Tag Archive | read-a-thon

Sci Fi Summer Read-athon starts tomorrow!

Seasons of Reading is hosting their annual Sci-Fi Summer Read-athon beginning tomorrow and running through June 7.

Some folks are really ambitious with their plans, posting that they plan to read three or four or more books.  In a week.  I don’t have that kind of time, but more power to ’em!

Of course, I could be wrong, and those are the books they intend to read throughout the summer.

Me, I just hope to get halfway through Olympos by Dan Simmons during this week.  It’s the sequel to Ilium, which I finished last week and plan to review in the near future.  Like Ilium, it’s a doorstop of a novel (upwards of 800 pages).  I’m currently on page 127.

What are you reading right now?

Book review: American Gods by Neil Gaiman

American GodsAmerican Gods by Neil Gaiman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

2003 Review

Neil Gaiman is one of the most original writers currently publishing. He defies category: how does one classify an author whose work ranges from SF to horror to social commentary to parable and back, all within the pages of one book? His style is reminiscent of Clive Barker and Harlan Ellison, perhaps with a touch of Lovecraft thrown in for seasoning.

AMERICAN GODS tells the story of the war brewing between the “old” gods of the United States — the piskies and brownies and vrokolaks brought over from the Old Country by immigrant believers — and the “new” gods of technology and progress worshipped by the descendants of those immigrants. One human, an ex-con called Shadow, is enlisted by a man calling himself Wednesday to help unite the old gods in resisting the new. Shadow, at loose ends after the sudden loss of his wife, agrees to work for Wednesday, and is plunged headlong into intrigue and strangeness, where people are not who they appear, time does not track, and even the dead do not stay in their graves.

A haunting tone poem of a novel. Highly recommended.

2017 Re-read

Although I had been intending to re-read this book for years, the impending debut of the Starz series (April 30!) finally got this book down from the shelf and into my hands in mid-April.

Seasons of ReadingIt’s funny how time can distort the memory of a once-read novel. I remembered this story as being mostly a road trip with Shadow and Wednesday. While there is definitely a great deal of travel involved, I had completely forgotten the events that take place in sleepy, quiet, wintry Lakeside. I had also forgotten the outcome of Wednesday’s machinations, and how truly noble Shadow turns out to be.

Now I’m prepared for the TV show. It better not be awful.

2017SFFReadingChallenge(Side observation: I expect researching this novel is what eventually led Gaiman to write Norse Mythology.)

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Read as part of the Spring Into Horror read-a-thon.  This is the only book I managed to finish during the time frame.  Join us next time!

Also read for the 2017 Award Winning SF/F Challenge.  You can still join in on that one.

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2017 Spring into Horror Read-A-Thon

I almost forgot to join in this annual event! And since horror/thriller/spooky stuff is one of my favorite genres, that would be a shame indeed.

I’m currently about halfway through a re-read of Neil Gaiman‘s American Gods in anticipation of the Starz series (with IAN FUCKING McSHANE as MR. WEDNESDAY!!!!! *swoon*) set to begin on April 30. I’ll probably finish it in the next few days.  Then, who knows what evil lurks in the heart of my bookshelf?

R.I.P. IX — More stuff I’ve read

RIP 9 Peril the First
Today we’re going to discuss the Amazon Kindle freebies read in connection with R.I.P. IX. Amazon freebies are always hit-and-miss as far as quality goes. The books I pulled out of my library of Kindle freebies were no different. Let’s start with Awakening: Children of the After #1.
Awakening: Children of the After #1Siblings Jack, Samantha, and Will emerge from the family security vault six months after their father left them inside and told them not to come out until he returned. Upon reaching the last of their stores of food and water, they decide to take a chance and open the door upon a devastated Chicago. The rest of this short novel follows their trip across town in search of (a) food and water; and (b) the way to Grandma’s house outside the city. While the story is reasonably well-written, it has one fatal flaw: The author decided to switch perspectives continuously between the three children; and reading about the same event three times from three POVs (one of which is that of a 7-year-old boy) is annoying. Given that annoyance, my minor intrigue into the mystery of what happened to the world isn’t sufficient to warrant seeking out the other books in the series. 2 stars (out of 5).

