Monday, December 30, 2013

Books Read in 2013


71 books read this year, including kids' books I read to-- or listened to with-- The Son, book club books, and graphic novels.


Juvenile Fiction

A Hero for WondLa by Tony DiTerlizzi
Roman Mysteries: Thieves of Ostia by Caroline Lawrence
Roman Mysteries: The Secrets of Vesuvius by Caroline Lawrence
Roman Mysteries: The Pirates of Pompeii by Caroline Lawrence
Roman Mysteries: Assassins of Rome by Caroline Lawrence
Alanna by Tamora Pierce
Artemis Fowl: The Lost Colony by Eoin Colfer
The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan
Throne of Fire by Rick Riordan
Roman Mysteries: The Dolphins of Laurentum by Caroline Lawrence
Roman Mysteries: The Twelve Tasks of Flavia Gemina by Caroline Lawrence
The Serpent’s Shadow by Rick Riordan
Roman Mysteries: Enemies of Jupiter by Caroline Lawrence
The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: The Mysterious Howling by Maryrose Wood
The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: The Hidden Gallery by Maryrose Wood
Pharaoh's Daughter by Julius Lester
The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan
Magic by the Lake by Edward Eager
The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: The Unseen Guest by Maryrose Wood
100 Cupboards by N.D. Wilson
The Time Garden by Edward Eager
The Titan's Curse by Rick Riordan
The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
The Edge Chronicles: Beyond the Deepwoods by Paul Stewart
The Roman Mysteries: The Gladiators from Capua by Caroline Lawrence


Young Adult

Voices by Ursula K. LeGuin
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Coen and David Levithan
The Safe-Keeper’s Secret by Sharon Shinn
Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier
The Truth-Teller’s Tale by Sharon Shinn
Sapphire Blue by Kerstin Gier
Reached by Ally Condie
Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor
Sorcery and Cecelia by Patricia Wrede and Caroline Steverner
The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson
The Dream-Maker's Magic by Sharon Shinn
The Year of Secret Assignments by Jaclyn Moriarity
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
Emerald Green by Kerstin Gier


Adult Fiction

The Help by Kathryn Sockett
Second Glances by Jodi Picoult
Ender’s Shadow by Orson Scott Card
Ilium by Dan Simmons
Timbuktu by Paul Auster
Brothers in Arms by Lois McMaster Bujold
Curse of the Pogo Stick by Colin Cotterill
The Merry Misogynist by Colin Cotterill
The Rook by Daniel O’Malley
I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
Behind the Scenes at the Museum by Kate Atikinson
The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
Love Songs From a Shallow Grave by Colin Cotterill
Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan


Non-Fiction

The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch
Unearthing Atlantis by Charles Pellegrino
Lost at Sea by Jon Ronson
84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff
At Home: a Brief History of Private Life by Bill Bryson
Setting Limits with your Strong-Willed Child by Robert J. Mackenzie


Graphic Novels

Are You My Mother? by Alison Bechdel
Blankets by Craig Thompson
Sin City, Vol. I: The Hard Goodbye by Frank Miller
The Good Neighbors: Kin by Holly Black and Ted Naifeh
The Good Neighbors: Kith by Holly Black and Ted Naifeh
Feynman by Jim Ottaviani and Leland Myrick
The Vicar Woman by Emma Rendel
Gunnerkrigg Court by Tom Siddell


Hits and misses by category:

Juvenile: 

Hit: This is the toughest category to pick just one favorite, since I read so much outstanding children's fiction this year, including the Roman Mysteries series, the Kane Chronicles trilogy, the second book of the WondLa trilogy, the New Olympians series, and the Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place series. But if you held a gun to my head and forced me to pick just one "best" book, it would have to be The Golden Compass, a truly remarkable book that deserves to be considered a modern classic of children's literature.

Miss: I already blogged about my disappointment with Alanna, so I'm going with The Edge Chronicles: Beyond the Deepwoods. The worldbuilding was cool, but you're never given a reason to care about the protagonist beyond the fact that he's the protagonist and you're supposed to care about him. There was no plot, no story goal-- just this whiney little shit stumbling from one disaster to the next. And there was not one but TWO unrelated grotesquely obese female villains, which rubbed me the wrong way, AND one scene had perhaps the most offensive extended metaphor for menstruation (and female maturation in general) that I've ever heard. I was literally yelling at the CD player: "My GOD! Ten-year-old boys are going to read this stuff, you know!"


 Young Adult:

Hit: Sorcery and Cecelia. I didn't care for the sequel, but this first book was just an utter delight. Honorable mention to Voices, Daughter of Smoke and Bone, and Fangirl.

Miss: Ruby Red, Sapphire Blue, and Emerald Green. I have no idea why I read the whole trilogy. It was really dumb, and the protagonist got on my tits in a major way.


Adult:

Hit: The Rook. It's like The Bourne Identity meets Men in Black, with a little James Bond and Hitchhiker's Guide thrown in for extra flavor. Oh, and a female protagonist. So, so good. Honorable mentions: Ilium, Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, and The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.

Miss: Timbuktu. Pretentious twaddle.


Non-Fiction:

Hit: At Home. Brilliant.

Miss: I feel bad choosing The Last Lecture, so I'll just say I certainly didn't think it was bad or anything, but nor did I find it as full of wisdom as everyone else seems to.


