Friday Reads ~ in which the accidental blog vacation is over (I think)

One good thing about a blog vacation is it means I can tell you about having finished a LOT of books without having to change my reading habits. So, we’ll start right off with the list!

WHAT I READ:

I finished Kay Finch’s Black Cat Crossing. I enjoyed this, but I enjoyed it more for the cat shenanigans than the cozy mystery. I certainly didn’t care about the main character’s aunt getting accused of murder. (full review is here)

I also finished Beware the Wrath of Bunny Hopper by Lazette Gifford. This was a silly book. But it also had some more serious points, and it touched on real issues in its lighthearted way.

I also finished the first book I picked up specifically because it was a LitRPG book and I was curious about the official genre: Videogame Plotline Tester by Michael Atamanaov. It was… NOT a fun book. It was, in many ways, tedious. I finished it partly in the hopes that it would get better (it wasn’t that long) and partly because I enjoyed the game inside the book. Reading the book was kinda like watching someone play the game, though the descriptions weren’t particularly vivid. I will not be going back to this series or author. If this is “great LitRPG” as some reviewers claimed, I may find myself avoiding the genre entirely. (For the record, a huge reason why I tried the official genre is because I enjoyed Niven’s Dream Park many years ago and Hayes’ NPCs more recently. Both of those books have been called LitRPG too, though both of those are first and foremost GOOD BOOKS. Makes a difference.) (full review is here)

I also finished Bellwether by Connie Willis. (Thank you to Chris for the recommendation.) It was a fascinating book in several ways — for one, it’s always nice for a knitter to read a book that has sheep in it, and I learned stuff about sheep I never knew. For another, this is billed as a science fiction book, but it would be better described as a fiction book about science. I don’t think I’ve run into one of those before. And for another, I enjoyed the way it was written and the way each chapter had a paragraph about a prior fad as introduction. Fun stuff. (full review is here)

And I also finished Going Rogue by Drew Hayes. (#3 in the series started by NPCs and continued in Split the Party.) I am really loving this series. I really want to see where the story goes from here. There’s so much going on in Book 3 that the next one could go in so many directions. This is definitely my favorite series that I’ve read in 2017 to date.

WHAT I’M READING:

Soul Ink (Grimm Agency #1.5) by J.C. Nelson is on my ereader at the moment. I enjoyed the first book (Free Agent) so I thought I’d try the short which followed it and see if I liked that enough to continue with the series. (I read the first book long enough ago that I no longer remember if I planned to read book 2 or not.) So far, I’m enjoying it, but still haven’t decided about book 2. That tells me that book 2 will be on my TBR list, but not terribly high up in priority.

My current audio book is The Search for Exoplanets (a Great Courses lecture series) by Joshua Winn. I haven’t gotten too far into it yet, but this aspect of astronomy is something that has fascinated me for a while, so I’m really curious to see where it goes.

And I just started The Atrocity Archives (Laundry Files #1) by Charles Stross (also recommended by Chris). It’s got a great premise and good reviews, so I have hopes that I’ll enjoy this one. (Also, it’s a library book, so I can’t take too long reading it.)

WHAT I’LL READ NEXT:

Depending on whether or not I’ve temporarily had enough science after this audio book, I’ll either listen one of the two Great Courses lecture series by Neil deGrasse Tyson I picked up earlier this week (one of them was the Audible Daily Deal) or… something else. I’m thinking that Gigi Pandian’s The Accidental Alchemist will be my next fiction audio book. (Just not sure if I’ll be going back to fiction after this non-fiction, or not.)

My next paper book will be one of the other library books I picked up: No Cats Allowed (Cat in the Stacks #4) by Miranda James or Curiosity Thrilled the Cat (Magical Cats Mystery #1) by Sofie Kelly. I’m not sure which yet, and I might even change my mind on these and return them to the library unread. However, this is the current plan.

For ebooks, I’m not sure what will be next. I have a few more of Lazette Gifford’s works, and I’ve been enjoying those so I might go with another of her ebooks. Or I might start Dragon’s Egg by Robert L. Forward. We’ll see.

