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.
Reading plans for the next week. I am almost finished with Cibola Burn, the last (or rather, latest) instalment in the Expanse series by James S.A. Corey. I hope to have the finished off today. Then I need to read The Best of All Possible Worlds by Karen Lord in time for my book group on Thursday. That should be okay though, I am looking forward to it and it’s not too long. Then I’m going to make a start on Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, which is the new Haruki Murakami novel. I’d really like to get that finished by next weekend as I’m see Murakami at the Edinburgh Book Festival on Saturday, but I’ll see how it goes.
Book tag time, I’m going to do the A-Z tag, in which you answer a question for each letter of the alphabet. I got the idea from this video. Also check out this video from my friend Michael too.
Author You’ve Read The Most Books From
If you combine Iain Banks and Iain M Banks then he’s a clear winner, there are almost 30 of those I think.
Best Sequel Ever
I think that The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood was a brilliant sequel to Oryx and Crake - two very different but complementary books.
The Best of All Possible Worlds by Karen Lord.
Drink of Choice While Reading
I do like to sit with a hot chocolate and a good book during the winter. It doesn’t work so well in summer though, stupid weather.
E-Reader or Physical Books
I do have a Kindle but I also still buy and read a lot of paper books. I suppose I mostly prefer reading on paper, but I do like the convenience of the Kindle at times. Both are good.
Fictional Character You Would Have Dated In High School
Um… Neville Longbottom.
Glad You Gave This Book A Chance
Because of all the hype I thought The Book Thief would be overrated but I was pleasantly surprised that it is as good as everyone said it was.
Hidden Gem Book
Malice by John Gwynne is a great, relatively recent, fantasy novel which hasn’t had much attention that I’ve seen, but it is really good. The sequel Valour is also brilliant and I am looking forward to reading the rest of the series as it is published.
Important Moments of Your Reading Life
When I started keeping track of what books I’ve read, back at the beginning of 2005. It’s great to have a record of what I’ve read, and to be able to look back at how my reading habits have changed over time. It also motivates me to read more books.
The Expanse series by James S.A. Corey, I really all four books one after the other because I was just utterly hooked on them.
Kinds of Books You Won’t Read
I try to keep an open mind, but I’m really not interested in reading horror or romance books.
Longest Book You’ve Read
Probably Infinite Jest or Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. They’re both over the 1000 page mark.
Major Book Hangover Because Of
If this means what I think it means then this usually happens to me when I’ve read a really bad book or given up on a book, that kind of throws me off a bit and it takes awhile to recover my reading flow.
Number of Bookcases You Own
Seven-ish. One is built into the wall of the flat so I’m not sure if that counts. Then I have three little ones here too. I have another three massive bookcases back in my bedroom at my parents’ house. But really I dream of one day living somewhere where I can have my own library with plenty of room to expand my collection.
One Book That You Have Read Multiple Times
I reread books quite a lot, but I guess I’ll go with the Sherlock Holmes books, since I have read some of those stories many, many times since I first read them as a child.
Preferred Place to Read
These days I do a lot of reading on the bus to and from work. But my favourite place to read is in bed, and I will always read for an hour or so before going to sleep.
Quote From A Book That Inspires You
I am not really good with quotes. Well I guess could look something out, but I suppose if I don’t actually know it off by heart then it can’t have made much of an impact. You can check out my quotes tag though!
I have a tendency to stick with books and persevere even when I am not enjoying the book, because I don’t like to leave a book unfinished. So I can think of quite a few books that I’ve finished reading only to regret not giving up on them halfway through. I’ll be nice and not name any examples though.
Series You Started and Need to Finish
I really need to finish The Kingkiller Chronicle by Patrick Rothfuss. But in order to do that, Patrick Rothfuss actually needs to publish the final book in the trilogy! But I am very much looking forward to that when he does.
Three of Your All-Time Favourite Books
I can’t even begin to narrow it down to three. Three hundred I could maybe do, but we don’t have time for that.
Unapologetic Fangirl For
Worst Bookish Habit
Buying books and then taking ages to read them. I usually always have a shelf full of unread books, and yet I still buy new ones. But I suppose it is also good because it means that I have a variety of options to choose from when it comes to starting a new book.
Very Excited For This Release More Than Any Other
In the immediate future, Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie, which is the follow up to Ancillary Justice, which was a great SF novel I read earlier this year.
X Marks The Spot (start on your bookshelf and count to the 27th book)
It’s my massive Harry Potter boxset.
Your Latest Book Purchase
Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami.
ZZZ-Snatcher (last book that kept you up late)
Awhile ago I had a bad case of insomnia and decided on a whim to reread Slaughterhouse-5 by Kurt Vonnegut. I couldn’t put it down and stayed up into the wee small hours to finish it in a single sitting.
