Category Archives: Books and Reading

The unexpected benefits of a reading goal

Readinggoal.jpg

It appears there are unexpected benefits to having a reading goal. This is the first year I’ve actually set a “books read” goal (mine is 96 books) and while having the goal alone is quite motivating, there’ve been some interesting side effects.

I’m slower to DNF. Yes, it’s true. I used to be one of those “I’ll give you ten, okay, maybe 15 pages but that’s about it” readers. Now, though, if I’ve invested the half an hour or whatever it took for me to get through those first fifteen pages, I find I’m reluctant to put down a book unless I’m absolutely sure I’m holding a real stinker. Which doesn’t actually happen very often at all.

I’m still a moody reader, but now my moods are “stickier”. So yes, I still have to be in a a certain type of mood to read a certain type of book. Which means I still get into a mood for mystery, or fantasy, or science fiction or non-fiction or memoir or whatever—but I find myself staying in that mood for longer. Often for long enough to finish whatever book I happen to be reading. And if not (I like to have three or four books on the go at any given time) then it seems like I switch to a mood that’s right for another one of the books I have on the go. Quite handy.

As for that “not in the mood for reading” mood. And so far this year (knock wood) I haven’t encountered the “not in the mood for reading” mood. Which has been very nice indeed (although I’m not so sure I can credit this to my having a reading goal this year. But maybe I can.)

I have a lot more “Incoming!” books. Once upon a time I would semi-regularly post an “Incoming!” post, where I’d list the latest books that crossed the MsBookish threshold. It’s hard to write those posts, though, when you’re only seeing a trickle of new titles every now and then. But now that I’m reading regularly and consistently, I find I’m constantly on the lookout for more books. And when that happens, more books arrive. (Perhaps this is the Avalanche Theory of Reading More?)

I have a lot more to blog about. Reading more books means I have a lot of bookish stuff on my mind, which means I have a lot more bookish ideas for posts. Which is a good thing, since I’m also committing this year to 365 days of blogging.

Have you encountered any of these benefits of having a reading goal?

[TSS] Bookish Bliss: Readalongs

I’m SO glad I’ve discovered how much fun it is to read a book in the company of others. Fun because reading is still a very solitary thing (which I also love) but when you’re doing a readalong, it’s like being able to take a trip down the hall to the office water cooler (aka Twitter, Facebook and blog posts) for a quick chat, but with an added bonus: you certainly won’t be discussing the weather!

I’m joining in on three readalongs this month and next, with a fourth one coming in June. (One of the readalongs, alas, I’m already behind on (as in, just got the book haven’t read a thing yet, and it’s been a go for twelve days already now), so maybe I shouldn’t actually say I’m joining in on that one …)

So, first up:

The Wind-up Bird Chronicle Readalong

windmeup

I’m really really excited about this one—you can read all about it on Jill’s blog. Murakami is top on my list of “authors I want to read but oh my God they’re a bit on the intimidating side aren’t they?” and I’m going to need all the hand-holding I can get. (Strange Library doesn’t really count, because it’s more of a novella, plus it has lots of illustrations so it felt a little like reading a graphic novel or maybe a picture book for grown-ups. Although length probably doesn’t mean anything when it comes to Murakami, now that I think about it, because I’ve also read two Murakami short stories and let me just say, one of them flew right over my head. As in whoosh. I fared a little bit better with the other one.)

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle also made it to the Guardian’s list of “most disturbing novels” and after reading why it made it to the list I know there will definitely be some scenes I’ll be reading with eyes half-closed while quickly turning the pages. Because I’m squirmish like that. (My spell check is telling me that’s not a word and I should be using squeamish but squirmish feels right to me.) I have a feeling Jill is the perfect person to be reading a squirmish novel with …

So do come join us if you’re in the mood for tackling Murakami! It’s an informal readalong that runs from April 15 to May 31, so there’s lots and lots of time to read the book. The hashtag for this one is #windmeup.

And then some science fiction:

The Dune Readalong

Starting April 19, Suey, Jenni and Kami are holding a Dune readalong. I have had Dune, by Frank Herbert, on my to-read list for a very long time now. I can remember when I was a kid seeing my mom read it.

We used to have these weekly reading sessions where my sisters and I would all pile onto her bed with her, each of us with our own book, happily reading together. My mom doesn’t read fiction any more now, but when I was growing up she was a huge mystery, thrillers and SF reader. I grew up with Agatha Christie, John Le Carré, Robert Heinlein and Isaac Asimov scattered all over the house. So I do come by my genre leanings honestly (maybe it’s even hereditary!).

And I had to smile because this cover that Suey posted with the sign-up post:

Dune_Herbert

is the very same cover of the copy of Dune that I remember my mom reading! I love that she picked this cover instead of the one that graces the more modern edition.

There will also be three Twitter chats, which sound like they’ll be fun. The Twitter hashtag for this one is #DuneRAL. If Dune‘s been on your to-read list, too, I hope you’ll join in!

The one I missed (but maybe not):

Cloud Atlas Readalong

This is the one I’ve kind of dropped the ball on—it started back on April 1—but I’m still hoping to start Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell this month, and maybe even join in some of the discussion posts. Cloud Atlas is another one of those “I’m kind of intimated by this” books, although unlike Haruki Murakami, it’s not the author himself I find intimidating, just the book. I know this because I also want to read The Bone Clocks and I’m not intimidated by the idea of reading that one at all.

(Can you all tell, by the way, this is my year for reading outside my comfort zone?)

Hosted by Katie and April, the sign-up post is here, and the Twitter hashtag is #CloudAtlasAlong.