In the meantime, it’s good to be back on the blog. Have a great weekend!

in which there is an accidental blog vacation

Well, I hadn’t meant to take a blog vacation, but I’m in the middle of one. I haven’t been blogging. I haven’t been feeling like blogging. But I also didn’t want anyone to worry where I was.

So – welcome to my blog vacation! I’ll probably be back from my blog vacation next week sometime. Maybe not until the week after that. We’ll have to see.

Have a great week (or two)!

Friday Reads ~ in which we have another review catch-up

I had previously finished reading Xenation: Draw the Line and Farstep Station, both by Lazette Gifford. At the time, I didn’t have the time or energy to write book reviews for them. I’ve since found both time and energy, though. The reviews for each book can be found in the links in their titles above.

And a quick update on the 2017 Reading Challenge: I have finished reading 5 of 10 Cat Mystery books, and have started my 6th. I’ve also read 81.4% new books this year, which is over my 75% goal for the year. I guess I haven’t been as tempted to re-read books as in years past! We’ll see if I can keep that up, though. All it will take is getting into one long series of books I’ve already read to throw that off… and I’ve been considering re-reading The Chronicles of Prydain this year. That would mess up my percentage right there.

WHAT I READ

This week I finished reading Doctor Who: City of Death by James Goss (full review is here). It was enjoyable, though not a new favorite book. (Mostly because it’s not a favorite episode of Doctor Who.) The writing was good and the humor was great, though, even if it isn’t my favorite story plot.

I also finished the audio book Split the Party, the second of Drew Hayes’ Spells, Swords, and Stealth series. (The review is here.) Love it! This one is a new favorite book, and it (as well as the first in the series, NPCs) is in the running for Favorite Book Read in 2017.

WHAT I’M READING

As soon as I finished Split the Party, I started listening to Going Rogue, the third Spells, Swords, & Stealth book. There’s a fourth one coming out either later this year or next year, though the release date hasn’t been announced yet. I suspect this 4th book will be an instant purchase for me, too.

I also started to read Black Cat Crossing (A Bad Luck Cat Mystery #1) by Kay Finch. This will be another book for my Cat Mystery Reading Challenge. It’s amusing so far.

For ebooks, I just started Lazette Gifford’s Beware the Wrath of Bunny Hopper, mostly because the title made me laugh. I haven’t gotten far enough into it yet to tell you what I think of it other than that.

WHAT I’LL READ NEXT

My next audio book might be another non-fiction book. I’m thinking it will be the Great Courses book The Search for Exoplanets by Joshua Winn. I’m not positive yet, though.

And my next paper book will almost certainly be Bellwether by Connie Willis. It’s been all I can do to not start reading it (even without having finished my current paper book) ever since Amazon delivered it to me.

Friday Reads ~ in which I discover a thing

Remember how a few weeks back I was trying to figure out why I had trouble getting into ebooks, and trying to find ways to trick myself into remembering that I had a ebook in progress so that I actually finished them? And then I decided to read a short story on my ereader because I seem to have better luck with short format ebooks than the longer ones?

Well. I discovered this week that what I was reading was NOT a short story. It was a book sample. However, by the time I discovered that, I was hoooked and have since been remembering to read my ebook. So maybe that’s the trick? Start with samples and see if I’m interested enough to keep going? This requires more research to confirm.

WHAT I READ

I didn’t technically finish any books. But I did finish the sample (first 8 chapters or so) of Xenation: Draw the Line by Lazette Gifford. Does that count?

WHAT I’M READING

I’m still reading Xenation, and still loving it. This has been a good choice for ebook (for me). It turns out you can buy the book in paperback form, too, but I’m sticking with the ebook. (Which is available on iBooks. I couldn’t remember my Smashwords account from when I got the sample, so I got the iBooks version instead.)

I’m still listening to The Medieval World lecture series by Prof. Dorsey Armstrong, as well. Still enjoying it, though I have been getting a bit annoyed that she will usually read quotes in their original Old English and then translate them into modern English. We don’t really need to hear the full quote in a language we don’t understand. (Though I did take a college course in Old English, so I do get some of it.) Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales has been fully translated into Modern English. Just read us that quote.