It’s book festival time again! This year I’m a seeing two authors, Patrick Ness and Haruki Murakami. Patrick Ness is today and then Murakami is next weekend. I am really looking forward to these events. The book festival is usually a good experience, so hopefully this year will be as enjoyable as always.
I’ve finished Abaddon’s Gate, book three in the Expanse series by James S.A. Corey. I’d initially only bought the first three books, I wasn’t going to get book four yet as it’s a hardback, but I am enjoying this series so much that I couldn’t resist. I actually didn’t like book three quite so much as the previous two, although it was still really good. The ending was really exciting though, so I am really enthusiastic to start on the fourth book. I’ll write a proper review of the series when I’m finished with that one.
I’ve just finished Caliban’s War by James S.A. Corey, second book in the Expanse series. Wow, this series is phenomenal. This one picks up where Leviathan Wakes left off and if anything I actually liked this book more than the first one in the series. It’s fantastic hard SF space opera, it has a great setting, gripping plot, and tons of brilliant characters including some new ones for this instalment. I am just thoroughly enjoying reading these books. I will try to write a fuller review when I finish the series (or rather the four books which have been published so far). But for the time being I will leave it there and get back to reading book three. Again, I cannot recommend this series highly enough for science fiction readers.
As I’ve said before, the past year or so I’ve been more in a fantasy mood, whereas previously I read a lot of SF. Recently my SF tendencies have been rekindled and I’ve picked up a few new SF novels. One of them was this book, Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey. I initially only bought the first book in the series, but I enjoyed it so much that I rushed out and bought the next two books so that I could keep reading. As that suggests, I thought the book was brilliant.
This is a great space opera style book. It’s 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.
The two main characters are Holden and Miller. Holden works on a space ship which stops to investigate a ship in distress. It’s a trap and the ship is destroyed, leaving Holden and his away team stranded. The other main character Miller is a cop on Ceres, one of the Belt asteroids, who is investigating a missing pilot, who turns out to have links to the ship that Holden and his crew discovered. The two plots intertwine as they discover what happened to the ship, what happened to the missing girl, and why the colonies are going to war.
I loved the book, I thought it was excellent. It has a great, gripping plot, and I liked the setting and the characters too. Overall it was just brilliant science fiction and I utterly enjoyed reading it. The first book actually didn’t end on a cliffhanger, so I am not sure how the second book follows on from it exactly, whether it is a continuation of the story or just another story in the same setting. However I am going to start it straight away and I hope it will be every bit as good as this one. I would definitely recommend this book to science fiction fans, I really enjoyed it.
Since the last book I read was so disappointing, I decided to change my reading plans a bit and read something guaranteed to be good. I opted for Right Ho, Jeeves by PG Wodehouse. Wodehouse is my go to author for light, funny books that never fail to cheer me up. This is another book about Jeeves and Wooster, a novel rather than the short stories of the first few books. It’s standard classic Wodehouse, pure entertainment. I really enjoyed it, and it was an excellent palate cleanser of a book too. I always keep a PG Wodehouse book around for when it is needed!
I’ve just finished The Way of Shadows by Brent Weeks. What an utter disappointment of a book. I bought the whole Night Angel trilogy to read, because I had heard great things about it and I was really in the mood to read a good long trilogy which I could totally immerse myself in. But I really, really did not like this book.
I won’t go into too much detail of the plot, because I was not at all interested by it. It was poorly paced and badly written. I also disliked all the characters - I am fine with dislikeable characters in general, but these ones were also really poorly developed and largely one dimensional. There was also not enough worldbuilding or explanation of the magic system, which again detracted from the plot. I felt like the book was trying too hard to be dark and grim but it was just ridiculously clichéd. Slightly homophobic in places too I thought! I couldn’t help but think of Joe Abercrombie, who writes wonderful dark fantasy novels with horrible characters, and this was just rubbish in comparison.
I don’t generally like to bash books or be too negative, but I really couldn’t stand this book, I had to push myself to finish it. I really don’t understand why it has so many good reviews, including from people I know who have good taste. So maybe it’s just me, but I just could not get into this one at all. I will be ditching the rest of the series sadly. It’s really disappointing because I was so much in the mood for a good fantasy series, but somehow this one just didn’t work for me at all.
Books Read in July 2014
- Inversions – Iain M. Banks
- Half a King – Joe Abercrombie
- The Rosie Project – Graeme Simsion
- American Gods – Neil Gaiman
- Steelheart – Brandon Sanderson
- The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden – Jonas Jonasson
- The Republic of Thieves – Scott Lynch
- The Girl with All the Gifts – MR Carey
- Behind the Scenes at the Museum – Kate Atkinson
- Vicious – VE Schwab
- Where Things Come Back – John Corey Whaley
- Look to Windward – Iain M. Banks
- Raw Spirit – Iain Banks
A good month with a lot of variety, I read some fantasy, science fiction, mainstream fiction and YA fiction, it was a nice mix.
