Posts Tagged ‘reading’

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!)

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)?

Happy Book Birthday to In the Forests of the Night by KD Sarge

Happy Thursday, squiders! Today’s the launch of the second book in KD Sarge’s fantasy series, In the Forests of the Night.

If you guys know me at all, you know I adore fantasy forests, so the title alone is exciting.

(Fun story: I had a short story that was published last year called The Night Forest, but I’d originally titled it Forest of Night. But then KD–who had been referring to this book as “Hiro II”–let me know about the potential for title confusion and I had to change it.)

As a Keeper-Apprentice, Hiro Takai followed his master everywhere. The adept Eshan Kisaragi taught him swordcraft and spellcasting and demon-fighting, but it was only after Hiro’s Kindling that he learned what Eshan couldn’t teach him. Such as what could go wrong in a ritual that tied the soul of a human mage to a creature of elemental power. Or how quickly the Keepers could turn on their own.

Damaged and dangerous, Hiro fled, seeking the one person he knew would help—his teacher and his beloved, Eshan.

Now, though—Hiro found Eshan, in the midst of a battle he could not win and would not lose. Now Eshan’s body lives but lies withering, while his soul clings to the elemental tiger…somewhere. Hiro can feel it to the south, in lands his studies never reached, where demons are unknown but spirits walk the paths of the Forests of the Night—and sometimes wander out.

Hiro has one chance to save his beloved. If he can find the tiger, if he can retrieve Eshan’s soul before his body fades, a way may be found to make his master whole.

With a failed priest and a possessed boy as guides, with a mad phoenix in his soul and a growing understanding of just how little he knows of magic, Hiro will follow wherever the tiger leads.

As Hiro searches for his lover’s soul, Eshan, more than half-mad from the sundering of his being, meets a child fleeing both his family and himself. Together, they stagger across the continent, in need of aid that only Hiro can give…if he can find them in time.

It’s currently only available on Amazon, but it should be available on other platforms shortly. An excerpt is also available over at Turtleduck Press.

The first book in the series, if you’re interested, is Burning Bright.

I’m Sensing a Trend

Happy Tuesday, squiders! I just finished reading The Riddle-Master of Hed by Patricia A. McKillip, which is the first of a fantasy trilogy and was published in 1976.

Do you know what the book reminded me of?

The Finnbranch trilogy that we did the disastrous readalong of over the summer last year.

I mean, The Riddle-Master of Hed is a much better book, but it involved a lot of the same elements: young man whose destiny has been determined far in the past, a bunch of supernatural people, shape-shifters from the sea, a lot of wandering around, and a bunch of pretty thick mythology.

(Wikipedia tells me that the book features themes from Celtic mythology, which Finnbranch did as well, though McKillip is not quite so obvious about it.)

From this, I can only conclude that this was a fairly active fantasy subgenre in the late ’70s/early ’80s. I mean, what are the odds that the two fantasy novels from essentially the same time period (As I said, this one was published in 1976, and the first Finnbranch novel, Yearwood, is from 1980) I’ve picked up in the last six months would be so similar in tone and themes?

(I suppose it could say more about me than the publishing trends of the time. Obviously something drew me to pick up both trilogies, whatever the heck it was. This is what happens when you hoard books for years. You have no idea what you were thinking.)

Does anyone read more of the period of fantasy/remember this period in fantasy? Was this a trend? If so, what would you say is the quintessential book of the “destined young man who is more than he seems with story drowning in mythology” genre so I can get it out of the way? (Or avoid it entirely. Still not sure.)

I wish I’d done this trilogy first. It’s probably way more enjoyable without the Finnbranch flashbacks. I will probably read the next two books, because now I’m invested, and also the third book was nominated for the Hugo and a bunch of other awards.

Read this series, squiders? Thoughts? (No spoilers yet, please!)