Archive for the ‘Reading’ Category

The Sparrow Readalong

Woo, squiders! This is quite a book. Bit rough to read in places. And apparently there is a sequel, Children of God, which starts up almost immediately after the first book ends.

I’m always a bit amused with science fiction books that were written a while ago (this was published in 1996) and were set in a time that has caught up to us. The Sparrow follows two timelines: one, after the mission, and the other going over the events that lead up to it (and the mission itself, later on), which starts in 2016.

Anyway! The Sparrow tells that story of a Jesuit mission to the planet of Rakhat, in orbit around Alpha Centauri. It’s got a lot of deep themes–about God and religion (though I do want to make it clear that it is not a religious book–there’s no dogmas being forced on the reader, and the characters themselves are of varying faiths and levels of belief/agnostics), about interacting with new cultures, about human interactions and how one views one’s self, etc. I can definitely see why it won a bunch of awards.

And it’s a debut novel. Major props to Ms. Russell.

The novel pulls no punches. And it takes the interesting tack of putting the ending first. Father Emilio Sandoz is the sole survivor of the mission to Rakhat, and his name has been drug through the mud before he even makes it home, thanks to a transmission that was sent as he was leaving the planet to return home. He’s a broken man, both physically and mentally. So as the novel starts, you know this mission went bad. You know everyone died.

And then the novel goes about introducing everyone and stepping through the events leading up to the mission, and making you care about people, which is really very evil. I cried at one point when one of the characters died.

I feel like the approach to the species on Rakhat is an interesting choice as well. These are not alien aliens, that are incomprehensible to their human visitors, but more your Star Trek or Star Wars type of alien, where are the body parts are more or less in the same parts and they have conventions along the lines of humans. There can be a connection. There can be an exchange of language and ideas.

Anyway! I hope you read this one with me, squiders. I really enjoyed it. Dunno if I’ll pick up the sequel with any sort of timeliness, so I’m not going to include it as part of the readalong.

Thoughts on The Sparrow, squiders?

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A Picture is Worth 1000 Words

To be unoriginal in our titles.

Let’s talk about graphic novels and associated subjects!

You know what I like about comics/graphic novels/manga, etc.? You can get through a 300-page book in, like, an hour. Sometimes less.

What’s not fun is there tends to be a gazillion volumes, which either gets very expensive or drives whoever has to drive the books between the library branches insane.

But this is a rough time of year (school year ending! new school year prep has to be done! summer vacations must be planned! It is alternately snowing or 80 degrees and my yard/garden doesn’t know what to do!) and I seem to be fully into the visual story telling medium at the moment, so I thought we’d talk about it.

(The other issue is that I’m in the middle of three books, all of which were written before 1980 and all of which are various degrees of sloggy. This is a mistake and I should have thought this out better.)

First of all, let’s talk about Saga.

Saga is a series by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples. There’s eight volumes out now, with the ninth due in September. (Wikipedia tells me that the comic comes out monthly, but I like to wait til things are consolidated.)

You’ve probably heard of this. I had certainly heard of this before I picked it up. (And, if I recall correctly, I picked it up after it was listed in a round-up of scifi/fantasy books involving cats.)

(Funny how many stories there are with cats.)

I was a little wary at first, because it’s certainly graphic, both sexually and violence-wise, but by the end of the first volume I was completely invested. It’s a space opera story about a family made up of species on the opposite sides of a long-standing and wide-reaching war.

Just…don’t get terribly attached to anyone.

 

Next there’s Pandora Hearts, which I just started. And, weirdly enough, I picked it up because I saw some character images on Pinterest and thought they looked interesting.

I’m only through the first volume and the series seems to be remotely based on Alice in Wonderland. (“Remote” being the key word.) That may just be a coincidence, but I shall have to read further on to see how true the comparison is.

It’s been a while since I picked up a new manga series, but there’s enough going on here to be interesting–missing memories, secret societies, evil alternate dimensions–and the series is complete, so I don’t have to worry about getting sucked into something that may go on forever (*coughBleachcough*).

And, lastly for today, let’s talk about Comics for a Strange World, which is a collection from the Poorly Drawn Lines comic.

I highly recommend both the collection and the strip itself, especially if one’s humor tends toward dry and existential. I got this for Christmas and it’s probably the best thing I got.

Reading any comics/graphic novels/manga lately, squiders? Thoughts about them or any of the above?

Announcing the Sparrow Readalong

Right, squiders, the results are in from last week’s poll! So for this month’s/quarter’s/however often we get to it’s readalong, we’re going to the doing The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell.

My spouse will be pleased, as he greatly enjoyed the book and has been after me to read it for years.

This is an older book, originally published in 1997 (so it’s still newer than 85% of the rest of the stuff we’ve read in the readalongs over the years). Goodreads tells me it’s set in 2019, so I look forward to being amused by predictions gone awry.

(I’m reading a late ’70s scifi book right now which has overshot it all on technology and undershot everything social, which is pretty par for the course.)

From what I understand, it’s the story of a Jesuit priest who is part of a scientific expedition to contact a alien race on a planet we’ve picked up radio waves or some such from.