For August I am planning to keep up this variety, I have a fantasy trilogy to start with then some science fiction and contemporary mainstream fiction, all of which I am looking forward to.
As I’ve mentioned before, I set myself a project to reread various Iain Banks novels (including his Iain M. Banks science fiction novels). When picking out those books to read I put two on the list that I had not read before. One, the last one I’ll read, is The Quarry, his last novel published just after his death. This other one is this book, Raw Spirit, which is his only non-fiction book.
I hadn’t read this before because ostensibly it is a book about whisky, which is not a topic of interest to me. However I thought it would be an interesting one to finally pick up as part of this project, as a slightly different way of exploring Banks’ work and his character. I’ve seen him in person many times at various book festivals and book tours, and he was always a brilliantly entertaining speaker, full of amusing stories and interesting observations, and I hoped that would carry over into this book.
That was essentially correct, because rather than just a straighforward book about whisky, this is basically a travelogue as Banks tours around Scotland visiting distilleries with various friends of his. As well as whisky the book covers a lot about cars and driving (okay, again not a topic I particularly care about) and Scotland’s countryside and culture. There are also plenty of tangents and stories about Banks’ exploits with the various friends he is travelling with.
I enjoyed reading the book, it’s not my usual sort of thing to read, and I liked it okay for what it was. But it is definitely one just for the die hard Banks fans. Or people interesting in whisky I guess. Anyway, I’m glad I read it as an interesting addition to my Banks project. I only have two novels left to read for the project, and I am looking forward to getting to those over the next month or so.
I’ve just finished reading Look to Windward by Iain M. Banks. This is of course part of my project to reread various Banks novels. This is the last of his science fiction Culture novels that I had planned to read, but it is a brilliant one.
As I’ve said before, all of the books in the Culture series are standalone. This one takes place 800 years after the Idrian-Culture war which was a plot point of the first Culture novel, Consider Phlebus. During the war two stars were destroyed by the Culture, and now the light from those “ancient mistakes” has reached the Culture orbital of Masaq’ (one of the Culture’s many man- (or machine-) made homeworlds.
More recently the Culture has also made an error, interfering in the politics of the Chelgrian world, leading to a disastrous civil war. Two Chel feature as characters in the book. One is the exiled composer Ziller, who has made his home on Masaq’ and is composing a symphony to celebrate the appearance of the supernovae. The other Chel is Quilan, a grieving soldier who has been sent to Masaq’ ostensibly to ask Ziller to return home, but really his memory has been wiped and he is carrying out a secret mission of vengeance against the Culture.
As I said, I think it’s a brilliant book, certainly one of my favourite Culture novels. It has all of Banks’ usual excellent plotting, interesting characters and a fabulous unreliable narrator, as we figure out what is really going on along with Quilan as his memories return to him.
I also really like that it’s another book which shows the Culture from the outside, through Ziller and Quilan with their very different views, and Kabe, another alien, but acting as ambassador for the two of them on behalf of the Culture. The Minds are also well characterised here, with the Orbital Hub Mind being a former Ship Mind from the war; the Minds are a brilliant take on AIs, something Banks has done fabulously well throughout the Culture series.
So overall, I really liked the book. It’s an excellent Culture novel, and an excellent hard science fiction novel or space opera novel or whatever you prefer to call it. I really enjoyed reading it, and I think it very much complements the other Culture novels that I have read this year. It’s a great series overall, and I would highly recommend that all SF fans read some Iain M. Banks.
I was in the mood for some YA contemporary so I picked up this one on my Kindle, Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley. I’d seen it positively reviewed in a few places, so I thought it sounded interesting.
The book is set in a small Southern town, and the main character is a teenage boy Cullen, who is desperate to escape his boring hometown. Over the summer before his last year of high school, the town becomes obsessed with the potential sighting of a rare woodpecker, previously thought to be extinct. However Cullen has more important things on his mind as his beloved younger brother Gabriel has disappeared.
I have to say that based on the hype, I was pretty disappointed with the book. It wasn’t terrible, I enjoyed it enough to read it all, and I wanted to keep reading to find out what had happened to Gabriel. But other than that I did not really connect with the character of Cullen (in fact I really didn’t like him at all) and the plot and philosophy of the book were also uninspiring.
I didn’t hate the book, it’s just that I thought it would be a lot better than it was. I think I would have actually liked it more if it was longer and delved deeper into the topics it was exploring, instead it just seemed to take on some heavy topics like grief and religion but only give them a shallow treatment without much resolution. Overall it was not a terrible book, I enjoyed reading it for the most part, but it was definitely a bit disappointing.