Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Five thoughts on.....Words of Radiance

Words of Radiance (The Stormlight Archive, #2)1. There is so much great character development in this book, in major and minor characters alike. At the beginning of the book I continued to want to just smack Shallan frequently, but by the end I wanted to high-five her and cheer "you go girl!" Same goes for Kaladin. But we also get so much more from people like Adolin, Renarin, Szeth, Moash, Sadeas, even Elhokar.

2. The mysteries just keep getting deeper. Just as I think I'm starting to figure something out, I realize there's a whole other layer to what's going on. Part worldbuilding and part story-telling...100% awesome.

3. Backstory! Previously, we were treated to Kaladin's personal history. In this installment, we get to see into Shallan's past and holy moly -- that girl's family is SERIOUSLY MESSED UP. It's no wonder girl spends most of the book with an epic case of if-I-just-ignore-it-then-it-never-happened.

4. Broader points of view. We get to see into the heads of Szeth and the Parshendi and Sadeas. These are not necessarily happy places to be, but are quite enlightening and add to the whole layer upon layer storytelling.

5. Resolution + Questions + Surprises. There are several good twists and surprises in this book. My husband's got the best poker face, since he finished first and then got to listen and nod as I'd talk about the book while reading it. Never gave anything away. Sanderson also does a great job of giving readers some payout on what was set up in the first book -- some secrets come to light, some people have epiphanies, and we get more than one epic showdown of some kind. But, like any good series installment, we're also left with more questions, and plenty of foreshadowing (and foreboding -- things are about to get real in Roshar).

Friday, April 4, 2014

Confession of an end-reader

I have been known to read a book in the following order: beginning, end, middle.
It might be hereditary. I grew up seeing my mom do this countless times. Finger holder her place about one-third of the way through her paperback novel, her thump making a flip-book out of the middle third, her attention on final chunk of action. Of course, being an unsympathetic and hypocritical adolescent, I gave her a hard time then promptly developed a habit of doing the very same thing, mostly for one of three reasons:
1.       The plot of a book is interesting enough that I want to know what happens, but the writing or characters or setting or all of the above is boring/terrible/annoying enough that I don’t really care to see HOW it happens.  In this case, I’ll skip or skim to the end, close the book, and call it a day.
2.       I just get impatient – this applies to life, generally. I open mail on the walk between mailbox and house. I like to open presents as soon as I get them instead of waiting for the event. I’m a sloppy dishwasher because I just want to be done with it already (so I can read my book, obviously).  I don’t like to read directions (I actually kind of prefer those picture-only directions). When I just get impatient and the book is good, I satisfy my curiosity…and then I’ll savor the journey. Full disclosure: impatient skipping ahead may or may not happen most often when I’ve stayed up reading until 2 a.m. and have to get up at dark-thirty to go to work the next day.
3.       Sometimes, I skip ahead because a book is just plain STRESSING ME OUT (I’m looking at you Chaos Walking) and I need to find out what happens before my brain explodes.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with skipping ahead in a book. I’m a pretty relaxed reader and try not to impose my personal reading rules on anyone else. But I’ve recognized that I really do prefer to read a book in the “traditional” way – start to finish, beginning, middle, end – because there really is a whole other level of satisfaction to be found in the journey, not just the destination  (unless it’s a crap book – see #1). Of course, that’s just my opinion. I might think that skimming through Emma doesn’t really allow a reader to fully appreciate or get as much out of the book, but if that’s how you enjoy (or don’t) reading it – whatever floats your boat.
So what about you? Do you ever skip ahead?  Read the end of a book first?