I’m also still reading Doctor Who: City of Death by James Goss and Douglas Adams. So far it has a lot of what was in the TV episodes with a little additional explanation and background. It’s enjoyable, but there are no surprises for me with this one, since I’ve seen the TV episodes several times.

WHAT I’LL READ NEXT

My next ebook (yes, I have a plan for it this time!) will be Lazette’s Farstep Station, which (as far as I can tell) is set in the same world as Xenation though with different characters. It’s a fun world, so I’m interested in reading more.

I’ll almost certainly listen to Split the Party by Drew Hayes next, when I’m done with my current audio book. (That’s the sequel to NPCs.) I really enjoyed the first book, so I’m really excited to keep going in the series.

And for paper books… My Cat Mystery Reading Challenge needs me to read more books in that genre. So I think I’ll see which other books I own fit the bill for that category. (“Currently own” because I’m trying to whittle down my physical TBR pile, even though I do have a weakness for buying new books when I get too close to a book store…)

Have a great weekend! I’m hoping I get to spend mine with books and wine.

Misc Monday ~ in which we play Desert Island Discs Tag

Jay at This Is My Truth Now tagged me last week to play in a blog tag. (He’s got some great book reviews, and if you’re interested in reviews you should check them out. He also posts non-review stuff too, but the reviews are what first got me visiting his blog.) This one is the Desert Island Discs Blog Tag. It sounded like fun, so here goes!

desert-island-def

The Rules:

  • Link back to BookBum’s original post, so she can see all your answers! (Remember to do this via pingback, she won’t get a notification if not!)
  • Thank the person who tagged you… show some love!
  • Come up with your answers
  • Then tag others to keep the tag going!

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The Premise:

You are cast away onto a remote desert island:

  • You can bring 5 albums – what are they?
  • You can bring one book – which is it? You are provided with a Bible/ other religious text if you want it, as well as the Complete Works of Shakespeare. No series!
  • You can have one luxury item (it has to be inanimate and can’t help you escape the island) – what is it?

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Well… let’s see. I kinda think it might be stretching it to call some box sets “albums” even though you have to buy the whole thing at once. But when something like Weird Al’s “Squeeze Box” includes all 14 of his regular albums (and even more) or the Musical History of Disneyland has 6 discs with over 7.5 hours of run time, I think that’s stretching the definition a little. So we’ll say an album can include 2 discs, because that’s a lot more common. We’ll stop at 2, though.

  1. First album on my list right now would be the Moana soundtrack. I would need a combination of vocal and instrumental music to stay sane while stranded, and this album has both. It also might inspire me to try my hand at sailing… which could either be a good thing or a bad thing.
  2. The second album would be the Eurovision 2015 album. For those who don’t know, Eurovision is kinda like what you would get if the Olympics was for music. Or maybe if you made something like a European version of “American Idol” happen over the course of a few hours instead of a few months. It’s flashy, it’s energetic, it’s fun – and the 2015 songs were, in my opinion, the overall best batch in the past few years. Seriously, though, if you don’t know about Eurovision, go to YouTube and check it out. (This is a good place to start, or this or this or this. Or for Australia’s first Eurovision entry (yes, I know; it’s complicated) go here.)
  3. For my third album I really wish I hadn’t said only albums of 1-2 discs. I would love to include my Complete Beethoven Symphonies album set here (5 discs). Instead I’ll assume there’s a Best of Beethoven on 2 discs which includes the 5th, 6th, and 9th symphonies.
  4. My fourth album would need to be The Beatles’ “One”. Because it’s got most of their best songs on it, and I need another vocal album to balance out the Beethoven.
  5. And for my fifth album, let’s go with Weird Al’s “Mandatory Fun”. Mostly because talking about the 15 disc Squeeze Box got me thinking about Weird Al, but also because this is my favorite of his albums and his music has at least a bit of crazy in it. Stuck on a desert island I’m bound to go at least a little crazy, so the music I listen to might as well reflect that.

The book is harder. Jay had the great idea of bringing a blank book so that he could write in it, but I’m afraid that if I picked that now I’d just be copying him instead of being clever myself. I also am not going to do the “how to survive on a desert island” kind of book, because that would be too sensible and this kind of game isn’t supposed to make sense.

