC and drag it back to LI with me b) get the car from Boyfriend+ when he's home from work c) go with Boyfriend+. C is pretty much the only one that happens, since he works often and I hate driving. We haven't had time to go grocery shopping but DON'T WORRY. I will come up with foods.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Harry Potter readalong - IT BEGINS

Alice's Harry Potter readalong is here you guys! Are you excited? OF COURSE YOU ARE.

Since I'm not too sure what we're supposed to be saying for this first post, I'm going to go on about my intro to Harry Potter. I know I've talked about this here before, but I'm going to do it again. That's what happens when the blog is mine.

So Harry Potter came out when I was in middle school which SHOULD have put me right in the prime audience. Except I was switching back and forth between reading Victor Hugo (and not understanding any of it) and reading Stephen King and apparently couldn't be bothered with something like a boy wizard. That's only sort of true because even though this was a PHENOMENON I don't remember hearing too much about it other than, there's a book series that is "bringing reading back" or whatever language used.

So it was several years after the books first came out that I started them. I was studying in Italy and brought a couple books with me that were laying around the house. My brother had a copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (never read by him) so I threw that in my suitcase and when I was out of other English language books, I gave it a try. And I liked it. When I was in Rome I found an English language copy of the second book and decided to read that as well. And then I stopped reading the books for a couple more years, because why would I stick with anything?*

The final book came out the summer after I graduated college and a friend of mine was SUPER excited** for it. Not only that, but she wanted to spread the HP love with me when she realized I read the first two books and no more. So one day she, Boyfriend+, and I went to the beach. She was reading her brand new copy of the 7th book and she lent me a copy of the 3rd book so I could catch up and get to the 7th book and then we could talk about it. Good news was I got super into the 3rd book (SIRIUS!). The bad news is I am very pale and 70+SPF sunscreen reapplied twice is not enough to keep me from setting on fire. The kind of good news (though doesn't make up for the massive sunburn) is that I didn't do much while recovering from this burn other than lay on my stomach and silently weep.
But it gave me plenty of time to finish the 3rd book and start on the 4th one (my brother's other HP book, again never read by him).

At the end of the summer my beach friend, Boyfriend+, and I moved in together which meant I now had access to the rest of the books and it didn't take me too much longer to finish the series. And that is my HP journey. I've re-read the first couple book since but never made it past the fourth one. Not for any reason other than I'm easily distracted. I have listened to the audiobooks a couple times so I've semi-re-read them. But I am EXTRA SUPER EXCITED for this readalong so we can all read them and talk about them and pick sides and the gifs. THE GIFS.
And now because I heart Cracked and over-analyzing pop culture (which is what this HP readalong is about right? That and the GIFs?) so here are a bunch of articles about HP that I will probably quote a few times during this readalong. Warning for those who haven't read the books yet (Megs...) there are spoilers.

6 Horrifying Implications of the Harry Potter Universe
The 5 Most Depraved Sex Scenes Implied by Harry Potter
Why The Harry Potter Universe Is Secretly Terrifying (video)
5 Ways People Are Taking Harry Potter Waaay Too Seriously
A Harry Potter Protest (aka Quidditch is Bullshit)

*Addtional HP story I want to add. When I was in high school a friend of mine who was/is a fantasy fan and REALLY did not like HP for reasons that I think fantasy fans understand but couldn't explain to me worked at a bookstore. This bookstore was doing a midnight release of one of the books. My friend somehow already knew the ending and threatened the unruly nerd crowd that if they didn't calm down she was going to tell everyone what happens.

**She would have been one of the people threatened with spoilers, I'm sure.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

December & 2012 reading wrap up

I know this isn't original, or even different than anything I've said at the beginning of any of these wrap ups, but time flies. Especially around the holidays where I feel like there's this huge build up to the holidays (I LOVE CHRISTMAS) and then suddenly it's there and in a whirlwind it's over and then it's New Years and then the year is over and more than that, vacation is almost over and I can't believe I have to go back to work tomorrow.* First, let's see how December reading shaped up for me.

Number of books read
A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin
Ad Nomad: The Case Histories of Dane Bacchus by Eric Jay Sonnenschein
Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Number of pages read

Percentage of fiction
100% once again ALL THE FICTION!

Percentage of female authors

Percentage of white authors

Percentage of US authors

Percentage of ebooks

Books written by decade
1840s - 25%
1990s - 25%
2000s - 25%
2010s - 25%

Challenge books
0% but I think you knew that

SLIGHTLY more diverse but that's all because of Butler. Not only does she make my stats look better, but she kicks ass.

Now let's see how I did for the year

Number of books read
54 - woo! I try to do at least 1 book a week so huzzah!

Number of pages read

Percentage of fiction

Percentage of female authors
31% - whomp

Percentage of white authors
93% - this one makes me sadder than the female authors stat, which makes also makes me sad.

Percentage of US authors
69% - I feel better about this one, even if the next highest number is British authors (20%)

Percentage of eBooks

Percentage of books older than me

Percentage of challenge books
19% - frankly I'm surprised it's that high

Books written by decade:
1600s - 2%
1810s - 2%
1840s - 2%
1860s - 4%
1890s - 4%
1900s - 2%
1920s - 2%
1930s - 2%
1950s - 2%
1970s - 2%
1980s - 4%
1990s - 9%
2000s - 28%
2010s - 37%
Considering we're just now into the 3rd year for the decade, I'm impressed with myself that the majority of the books I read were written this decade. Impressed in a "how'd I manage that?" way.

So I should work on reading more ladies, more non-white people, more non-US people, and older stuff. You know, the same things I needed to work on last time. Here's to 2013 reading being better.

If you're curious, here are monthly stats for the rest of the year

And if you're EXTRA curious and feel like going through my old reviews, check out the Book Archives, which I should figure out a way to make more obvious on the homepage but eh.

*You're welcome for that run-on. Also I'm writing this on the 1st but posting on the 2nd so I'm actually back at work right now and it's probably ugh. I'm also probably going through a zillion work emails that I should have taken care of when I was just sitting at home watching various marathons but then that wouldn't really be vacation, would it?