Monday, March 24, 2014

Reading...sequels

The Last Word (The Spellmans, #6)I recently finished reading a couple of series-installments that I really enjoyed. The Last Word, by Lisa Lutz is the sixth (and final?) book in the funny, original, and thoroughly enjoyable Spellman series. The Spellman's are a dysfunctional family of private detectives (and one lawyer-turned-stay-at-home-dad), their story told via case files narrated my middle child Isabel. Each book has plenty of mystery, plenty of family drama, and plenty of crazy humor. The later books in the series take a slightly more serious tone, as various family members -- but especially Isabel -- face personal and professional crisis. The Last Word continues this trend, as Isabel tries to manage the family business, navigate deteriorating family relationships, and face some dismal realities in her personal life and relationships. I'll be honest, at times reading this book was pretty stressful, as I genuinely worried about the Spellmans and their extended-not-always-related family. Fortunately, I put the book down hopeful, knowing that in the end, things would be all right.

Red Seas Under Red Skies (Gentleman Bastard, #2)
The second sequel I finished recently is Red Seas Under Red Skies, second in the Gentlemen Bastards series by Scott Lynch. The book begins with Locke and Jean recovering from the devestating events of The Lies of Locke Lamora. They're both grieving from the loss of their family, and recovering from serious wounds, but Locke goes one step further (no surprise there) attempting to drink himself to oblivion (at minimum). Fortunately, he's got Jean to literally beat some sense back into him, and the two eventually head out on a long con -- planned to be their last. Of course, it's no surprise that things don't go exactly as planned. Locke and Jean find themselves kidnapped, poisoned, learning to be pirates, and chased by assassins. They're still on the radar of the powerful Bondsmagi, and (unbeknownst to them) on the radar of some shadowy and mysterious figure who may or may not be out to see them dead. (it's a mystery that remains very, very, vague and intriguing. I need to read number three!). I loved the glimpse of sea life in this book -- the sailors are a unique bunch, with some unique superstitions (never head out to sea without at least one woman and one cat on board with you). Plus, the sea is a very equitable place, with as many female ships captains as there are male captains (maybe more). It's fun to see Jean and Locke out of their element in some respects, but still able to use their skills as they learn new ones (and Jean gets a little romance, which is nice to see).


Now I'm back in sequel land, happily reading (and listening to) Words of Radiance, by Brandon Sanderson. Not quite halfway through at the moment, but already it's delivering.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Reading...Beautiful Ruins

Beautiful RuinsBeautiful Ruins by Jess Walter will make you desperate for a trip to the Italian coast. The story begins in the mid 1960s as an American actress shows up in the tiny village of Porto Vergogna, an almost non-existent village just below the Cinque Terra in Italy. The actress is ill, and has come to Hotel Adequate View to wait for a friend who will meet her there. As she waits, she captivates Pasquale, the young man who has come home to Porto Vergogna to care for his dying mother and his late father's hotel.

The story then jumps ahead to the present day, and a young aspiring film maker well on her way to becoming a first-class cynic, working for a legendary producer whose most recent success is a reality show called Hookbook.

As the story jumps between the 1960s and present day, we meet a young man with a screenplay, a legendary actor, and a failed junkie musician. The stories slowly spiral closer together, and we are given stories of love: of passion and lust, of self-love and preservation, of captivation and understanding, of responsibility and family. A story of love that is just waiting for the right time. We see how other people touch our lives in profound ways, and in deceptively small ways, bumping us slightly off our original course, but maybe in a direction that is better.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Well, hello, March

Is it just me, or did February seem even shorter than usual? I'm finding myself in the middle of reading more than one book at once right now, and busy enough that I have a little less time to read than usual too. I've got an audio going (Red Seas Under Red Skies, by Scott Lynch, the second in the Gentleman Bastards series), a book for work (Beautiful Ruins, by Jess Walter), a book for myself (The Last Word: a Spellman Novel, by Lisa Lutz) and a couple of non-fiction books that I'm inching my way through (Search for Significance and Happiest Baby on the Block) -- full disclosure, I'm not the best non-fiction reader, but these are definitely books I want to finish.

There are a few books on the docket, books that are coming out soon or out recently that I can't wait to read...Words of Radiance, by Brandon Sanderson...Sinner, by Maggie Stiefvater...Dreams of Gods and Demons, by Laini Taylor.