Instead, let’s say I’d bring Dragonflight, Anne McCaffrey’s first Pern novel. I won’t say it’s my favorite book in the world – I don’t think I have one. My tastes change too much based on my mood. But this is one of my favorite books, and it’s one that I could (and have) read over and over again.

And the luxury item… again, I’m making some assumptions here. I’m assuming, for example, that a means of playing the music albums I brought is provided for. (Otherwise the obvious luxury item would be a CD player with speakers and a massive pile of batteries.)

Which means, my luxury item would be knitting. Hopefully with sufficient yarn to last until I’d get rescued, and patterns to knit. But in a pinch I could just re-knit the same yarn over and over until it died, and I also know how to spin yarn so I could find some plant (or animal?) fibers on this island and make more yarn if necessary. But knitting helps keep me sane, and if I was along on a desert island, staying sane would become super important.

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And now I’m supposed to tag people! I’m not going to do that, though. Instead, if you’re reading this and think it sounds fun, then consider yourself tagged. I enjoyed playing along, and I hope you do too!

(You can also leave your choices in the comments, if you prefer. Go ahead. Be a rebel.)

Misc Monday ~ in which we discuss reading preferences

Let’s talk books today. But not book reviews; let’s go with something more general. Specifically, genre. Do you have a favorite genre? How about a hated genre?

One of the items on my 101 in 1001 Challenge is to read a book in each of six genres (hard sci-fi, western, mystery, biography (non-memior), memoir, and science non-fiction). This is largely because, without any suggestions, reminders, or prompts to do otherwise, I would limit nearly all of my reading to fantasy (including its sub-genres) with the occasional foray into a cozy mystery.

Lately, though, I’ve discovered that I enjoy a well-written memoir. Notable recent memoirs which I have enjoyed include Carrie Fisher’s The Princess Diarist and Wishful Drinking; Neil Patrick Harris’ Choose Your Own Autobiography; Felicia Day’s You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost); and Jenny Lawson’s (aka The Bloggess) Let’s Pretend This Never Happened. It helps that, unlike many biographies, memoirs are written in a more human style. They’re more likely to include humor, and to be something the reader can relate to.

Realizing that I enjoy memoirs has made me wonder what other readings tastes have changed since I was young and developed my default genre preferences. I’ve tried reading “classics” with mixed success, so at least I know that my reading tastes haven’t COMPLETELY changed as I’ve aged. But in the specifics? I tend to think of my sci-fi preferences to be more science-fantasy than hard core science-fiction, but is that still true? And I’ve never read a western. Would I like it? We’ll have to see.

Have you noticed any of your reading preferences which have changed as you grew up? I know that some of my friends and I have discussed how our tolerances (for bad writing, for certain story tropes, etc) have changed, and we now have a hard time reading, much less enjoying, some of our favorite stories from childhood. But is that just that we’ve gotten more discerning as we gained experience, or have our genre preferences changed?

I don’t have any of the answers. But I do know that something is different, in the same way that I now sometimes choose to listen to news radio instead of music (on purpose!!) when I never made that choice as a younger person.

WIP Weds ~ in which I don’t knit

I didn’t knit this week.

I know, that sounds unrealistic. But really, I didn’t.

Last week (after my WIP Weds post of last week) I read on my lunch breaks instead of knitting. (And for once I didn’t do both at the same time.) Then I went to a baseball game with my dad on Saturday for an early Father’s Day, and I didn’t bring my knitting with me. (Not sure why. Maybe because we were sitting about 13 rows back from the field and I didn’t want to split my focus between the knitting and the game? Or maybe because it was REALLY HOT and I couldn’t even think about wool.)

Instead of knitting at the game, I got sunburned.

And then, being sunburned on my thighs and arms, I didn’t want to think about wool for even longer.

The sunburn is pretty well faded by now, though, so there should be knitting again next week. In the meantime, here’s an article that I found (through the Space Cadet newsletter) which talks about knitting spies. Really neat article. I’ve read about knitting being used for secret messages in fiction, but wasn’t really aware that it’s based in fact.

Have a great rest of the week!