Books Read in August 2014
- The Way of Shadows – Brent Weeks
- Right Ho, Jeeves – PG Wodehouse
- Leviathan Wakes – James S.A. Corey
- Caliban’s War – James S.A. Corey
- Abaddon’s Gate – James S.A. Corey
- Cibola Burn – James S.A. Corey
- The Best of All Possible Worlds – Karen Lord
- Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage – Haruki Murakami
- We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves – Karen Joy Fowler
- The Alloy of Law – Brandon Sanderson
- Code Name Verity – Elizabeth Wein
- Replay – Ken Grimwood
- The Thief – Megan Whalen Turner
- Transition – Iain Banks
This month got off to a bad start, but picked up from there, and I ended up reading 14 books in August.
I also enjoyed the newest Haruki Murkami novel, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, which I read just before I saw Murakami speaking at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, a great experience.
I’m not sure exactly what I’ll be reading next month, as I am never very good at sticking to any TBR plans that I make. I have an SF novel to start off with, which I am reading for my book group. But otherwise I am feeling in a fantasy mood so I think I will also be reading a few fantasy novels or series in September too.
'The books transported her into new worlds and introduced her to amazing people who lived exciting lives. She went on olden-day sailing ships with Joseph Conrad. She went to Africa with Ernest Hemingway and to India with Rudyard Kipling. She travelled all over the world while sitting in her little room.' - Matilda by Roald Dahl
Hmm, I have started and then abandoned several books over the past few days. There is nothing wrong with the books in particular, it’s just that nothing seems to appeal to me at the moment. Maybe I could reread the Harry Potter series or the Mistborn trilogy or something like that, something familiar that I can just immerse myself in. I guess it’s just one of those weird reading moods I occasionally get, but frustrating nonetheless.
I realised I hadn’t posted about Doctor Who yet. So here is a brief summary of my thoughts on the new series and the new Doctor. Firstly, I really liked Peter Capaldi. I think it was a promising start and I am interested to see where they take things with this new Doctor. That being said, the story itself was not great, it was alright and it had a few good touches, but I was still a bit underwhelmed. I also continue to dislike Clara, who has proven to be a very uninspiring companion as far as I am concerned. Apparently she may be leaving after this series, which I think would be a good move. Overall though I thought it was not too bad an episode, and I am certainly looking forward to the rest of the series.
Today I read Replay by Ken Grimwood. This is a fantasy novel about a man, Jeff, who dies in his 40s of a heart attack and wakes up in his college dorm room with the chance to relive his life. He uses his knowledge of the future to make a lot of money betting on sports and playing the stockmarket, and lives a very different life the second time around. Then he dies again, on the same day as previously, and once again wakes up to find himself 20 years in the past. The book follows him as he “replays” his life over and over again.
I had read this book before, back in 2006 according to my records, and I loved it at the time. It’s been on my list of things to reread for awhile now, and I was finally prompted to do so when my friend Michael talked about the book in a recent video that he made (no link as it is unlisted I believe) which reminded me of how much I had liked the book.
Reading it this time around, it was as good as I remembered, and I really enjoyed it. It is such an interesting concept, you can’t help but wonder what you would do in a similar situation. The book really does a great job of exploring and joy and sorrow that it offers Jeff, and the isolation it places him in, and the moral dilemmas it throws up for him too. It is really fascinating and a very enjoyable book to read.
Inspired by this video and this video among others.
Read only trilogies or standalones?
A lot of fantasy and SF is in the form of trilogies or series, so I guess I’d have to go with that. Not that there aren’t great standalone novels though. It’s a though choice.
Read only female or male authors?
Sadly I think I’d have to go for male authors, just because so many of my favourite authors are male, as are so many SF and fantasy authors in general. It’s a disappointment though.
Shop at Barnes & Noble or Amazon?