The Bird EaterThe Bird Eater by Ania Ahlborn is good on atmosphere, not so good on character development. 20 years after being orphaned, Aaron returns to his childhood home in Northwest Arkansas to grieve the death of his son and the collapse of his marriage. He moves into his aunt’s old house, itself abandoned for the last 20 years, and starts making repairs, with the idea that he would sell it and be done. Then odd bits of vandalism begin, often accompanied by a quick sighting of a young boy.

As Aaron begins asking questions, trying to find out who this boy is, he learns his old home is considered haunted or possessed or just plain evil by the townsfolk. Naturally, Aaron scoffs at the idea, but when one of his childhood buddies turns out to be an amateur ghost-hunter, he becomes a little more open-minded. Throw in the now-married childhood sweetheart who never got over her crush on Aaron, and the recipe is complete for a Ozark Peyton Place by way of Dark Shadows.

While this book isn’t totally awful, I quickly grew tired of the two-dimensional characters and heavy-handed Portents of Dread that permeate the narrative. And I wasn’t satisfied with the skimpy explanation of the origin of the evil the author eventually provided. It’s almost like she remembered near the end of the book “Oh, yeah, I have to give the reader some kind of closure, don’t I!” Kudos for the pervasive gloom and some genuinely terrifying moments. 2 1/2 stars.

The BarkeepThe Barkeep by William Lashner isn’t exactly your standard-issue thriller. Justin Chase tends bar in one of the city’s more trendy nightspots. It’s more trendy because Justin is behind the bar. He has a following. He also has a father in prison for the murder of his mother; and an older brother who resents him because his testimony was instrumental in the conviction of their father. Then one night a man with the unlikely name of Birdie Grackle walks into the bar and tells Justin he was the one who murdered Justin’s mother. He had been hired to do so. And would Justin like to know who hired him? Enjoyable noir-ish fluff. Bartender psycho-analysis dispensed with pseudo-Zen philosophy and a dry vodka martini, blended with beautiful women, fisticuffs, and mayhem. I liked it. 3 stars.

In the DarkI’ll tell you right up front I didn’t finish In the Dark by Brandon Massey because I didn’t like either of the main characters and the story wasn’t interesting enough to put up with people I didn’t like. Len and Olivia Bowden have finally purchased their dream home: a classic Victorian in an upscale historic Atlanta neighborhood. But they’ve hardly begun to unpack when the home’s former owner knocks on the door, bluntly states the house was stolen from him, and gives them three days to leave or else. He utters some kind of weird chanting and makes odd hand gestures before Len shuts the door on him; and Len thinks: “Voudou? Nah, no such thing.”

Regardless, secure in the knowledge that their purchase of this foreclosure was legal and aboveboard, the Bowdens ignore the old man. After that, I assume bad stuff started happening, but I quit reading at around page 80. Why? Len was wimpy and hid nekkid RIP 9 Portraitpictures of his college girlfriend (who wasn’t Olivia, by the way) in the bottom drawer of his desk. Olivia treated her husband like she thought he was stupid and wouldn’t tell him why she was so afraid when Len described the chanting and gestures made by the old man. This marriage has severe communication and trust issues. And while that might be realistic, in this setting it made for two extremely unlikeable people. So, when I don’t like either of the main characters, and the story isn’t good enough to tolerate unpleasant people, it’s time to bail. And that’s exactly what I did. 1 star.

Want to read more R.I.P. IX progress posts? Click that badge over there to go to a whole list of them!

R.I.P. IX — What I’ve read so far…

RIP 9 Peril the First
Constant readers may recall I committed to “Peril The First”, which means I pledge to read at least four books in the mystery, gothic, horror, dark fantasy, etc. genre between September 1 and October 31. At this point in the challenge, I can safely say, “Been there, done that.” Books read and finished so far in this challenge total 14. I’ve sort of been concentrating on books in a series recently. I’ll give mini-reviews of just a few here. You can click on the book covers to read the full review.

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar ChildrenHollow City

Hollow City was read as part of this challenge. I’m including its predecessor here (but not in my challenge count) because you can’t read one without the other. Picking up immediately where its predecessor left off, Hollow City follows the further adventures of Jacob, Emma, and the rest of Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children as they search for a cure for Miss Peregrine’s condition. Their search leads them to one timeloop and another, and ultimately to war-ravaged London during The Blitz, where they encounter more danger, not only from the bombs but from the hollowgasts and wights who have been pursuing them ever since they left Wales. Another cliffhanger ending left me scrambling to find out when the next book will be published. (Late 2015? Waaaaaaaaahhhh!!!! Who does this guy Ransom Riggs think he is? George R. R. Martin?)