It’s supposed to be really good–the book has a 4.2 out of 5 on Goodreads, and won a ton of awards, including the Arthur C. Clarke award, James Tiptree award, and the British Science Fiction Association award.

Apparently there’s a sequel? Well, we’re see how we’re feeling after we read this one.

Anyway! I hope you’ll read this one with me! (Especially after I dug it out of the bottom of a stack of books.) It’s ~430 pages, so let’s give ourselves a little over a month–let’s discuss on June 5th.

Which Book Shall We Read?

Well, squiders, I was looking at my bookshelves for books to read for the next readalong, and I realized something: I am terrible at picking out books. Sure, we did Harry Potter and A Wrinkle in Time and Howl’s Moving Castle and those were all lovely books, but they were also all YA, and in the adult realm we had the disastrous Finnbranch Trilogy and Dream Thieves, and it’s all been bad.

(Wait, we did the Foundation Trilogy in there. Those were okay.)

So! I thought maybe you guys would have better tastes than me, and we could perhaps arrive at something good. That being said, I have provided some options, both standalones and series, and would like you to choose one to do.

(You don’t necessarily need to read along unless you want to, so you can just pick whatever one you’d like me to babble about later.)

So, without further ado, our options:

(Also, if you really want to read something, you can always let me know in the comments!)

Review: Electric Gardens by M. Black

Happy Tuesday, squiders. Today, for your reading pleasure, I have Electric Gardens, the first book in a dystopian YA series, by M. Black.

Robotics Dystopian
Date Published: March 15, 2018
Publisher: Eloquen Enraptures Publishing
In our future, robots known as Tins keep us protected from the floods, fires and diseases of the outside in what are called Compounds. But when the Tins become more our masters than protectors, humans rebel. Lexi019 is turning eighteen, and will then be sent into what Tins call the Electric Gardens. Since no one ever returns from the Electric Gardens, Lexi019 is desperate to escape. With her best friend Kyle53 and his sister, the three of them find an unlikely friendship that helps them escape. But not everything is what it seems in this Robotic Dystopia, and soon Lexi019 will be faced with hard decisions she never anticipated. Join Lexi019 and Kyle53 in this four part Robotic Dystopia set in a future that could one day be our own.

 

About the Author:

M.Black graduated from UCF and packed her bags for Asia. After living in Thailand for close to seven years and visiting near by countries, her travels have influenced her point of view. Passionate about the Earth, nature, wildlife, robots and future technology, M.Black brings you a new line of books called ENTER TOMORROW!

( Website )
Buy the Book: ( Amazon )
Excerpt:

EVERYTHING OUTSIDE IS PITCH black. Night always is. All I hear is the deafening sound of a hard clank, like metal scraping, with every step the creature takes, followed by a pounding into the ground. Red eyes like the sun and shaped like an overgrown Siamese cat named Lotus1; but it’s not a cat. It doesn’t even have fur. It’s another Tin, just like all the other metal monsters in here, designed to keep us in submission, and compliant. At twelve feet long and four feet wide, its paws and claws are something to be reckoned with—if we disobey. None of the ‘human’ Tins have skin; they are all just hard metal, and none have a gender either. If they did have faux skin, they couldn’t fool anyone anyway, because their blood-colored eyes do not hold the human story.

My eyes track the feline’s movements as it passes by me under the shards of moonlight. Its metal neck turns in a creak to glance at me. It’s nine in the evening, just after the last rustic-horn blow. Same time, every night. The feline will crawl one-hundred yards east from my window, and then it will turn around at the Compound wall, and retrace its steps until it passes me again to walk another one-hundred yards west past me. It—and others like it—guard the Compound. I’ve watched this feline Tin pass by me for twelve years; I was put in here when I was five. The Tins do that—keep us behind thick glass—so we see just enough to keep us scared of the dark, of the feline Tins, to tell us they have power over us, to tell us there is no way out of here. My right palm presses on the hard glass that separates me from the metal beast, leaving moist fingerprints and a window squeak. It’s always colder inside than outside; it’s the temperature controlled rooms.

My body lies over a cot—number seventeen. My head coddles the rice-filled pillow in a poor attempt at sleep, but at least I’ve hollowed out a space for my head. It’s weird, having my cot number the same as my age. It’s completely coincidental, and when I’m eighteen the cot will still be number seventeen, but I will no longer be here. I’ll be reassigned, and someone else will take this room—the room I’ve lived in for twelve years. Everything changes when you turn eighteen in the Compound.

Review:

I give this one a 3.5 out of 5. It’s a pretty quick read, without any noticeable slow spots, and does a good job of building up a dystopian world where humans screwed themselves and machines took over. Lexi is a complex character who reads believably as a 17-year-old.

The good: The world, especially the set-up of the Compound and the Tins, the characters (varied and easy to differentiate), the flow of the story,

The bad: Each character has a name + number combo, which can be confusing, especially since every now and then the numbers change for some characters (probably not on purpose). There’s a lot of repetition in Lexi’s thoughts, which bogs it down a little in the middle.