Well we don’t have Barnes and Noble in the UK, so I am going to substitute Waterstones, which is the only big UK chain book shop. And I’d go for Waterstones, because I like being able to go into the shop and browse for books and pick things up immediately. Plus you can order books from their website and have them delivered to the shop, so even if they don’t have it in stock, it’s not like Amazon is the only alternative. I have been trying to use Amazon less anyway, and buy more books from Waterstones, and it has been working out well for me so far. But it does help that the shop is very convenient for me to get to, it would be different if I lived in the middle of nowhere.
All books become movies or TV shows?
This is a more difficult one. I prefer watching television shows to movies, so I would probably pick that. Plus there are lots of great SF and fantasy series I can think of which would make great television series, but would need to be cut down too much to make movies. So assuming the television show stayed true to the books, I think that would be best.
Read 5 pages per day or 5 books per week?
Five books per week. How is that even a difficult choice? To be honest this week I’ve already read four books, so it’s also not a particularly unrealistic goal either.
Be a professional reviewer or author?
Definitely a professional reviewer. I am not particularly creative and I am not interested in being an author. But I love writing and talking about books. I am not very good at that, mind you, but being paid to read and review books would be a dream job.
Only read your top 20 favourite books over and over or always read new ones that you haven’t read before?
This is such a tough choice. I like rereading books so I would definitely miss not being able to reread old favourites, but 20 books just isn’t enough, so I would have to go for new books instead.
Be a librarian or book seller?
I would pick book seller. My other dream job is working in a science fiction and fantasy specialist book shop.
Only read your favourite genre, or every genre except your favourite?
Do fantasy and science fiction count as one genre? I should think so, since they are shelved together in most bookshops. In that case, yes I would quite happily read only SF and Fantasy books.
Only read physical books or eBooks?
Well I have a Kindle and I do read eBooks, but if it were only one or the other then I would pick physical print books. I don’t have anything against eBooks, but that would be my preference.
Yesterday I read Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein. This is a YA novel set during WWII about two young British women who have ended up in occupied France. The story is told through their writings as one is a captured spy who is forced to write a confession for the Nazis, and the other is a pilot who is keeping a record of her escape from a plane crash and hiding out with the resistance.
I bought the book after seeing various positive reviews on Booktube and other places, but I was a bit apprehensive about starting it, I wasn’t sure if it would be entirely my sort of thing. However I ended up really, really liking this book, it was far better than I was expecting. I really liked the story and the characters, and the way that the story was told through their writing, and all the various deceptions and plot twists. It was all fantastic, and I would highly recommend this book, it definitely lived up to all the positive reviews.
I’ve just finished The Alloy of Law by Brandon Sanderson. I’ve read a lot of Brandon Sanderson books over the past year or so, and he has become one of my favourite fantasy authors. He creates really interesting settings and magic systems, but he also has great characters and plots too. I just really love his books.
My favourite of his novels that I’ve read so far is the Mistborn trilogy, which was also the first thing I read by him. This book is a sequel of sorts to that series. It’s the first book in a new trilogy, set in the same world, but around 300 years after the events of the first trilogy. There is still the same magic systems of Allomancy and Feruchemy, but the technology has advanced and there are now also guns and railways and skyscrapers.
The main character is Wax, who is a noble but has spent the past 20 years living the the Roughs, working as a lawkeeper. It has a very Western feel to it, which is a nice combination to go with the magic. Wax is called back to the city to fulfil his role as heir to his noble house. However he has a hard time putting his past behind him, especially when a gang known as the Vanishers start robbing trains and kidnapping Allomancers.
I absolutely loved this book. It has all of the usual features of Sanderson’s writing that I enjoy. As I said above, he always seems to have the perfect combination of worldbuilding and character development and a good plot. I liked the setting here, an expansion of the Mistborn world, but with a new twist, which worked really well. I loved the characters, Wax and Wayne and Marasi were all superb. The story was a nice mystery-adventure, it was a really enjoyable read.