This scattershot approach to reading is indicitive of my swirly brain lately. But I've got a bit of chicken and egg situation -- is my brain swirly because I'm reading several books at once, or am I reading several books at once because my brain is swirly? As my good friend Fair Finley (yes, fictional....what's your point?) would say: I've got a lot of brain folders open right now:

1. Shoes. I've been on a MONTHS long search for the perfect oxfords...thanks to Janssen, I may have found them. I ordered them online (see: busy and lazy), so we'll see if they fit.

2. Travel. I was out of town four out of the last eight weekends. Great trips, needed visits, and a lot of fun. But it can make for some feelings of catch-up, and for less time to do things like finally visit an Austin farmer's market or Book People, go for a hike, read books, write.

3. Peanut. Yeah, I'm six months pregnant. That's enough for a whole brain filing cabinet, including folders like reorganize-the-house, advanced-list-making, etc.

4. Music. I've been directing a bit of my discretionary cash each month to books, which is great. But I'm hankering for some new music. I need to get closer to my library and re-direct a few of those dollars. And then explore...I'm kind of in the mood for something folksy, maybe slightly country. Also in my music folder right now: making time for playing. I finally busted my cello out of hibernation, and one of my strings broke when I started tuning. So, there's that.

5. Socializing, aka, trying not to burrow in my burrow.

6. Knitting. Working on a Knit-a-Long that's supposed to be done at the end of March. So, I'm logging in some quality time with Parenthood, Nashville, The Amazing Race, Star Trek: TNG, and my knitting needles.

So...March. Spring...Lent...Daylight Savings (don't EVEN get me started on that)...oh, and one very important brain folder:

6. Stop. Breathe. Enjoy each moment and list and book and song and project and meal and conversation.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Reading...Mr. Penumbra's 24 Hour Book Store

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour BookstoreMr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore was fun and quirky. It's got books, tech, typography, old-fashioned quests, a mystery, and a secret society. It's a book about the intersection of old and new, about friendship, and about the meaning of life. The book has twists and turns, and perhaps a little too much Google, but Sloan's easy and straightforward writing style keeps things moving, and the interesting characters keep you turning the pages.

Bottom line: a fun read

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Reading...Scarlet Feather

Scarlet FeatherI've begun the process of working my way through the never-read books on my home bookshelves. Books acquired for cheap at library sales or used bookstores. I picked up Scarlet Feather, by Maeve Binchy.

I've read a few books by Maeve Binchy in the past, and generally enjoy her slice-of-life storytelling (sometimes more than others). Scarlet Feather has a wide, diverse cast of characters -- which is a little confusing at first, but becomes less so once you start to get into their stories. This time around, the common denomenator in each story is the burgeoning catering business of Cathy Scarlet and Tom Feather. The book takes us through a quite tumultuous year, full of hopes, dreams, ambition, heartache, reconcilliation, laughter, and tears. The book isn't melodramatic, but it's not sacharine sweet either. It's not a fast-paced book, but has a pleasant, steady rhythm. I enjoyed sitting down with these characters and hearing about their lives, and wish I could pop on over to the premises right now to enjoy a cup of tea and some delicious fresh-out-of-the-oven bread, and hear about what everyone is up to. There are no perfect people in this story. In fact, a few of them make some life choices that I find pretty questionable, and I found myself frustrated with certain characters at various points in the story. But those imperfections just enhanced the story. In addition to the characters and pacing, I always enjoy visiting Ireland through Binchy's books, and this one was no exception. Through her descriptions, characters, and even dialogue, Binchy creates a solid sense of place that satisfies my regular need for a fix of the British Isles. 

Oh, but be careful not to read Scarlet Feather when hungry, or if you do, have a delicious snack close by because Tom and Cathy make a lot of yummy sounding food.

Bottom line: if you're in the mood for Ireland, a slow-paced slice-of-life story, and lots of description of gourmet cooking, pick up Scarlet Feather.