The TalismanBlack House

The Talisman was a re-read, mainly because The Black House had been sitting on my bookshelf for several years (and through several moves), glaring at me with baleful eyes. I wouldn’t have felt right responding to that glare and picking it up without refreshing my memory and renewing my acquaintance with young Jack Sawyer and his epic quest through the Territories to find the Talisman and save his mother. As it turns out, a re-read wasn’t strictly necessary, because The Black House isn’t strictly a sequel. One could read it without having read The Talisman, although the story is richer if one has. The Black House catches up with Jack, now in his late 30s, after he left the LAPD and retired to rural Tamarack, Wisconsin. A child murderer has surfaced in this sleepy little village, and local law enforcement requests Jack’s assistance on the case. The murderer (who is revealed to the reader fairly early in the book) isn’t any ordinary human being. He’s a dark and twisted personality straight from the Territories themselves; only Jack’s forgotten almost everything that happened then. This novel has a shaky start, but eventually finds its feet and delivers a solid, satisfying read, and maybe even a happy ending for Jack.

WoolShiftDust

Wool was read before the start of the challenge, so it’s not included in the count. Its sequels, Shift and Dust, were read after the challenge started. These three novels, taken as a whole, constitute one of the most original SF/post-apocalyptic/dystopian scenarios I’ve encountered in a lifetime of reading. To preserve the joy of discovering them for yourselves (and to avoid spoilers for anyone who hasn’t read them), I’ll give you the set-up for Wool only: Several thousand people live underground in a self-sustained silo. No one goes outside because the world is poison. No one knows why or when the world was poisoned; they only know “the gods” did it; and anyone who expresses a wish to know more is granted that wish and sent outside to die. Then Juliette is appointed sheriff; in this position, she becomes privy to certain information previously unknown to her, and she begins to suspect there’s more to the ancient stories than she’s been told. RIP 9 PortraitGood stuff, people. Really. You should read them. By the way, if you’re an Amazon Prime member and have a Kindle, you can borrow them free of charge through the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library program. No, Amazon doesn’t pay me for this plug: I’m just that impressed with the selection in their lending program.

Stay tuned for another blog entry about a few more of the books read for R.I.P. IX, coming soon! And click that badge over there to be taken to a list of many more blog entries about this reading challenge.

RIP IX and FrightFall Check-In

FrightFall 2014I’ve been so busy reading that I haven’t taken any time to blog about the reading! While I suppose this is not necessarily the worst sin a blogger can commit, it certainly doesn’t aid one’s credibility in the book-blogger category, especially after committing to a couple of simultaneous reading challenges. But we’ll set aside the breast-beating and mea culpas for the nonce, and get on with the writing about the reading of the books.

FrightFall has one more day in which to read another spooky story (or mystery, or thriller, as the case may be). I think the two I’ve read in the past week will be all she wrote for this challenge, though. Laundry and cleaning the house (or at the very least, cleaning the shower) have to take priority over reading time for the rest of this weekend, especially since I spent a good portion of today ditzing about on the internet and having lunch with my sister. So, um, the two that I read that meet Frightfall’s requirements were
The Dark Tower II: The Drawing of the Three by Stephen King; and The Barkeep by William Lashner. Click the covers shown below to go to the reviews.

The BarkeepThe Dark Tower II:  The Drawing of the Three

RIP IX continues through Halloween, so there’s lots of time left to go on this challenge. The two books read for FrightFall also count for RIP IX; several others were read ahead of them. RIP 9 PortraitI committed to Peril the First, which means I would read at least four books out of one of these categories: Mystery, Suspense, Thriller, Dark Fantasy, Gothic, Horror, or Supernatural. Going back to the date this challenge began (September 1), I have finished ten, so I’m well ahead of my goal. My actual goal for RIP IX, though, is to re-read Volumes 1-6 in Stephen King’s Dark Tower series and then finally read Volume 7, which has sat on my shelf for several years, glaring at me with baleful eyes. First two volumes down. Five to go.

Watch for upcoming blog posts specifically about the RIP IX books as well as the other RIP challenge I took on, Peril on the Screen.

It’s that time of year again: Readers Imbibing Peril 9 AND FrightFall Read-A-Thon!