If you’ve read the Mistborn trilogy and you want more then I would definitely recommend this book. I am very much looking forward to the continuation of the series, I believe the second book in the trilogy is due out later this year or early next year, so hopefully there will not be too long to wait. If you haven’t read anything by Brandon Sanderson, then I would really recommend the Mistborn trilogy as a good starting point, with this book as an excellent follow up to that.
Great Scott! I was having a bad week so my boyfriend bought me this amazing Back to the Future Lego kit.
At the start of the year I set my goal for the Goodreads Reading Challenge as 75 books. That seems like a good target based on the last couple of years. In 2012 I had a terrible year and only read 55 books, while in 2013 I had a terrific year and read 100 books, my highest yearly total since I starting keeping records back in 2005.
Back in May I hit 50 books and so decided to increase my goal to 100 books. As you can see above, I’m now almost there. I have been reading a great deal over the past year, for a number of reasons, but even so this is pretty surprising. But I love reading and I spend a lot of time reading, so I guess this is just a reflection of that.
I’m not obsessed with numbers, but I do want to increase my reading challenge goal to reflect the amount of reading I’ve been doing. A quick calculation shows that at my current rate, I’m on track for almost 150 books this year. Frankly, that is pretty unbelievable! I don’t exactly need any encouragement to read more, however I am going to increase my goal to 150 books and see what happens.
I’ve just finished We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler. This was a book I was recommended by various people on Tumblr and Booktube and Goodreads. Everyone said it was one of those books with a cool plot twist and it was better to read it without too many preconceptions. I guess I’d agree with that, so I won’t say too much about the plot. The narrator is Rosemary, who tells the story of her sister Fern. It’s an interesting book, and I enjoyed reading it. I certainly didn’t anticipate the plot twist, it was very well done. I liked the book, but at the same time I wasn’t overwhelmed by it, it was just alright. Sorry I don’t have much else to say about it.
I read the new Haruki Murakami novel, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage. It’s about Tsukuru Tazaka, who had a group of four friends in high school who all had colours in their names, he was the only one who didn’t. Then one day his friends told him that they didn’t want to see him any more, and he was devastated. Years later his girlfriend encourages him to reconnect with his old group of friends and find out why they cut him out of the group, in order to finally gain closure. It’s a fairly straightforward plot, and the book is a very short, neat little novel compared to the long sprawl of his previous book 1Q84. I was pretty disappointed with that book, so I wasn’t sure what to expect from this one. It turned out to be a completely different reading experience though. It was so short and concise, it almost felt like reading an extract from a longer book, and I was actually left wanting more. But I enjoyed the book, and I’d recommend it to fans of Murakami. It’s not the best book of his to start with if you’re new to his writing, but definitely worth reading for fans, especially if like me you were disappointed by 1Q84, because this is a complete contrast to that book. I really liked it and really enjoyed reading it.
As inspired by this video and this video. What can I say, I like these tag things, they are a fun distraction.
Do you have a certain place at home for reading?
Mostly I read in bed, but also on the sofa.
Bookmark or random piece of paper?
Bookmarks usually, but I do like the idea of using postcards as bookmarks.
Can you just stop reading or do you have to stop after a chapter/ a certain amount of pages?
I try to stop at the end of a chapter or a mid-chapter break. I don’t just put a book down unless I’ve been interrupted.
Do you eat or drink while reading?
I would phrase this the other way, do you read while eating? So yes I will read while eating my breakfast in the morning, and I read during my lunch hour at work. But I read a lot of other times too, and I am not constantly eating or drinking.
Multitasking: music or TV while reading?
Never television, how could you possibly concentrate? I do listen to music through my headphones when I am reading on the bus, to block out the noise. Usually no music at home though.
One book at a time or several at once?
I try to stick to one at a time, but occasionally end up with a couple books on the go, but that’s rare and I find it doesn’t work very well for me.
Reading at home or everywhere?