Overall, though, I enjoyed the story and the world that was created and would recommend it if you’re into our own creations turning against us (or are they? duh duh duuuuuh).

Come back on Thursday for the start of Writing Around Life. See you then!

All and Sundry (and Your Favorite Poll)

Hi Squiders! We’ve almost run out of March already. How does that always seem to happen?

(We got a ton of snow yesterday, and our power’s been flickering on and off all day, which is very annoying, especially when one is trying to write a blog post.)

I finished the short story collection I’ve had since forever from the library last night, so now I’m down to three books! \o/ But I’m going to start another one later today. Whoops. I must stop checking things out from the library. Except we all know I won’t.

The collection is First-Person Singularities by Robert Silverberg, which is a collection of science fiction short stories told in first person from the last fifty years of his career. Never read anything by him otherwise (my husband picked up the book because he thought I’d like it) but it was pretty good. Some of the stories I thought were quite excellent, such as “Now Plus N, Now Minus N” and “The Secret Sharer.” So if that sounds like your sort of thing I’d recommend it. It came out in October of last year, so it’s only a few months old.

Writing-wise, I’ve hit the spot near the end of a book where I’m so close I can’t seem to properly focus and get the dang thing done on the Book One rewrite. I mean, I am writing, but it feels like I’m getting nowhere. I need to figure out a way to get through this part of the process in a way that is less taxing to my psyche, because it happens every book and drives me mad each time.

On that note, it’s hard to focus on the CoHaR sequel because I’m so close on Book One. Yet Siri’s waiting on me to finish my part, so…

And, probably thanks to First-Person Singularities, I’ve got a short story itch. I haven’t written one since the end of October and there’s one I’ve been wanting to write for probably five years, and maybe I should just sit down and do it…? I’ve got two coming out in various publications in April and I don’t really need any more to stick into my portfolio, but there’s something very satisfying about getting a story done in 2 or 3000 words, especially when your main project is up to 110K and probably has at least another 5K to go.

And it’s been a bit since our last nonfiction series here on the blog, so let’s get one going. We’re down to our last few topics.

Bogged Down in Books

I worked the Scholastic Book Fair at my older mobile one’s school this morning, which was actually really fun! And I only walked out with one book and it wasn’t even one for me, which is kind of a victory. (I bought my smaller mobile one Kate Beaton’s The Princess and the Pony. I have both of her Hark! A Vagrant collections and the mobile ones really enjoyed King Baby, so I figure it’s a good bet.)

Also! I discovered Mary Downing Hahn is still publishing! She was one of my favorites when I was a kid. I re-read Wait till Helen Comes fairly recently and it held up pretty well even as an adult.

I seriously considered picking up one of her books (for me, my mobile ones aren’t old enough, and the older one is a bit sensitive about scary things anyway), but I didn’t because I’ve reached that state where I’m in the middle of too many books and hence am making no progress on any of them.

I’m in the middle of…six books right now. They are:

  • A Dweller on Two Planets, Frederick S. Oliver (1905) — this is a book the author claimed was written through him, and deals with Atlantis and re-incarnation and whatnot. I’m about halfway done, and it is pretty impressive work for a late nineteenth century homesteader.
  • The Well at the World’s End, William Morris (1896) — early fantasy, a lot of emphasis on chivalry and knighthood and all that jazz. Still working through all the public domain books I downloaded years ago when I first got my Kindle and Amazon was giving them away from free. This book must be really long because I spend half an hour reading it while reading the exercise bike and only move 2% at a time.
  • Thrice Upon a Time, James P. Hogan (1980) — At MileHiCon, there was a man selling old scifi and fantasy paperbacks for $2 each, and I bought four. This is one of them. I bought it because I thought Hogan’s Inherit the Stars was excellent science fiction. This is also scifi and the story takes place now-ish, and is a fairly common mix of overshooting on technological achievements and somehow missing all the societal changes that have happened.
  • Heirs of Power, Kate MacLeod (2017) — Reading this for a review group on Goodreads. Fantasy. So far so good!
  • One Man’s Wilderness, Richard Proenneke (1999) — nonfiction about a man who built a cabin by himself in the wilds of Alaska and lived there for 30 years.
  • First-person Singularities, Robert Silverberg (2017) — I’ve probably had this book since it came out. Whoops. But in my defense, nobody else is requesting it from the library. Science fiction short story collection, all told in first person. I always find short story collections a slow wade, because I like to digest a story before I move on to the next one.

One Man’s Wilderness and Heirs of Power should probably be my top priorities–the first is due back to the library in a few days (and there’s a hold request on it) and my review for the second is due Saturday–but when you’ve bogged yourself down, don’t you find it hard to read at all? Too many stories vying for attention.

And it doesn’t help that I re-read the second half of City of Hope and Ruin yesterday to remind myself of the ending/characterization so I can start working on the sequel.

But yes. Too many books. Must stop picking up more. The first two are slow going and I don’t read them very often, but I should probably just power through them and get them out of the queue. And also read more recent books. But I hate looking at those unread books on my Kindle library…

How many books are you reading right now, Squiders? Any recs (not that I need them)?