I’ve been away from this blog for a number of reasons, not the least of which was dealing with an injury from a car accident and its attendant miseries. Nothing major, but enough to warrant hiring an attorney and going to the chiropractor several times weekly for the last several weeks.

My poor baby

My poor baby

Ugh. Luckily, my car wasn’t totaled and the body shop was able to make it just as beautiful as it once was. And the upside, if there can be one, was that the time my doctor took me off work was productive in the reading department. I’ve already met my Goodreads books-read goal for the calendar year (which was 52), and now am trying to see how many books above that goal I can reach.

Toward that end, I’m hereby pledging participation in two of my favorite reading challenges. They’re my favorite because they take place in my favorite season, Autumn, and they involve one of my favorite genres, the spooky story.

RIP 9 PortraitFirst, R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril IX (RIP IX), hosted by your friend and mine, Carl, over at Stainless Steel Droppings. (Every time I reference his blog, I promptly remind myself to read those damn Harry Harrison stories, and then just as promptly forget to put them on my list. Maybe this time will be different.) This is an annual challenge to read something in the Mystery, Suspense, Thriller, Dark Fantasy, Gothic, Horror, or Supernatural genres, or (as Carl says) “…anything sufficiently moody that shares a kinship with the above.” As usual, there are several sub-challenges within the challenges. I plan on tackling Peril The First and Peril on the Screen. If you click the badge over there, you’ll be taken to the sign-up post with lots more information about the challenges.

FrightFall 2014One of the best things about RIP is it coincides with Seasons of Reading‘s annual FrightFall Read-a-thon, which involves reading at least one “scary” novel during a specified week. Two birds with one stone, one might say. This year, the FrightFall Read-a-thon is the first week of October. Click the badge to the left for details and sign-up instructions.

By the way, the Estella Society is coordinating with RIP 9 to host a read-along of Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House. Carl has the details in the RIP 9 sign-up post linked above and, of course, you can get the information directly from the Estella Society’s blog post. I read that book too recently to participate in this read-along, but by all means, if you’ve never read it, or if you haven’t read it in recent memory, I encourage you to visit Ms. Jackson’s legendary haunted house. It’s worth every shiver.

Regardless of which challenge you choose, come join us! We’ll have a spooky good time!

Wrapping up the High Summer Read-a-thon

High SummerI finished five books. Five! Okay, I started one of them before the High Summer Read-A-Thon got started, but I’m counting it anyway.

First finished was Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner. Borrowed from the library, and returned already. I thought it was amazing, but no review yet.

Then came Night Film by Marisha Pessl. I loved this. I have yet to write a review because I’m still thinking about it, but I loved it.

Next was Imago by Octavia Butler. As disturbing as the preceding books in the Xenogenesis series. I haven’t written reviews for any of this trilogy, either.

The Widow File by S.G. Redling was a fun and quick-paced genre thriller. Click the title to get to the review.

And finally, The New Madrid Run by Michael Reisig, a train wreck of a post-apocalypse thriller that kept me reading in large part because the premise was amazing, but I couldn’t believe how awful its execution. Click the title for my review.

The New Madrid RunThe Widow File

ImagoNight FilmAngle of Repose

I find it curious that I was able to whip out reviews for the books that impressed me the least, but am at somewhat of a loss to write about the books that actually made me think. Oh well. If you want to read more wrap-ups of this read-a-thon, click the High Summer Read-A-Thon badge at the top of this post.

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High Summer Read-a-thon

High SummerIt’s been a while.

I tell you, once our class starts and I’m teaching a couple of times a week and getting lessons finalized in the times I’m not on air, I am exhausted when I get home. Very little knitting and crocheting going on recently, but quite a bit of reading gets done on the commute.

Speaking of reading, I’m taking part in the High Summer Read-a-thon (click the pretty picture over there for the link). I happen to be off work this week, so at least one book will be started and finished. Maybe two. I might even write a book review or two this week. It’s not like I’m 40 books behind in reviews or anything… 😉

I finished Wallace Stegner’s Angle of Repose yesterday morning (been reading it since July 14) (it’s wonderful), and started Marisha Pessl’s Night Film yesterday afternoon. So far, Night Film is every bit as good as Special Topics in Calamity Physics, which I thought was amazing, even though I have yet to write a review. (40+ books behind, remember?)