Everywhere! At home, on the bus or train, at my work during lunch, while waiting for people I am meeting, waiting for appointments, in coffee shops, occasionally while walking if it is a really good book. Everywhere and anywhere!
Reading out loud or silently in your head?
Silently, I don’t think I could process it properly if I was reading aloud. I read much faster than I can speak or listen. Same reason I don’t like audiobooks I guess.
Do you read ahead or even skip pages?
No. I have a friend who will occasionally read the end of a book to decide if it is worth continuing with. I have no idea how people can do that!
Breaking the spine or keeping it like new?
I try not to damage my books too much, but I do always carry a book with me, so sometimes they get a bit bashed up in my bag, and yes sometimes I can’t help but break the spine, especially with big books.
Do you write in your books?
No, but I have no objection to it, it’s just that I don’t really have anything to write there.
I’ve just finished reading The Best of All Possible Worlds by Karen Lord. This was a bit of an impulse buy for me as I saw it in Waterstones and couldn’t resist that cover, it’s a lot nicer than many of the books in the SF section of the bookshop. Shallow of me, I know! I then managed to convince my book group to read it as well, so we are discussing it later this week. I’m actually a bit worried about what the verdict will be, because frankly I was a bit disappointed.
The book is about an alien race whose home planet is destroyed. A few of the survivors end up on a colony world which is already inhabited by a range of different races. They are trying to find a way to rebuild their population. The narrator is a human scientist who is helping them survey the planet looking for suitable women to breed with.
It was a pretty interesting premise, and the book explores a lot of issues that were definitely thought-provoking. It’s a rather literary form of social SF, which is something I do enjoy reading. However I felt that the plot was not particularly compelling here, it felt too episodic. I also wasn’t invested at all in the characters, and I found the narrator entirely uninspiring.
I don’t want to be too critical, because I thought it was a very well written book, I loved the prose and the descriptions, and I thought there were some very interesting ideas within. But it was just a bit too fragmented for me, I wasn’t fully engaged with it, it just didn’t quite come together for me. I did like it though despite that feeling, it was definitely an interesting read, I just didn’t love it.
I’ve now finished reading The Expanse series by James S.A. Corey (the pen name for two authors who have collaborated to write these books). The first three books in the series form a loose trilogy, and the fourth and latest book is the start of another trilogy with a slightly different focus.
These are great hard SF space opera books. The series is set in the future where the solar system has been colonised, but there is no FTL travel. The main areas where humans have settled are Earth, Mars and various asteroids in the Belt, as well as moons further afield. However there are tensions between the colonies and the solar system is on the brink of war.
Then there is an encounter with an alien protomolecule which infects a ship and puts earth a risk. The first three books focus on the development of the protomolecule, and the effect it has on the tensions between the three human groups of Earth, Mars and the Belt.
The culmination of this is the creation of an alien gate system (think wormholes or stargates), and the development of interstellar travel. The fourth book then focuses on the exploration of an alien world outside the solar system, and I believe the next couple of books will continue that theme.
The main character is Earther Captain Jim Holden, who in the first book ends up in charge of a stolen Martian warship, with a small crew. He reminds me of Mal Reynolds from Firefly, in that he is a good guy who tries to do what he thinks is right, but doesn’t almost make the smartest decisions.
Some of the chapters are from Holden’s point of view, but in each book there are other POV characters unique to the particular plot of the book. All of these other characters were great too, although my favourites were Bobbie and Avasarala from the second book, who look like they may be making a return in the next instalment of the series. All the characters are good though, and one thing I really liked about the series was how diverse the cast of characters was.
Basically, I loved these books. They are all greatly enjoyable, fun science fiction stories, with brilliant plots. As I said, the characters are excellent too, and I also really liked the setting of the book, it’s an interesting look at a future where the Solar System has been colonised. I would really recommend these books to science fiction fans, and I will definitely be awaiting the publication of the next book in the series. I just really enjoyed reading these books.