Graphic Novel:

Hit: Gunnerkrigg Court. I wasn't sure whether to include this on my list at all, since I'm reading it online, but I think of it as a graphic novel and not "just" a comic. The art is gorgeous, the worldbuilding is full of Lost-worthy mysteries, and the story is complex and constantly evolving as the characters age and mature. Bonus points for many strong female characters who are all strong in different ways. More bonus points for fearlessly melding Science Fiction and Fantasy elements. Super-duper bonus points for creating a SF/Fantasy series about teenagers in an English boarding school that is in no way reminiscent of Harry Potter. It's right below Sandman as my favorite comic of all time, and that's pretty much the highest praise I can give it.

Miss: Sin City. I knew it was dark, but I didn't know it was THAT dark. It was just bleak and hopeless and crazy-mega-violent, and I felt like I needed some kind of ritual cleansing when I was done with it. It's not a bad graphic novel, but it still counts as a miss for me.

That's the year in review! Any questions, counter-arguments, "me too!"'s?

Sunday, December 29, 2013

The 2013 Shelf-Sitter Challenge Wraps Up

Regular readers (hi, Sharon!) will recall that the Shelf-Sitter Challenge originated because I had twenty-five books on my shelves that I had never read. My goal was to read them all-- or, at the very least, read enough to reject them. Since my usual yearly reading goal is 40 books, I figured I had plenty of wiggle room to get the shelf-sitters out of the way. If I wanted to read anything off-challenge, I had to take it out of the library-- no buying more books (except book club books) until I'd read all the ones I already owned.

So, how'd it go?

The bad news: despite reading 70(!) books this year (I'll post the full list tomorrow), I did not complete the challenge and still have seven books unread on my shelves that were there on January 1st.

I also must shamefacedly confess that I had a little book-buying slip a few months back. I took some books to the used bookstore, and like an idiot went looking in Sci-Fi/Fantasy. I was like, "Well, the only things I'd consider buying are the Samaria novels I don't already own, and they never have any Sharon Shinn..." and lo and behold, there were the three books I was missing, for $3 apiece. I had a moment of weakness.

The good news: I read/rejected 17.5 of the challenge books (I'm halfway through book 18, which is Cryptonomicon, a mammoth tome by genius/sadist Neal Stephenson), some of which had been making me feel like a slacker for years. I finished eight of the books (and will finish Cryptonomicon-- it is awesome), and chose not to finish nine of them.

I also learned two valuable reading lessons this year:

1) I slog through way too many books that are a waste of my time.
If a book isn't completely terribly written and/or personally offensive to me, I feel weirdly obligated to keep reading it. Ditto reading later books of a trilogy or series even if I've lost interest in it. This challenge has made me much more discerning; if I'm not invested after reading 20% of the book, I can put it aside and move on to the next thing. There are too many amazing books out there to spend my time on stories I feel meh about.

2) I buy a lot of books that I should be taking out of the library.
I was a hugely insatiable reader as a kid, but for some reason my parents never brought me to the library. My father had this whole "books don't count as buying you something" philosophy-- he would take me to a bookstore and let me pick out literally as much as I wanted. As a result, I developed an acquisitive attitude toward books, which is odd since in every other area I am pretty non-materialistic and don't get attached to things, or care much about the quantity or quality of the stuff I do have. But it can be physically painful to keep the books to a reasonable number (where reasonable = <1,000). I've already gotten in the habit of taking The Son's books out of the library, but this year I took a LOT of books out for myself that I would have bought if I hadn't imposed the buying limit on myself. I've discovered that there are only a few instances in which I truly want to own the book: 1) the book is a reference book that I believe I'll use for many years; 2) the book is by one of the 4-5 authors whose work I "collect"; or, 3) the book is part of a trilogy or series I am actively engaged in and already own all the previous books of.

Where do I go from here?

I've decided to keep myself to no more than ten shelf-sitters. Including the challenge books I didn't read, the illicitly-purchased Shinn books, and the books I got for Christmas, I currently have 15 shelf-sitters, which means I need to read at least 5 of these books before I can buy myself anything else (no more browsing in the used book store!). But with my embarrassingly late-in-life library revelation, it could be quite a while before I feel the need to buy a book!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Consistency

The good news is that I survived the week o' term papers for all my tutoring students, and I am totally on top of Christmas-- like, presents wrapped, cookies baked and delivered, packages mailed. The bad news is that I haven't been writing. December is always a tough month with lots of other demands on my time. I'm making "finishing the goddamn draft already" my JanNoWriMo goal; for now, I've signed up for a "December Consistency Challenge" at the JanNo site. The idea is to set a goal you know you can reach no matter what else is going on, and then write that amount every single day no matter what else is going on. I did 250, which is enough to keep the story percolating until I have more time to focus on it.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Sidetracked

I got sucked into QueryShark last night, and wound up getting sidetracked into working on my query pitch all. day. Not the most productive use of my time perhaps, but I thought I should strike while the nitpicky iron was hot. This shit is hard, yo.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Act III is Launched

Despite all the distraction in my life right now, over the course of three days I managed to complete the dialogue for the first scene in Act III. It's the last big conflict between Willa and Akenam, and I'm happy with it. Now I've backed up and am writing the long description/exposition opening to the scene.    I have a not-terrible version from the first draft, but it's still taking me a long time to edit it. It's a jump in a time, and to a new location, and I feel like I need to get it just right so the reader comes along with me.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Bah

This week has been a bust. The Husband's been having health troubles again and wound up in the hospital today. Tomorrow my day is jam-packed with everything I've had to put off all week in order to deal with the more immediate problem. It may Monday before I get the chance to work on TOB again.

Dammit.