I’ll try to get a knit-and-crochet post up this week, too, because of course you want to know how many WIPs are currently floating around the house. And the new Vogue Knitting and Rowan issues are sitting here giving me the hairy eyeball.

*sigh* Projects are many. Discipline is lacking. And I’m beginning to feel the fun has gone out of blogging because it feels like a chore instead of an opportunity.

This feeling is probably temporary.

Once Upon A Time 8: Catching Up

Once Upon A Time 8 Journey Banner

I’ve decided the Once Upon A Time 8 book challenge category my reading falls into best is “The Journey”, because I don’t know what I’ll be reading next. My library holds are coming in fast and furious now, for some reason; to keep my “good library patron” street cred, I have to pick up the holds — physical and electronic — within just a few days of being notified they’re available, and then read and return them within three weeks. This past week, the library notified me that my turn had come on three separate requests, so I’m busy busy busy reading them, and none of them qualify as folklore, fairy tale, fantasy, or mythology.

That said, I’ve gathered the reviews below for the three qualifying books I have read since the beginning of this challenge. These are all part of George R. R. Martin’s “Song of Ice and Fire” cycle. I’ve done my best to review them without spoilers for those of you whose only knowledge comes from the HBO series, Game of Thrones.


 

A Storm of Swords (A Song of Ice and Fire, #3)A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Wow. Some big (and unexpected) events that I totally didn’t see coming, and one I did because I’d already seen it on television.

War is still raging throughout Westeros — a storm of swords, indeed — and an ancient threat from the North has manifested. Lots of blood and death and sex and violence. The constant action and shifting viewpoints make this a relatively fast read for all its 1100+ pages; I finished it in less than two weeks, reading mostly while on my daily train commute and several hours on weekends.

That 1100+ pages bit is significant. I rarely tackle epic fantasy such as this because of the sheer volume and the fear that once I get started, my completionist nature will force me to finish long after I’ve lost interest in the series. It’s a credit to Mr. Martin’s talent that I’m still fascinated with the world he’s built.

Bring on A Feast for Crows!


 

A Feast for Crows (A Song of Ice and Fire, #4)A Feast for Crows by George R.R. Martin

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was a bit of a slog. Lots of story elements from some major and more minor players; lots of death, including one I didn’t even notice had happened until another character mentioned it and one that happened completely offstage (I assume it will be covered in the next book); and one character I really like had deadly stuff happen but may or may not actually be dead — I’m really not sure. And then there’s the return from the dead of a major player. Ick. Still enjoying the series because Martin can certainly tell a story, but I’m ready to get back to the dragons now.

Theory and speculation: Just to preserve my thoughts at this point in the series. I believe Jon Snow is Robert Baratheon’s legitimate son, and the rightful heir to the throne. Here’s how I think it happened. Robert married Ned Stark’s sister Lyanna in secret right before the Civil War that deposed the Targaryens and set Robert on the Iron Throne. During the war, Lyanna died in childbirth (in “a bed of blood”, according to A Wiki of Ice and Fire) but before she died, believing the child to be in danger (from Targaryens, probably), she made Ned promise to take the child and raise him, saying the child was his own bastard. Now that all the major players in this speculation are dead, though, it’s anyone’s guess who Jon Snow’s mother might be.


 

A Dance with Dragons (A Song of Ice and Fire #5)A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My first reaction upon finishing this book? “Curse you, George R. R. Martin!”

Lots of stuff going on with Danaerys and her dragons. Theon reappears, causing me to wonder if he’s going to redeem himself. I never particularly liked him, especially after Winterfell, but no one deserves to receive the kind of treatment he’s gotten from The Bastard. Not even Joffrey. Okay, maybe Joffrey, although he’s long since been dealt with, so that’s rather a moot observation. Plotting and conniving and political maneuvering, and a rather unexpected backfiring of same, takes place in King’s Landing. Another character I thought was dead isn’t, and this one I was glad to see return. More plotting and maneuvering going on at The Wall. And an ending twist that caused me to throw the book down in the last pages and curse GRRM to the skies.

When’s the next in the series scheduled to be released? Oh. We don’t know. *sigh* Now I know how my friends who read The Wheel of Time felt.

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Once Upon A Time 8If you’re interested in seeing what other folks have read during this challenge, click the banner at the very top of this post. If you think you might want to join in, click the badge next to this paragraph to read all about the challenge. I hope you join us!