And coming in June …

The Misery readalong, hosted by Care! This is definitely going to be my year for reading Stephen King. I love the guy but I’ve really only read his earlier novels, so I have a lot of catching up to do.

I haven’t read Misery yet so this will be a first-time read for me. Haven’t seen the movie, either, although I always picture Kathy Bates when I think of the movie. It promises to be a fun, informal readalong. The hashtag for this one is #MiseryRAL. And you really need to pop over to Care’s post to see the really scary looking Stephen King picture she’s posted.

Wanting to read more middle grade novels … and A Game of Thrones

I know, I know, two totally different things. But for some reason, they’ve become interconnected in my mind. When I start thinking about what I’d like to start reading more of, I think, middle grade novels! And then for some funny reason, I head straight from there to A Game of Thrones. And then back to middle grade novels again. A very strange but now comfortable cycle.

A few years ago, I bought this from Costco:

Game of Thrones boxed set (Actually, it was the boxed set without A Dance with Dragons …) I was listening to A Game of Thrones in audio at the time, and realized it was going to be too gory for me to continue it in audio (because it’s impossible to listen with your ears half-closed, the way you can skim through the brutal bits with your eyes half-opened). But for some reason I’ve just never gotten back to the series, even though I had been so enthralled by what I’d heard so far in the audiobook. (I’d gotten as far as Bran’s fall.) I say “for some reason” but it’s mostly because I suspect the books are a lot like potato chips—you can’t consume just one or two.

So these books stare at me every day from their place on my TBR shelves. I need to just bite the bullet and start reading them. Amazon tells me, though, that all five books combined total 5,216 pages. That’s a lot of pages. A lot of reading time.

Anyway, swinging back to the whole middle grade novel thing, I really need to start reading more middle grade novels. I used to read them all the time, but in the past few years I haven’t added very many new titles to my TBR.

So to honour this yearning of mine, I recently made a list of middle grade reads to add to my TBR (I know. As if I needed to add more, right?). Here they are, in no particular order:

So that’s my list so far. Do you have any suggestions for good middle grade fantasies or mysteries?

Reading Journal: Working Stiff, The Damned

Since I don’t write a whole lot of reviews (although I’m hoping to change that—but the idea is still a speck in my mind’s eye, so to speak), I thought I’d start a weekly “Reading Journal” post. More for myself, really, to help me keep track of my thoughts about my reading.

Because, you know, Bad Book Memory. Oh, so bad. I’m surprised sometimes I remember what I read last week.

Anyway …

Working Stiff

I just finished Working Stiff: Two Years, 262 Bodies, and the Making of a Medical Examiner by Judy Melinek and T.J. Mitchell and it was so good. I listened to it in audio, which was a great choice; narrator Tanya Eby was a good fit to the material. As you might expect, there were some (well, okay, lots of) gory bits but I was so enthralled with this behind-the-scenes look at a medical examiner’s life, I winced but easily moved on.

Near the end, Melinek recounts her time working in the aftermath of September 11, and these scenes stole my heart. She was right there—cataloguing the bones and fragments of bones, because for the most part that was all there was to catalogue. If you’ve been thinking about reading this one, you should definitely take the plunge.

What’s next? I have three books that I need to get to. Three scary novels by Canadian authors! I missed the Dark Side Tour—partly because I had a heck of a time finding the website for the tour and then when I did, I could have sworn I added it to Todoist but I can’t find the link now and Google’s no help. My memory tells me my last chance to meet Andrew Pyper, Rob Pobi and Nick Cutter here in Toronto was this past weekend, and I wasn’t able to make it (and I really really wanted to “do” an author event! *wails*). But it’s okay, because I have their books to read still. That’s what really counts, right?

I’m probably most excited about Andrew Pyper’s The Damned, because I had quite enjoyed his previous book, The Demonologist (my review here- yes, I actually wrote a review of it!). The synopsis for The Damned:

Most people who have a near-death experience come back alone…

After he survived a fire that claimed the life of his twin sister, Ashleigh, Danny Orchard wrote a bestselling memoir about going to Heaven and back. But despite the resulting fame and fortune, he’s never been able to enjoy his second chance at life.

Ash won’t let him.

In life, Danny’s charming and magnetic twin had been a budding psychopath who privately terrorized her family—and death hasn’t changed her wicked ways. Ash has haunted Danny for twenty years and now, just when he’s met the love of his life and has a chance at real happiness, she wants more than ever to punish him for being alive—so she sets her sights on Danny’s new wife and stepson.

Danny knows what Ash really wants is him, and he’s prepared to sacrifice himself in order to save the ones he loves. But to do this, he’ll have to meet his sister where she now resides—and hope that this time, he can keep her there forever.

Sounds good, right? And I’ve read a few reviews that say it’s a good read. So The Damned is definitely up next. Along with Good Omens and A Dark and Twisted Tide, both of which I’ve started.

What have you been reading recently?

Colouring books for adults? I’m in!

The other day I read this article in The Guardian about how colouring books for adults were topping the Amazon bestseller list in the UK.

Secret Garden

Secret Garden by Johanna Basford

Enchanted Forest

Enchanted Forest by Johanna Basford

My first thought? How did I not know about these books?!

When I was a kid, I liked my colouring books, but I admit, I liked them more for the puzzle pages that were always tucked in here and there. I was never that enamoured of the actual colouring itself. Mostly, I think, because … crayons.

Yes. Those beautifully coloured Crayola crayons. We’ve all had a box or three when we were young, right? And the colours are just scrumptious. But colouring with them? As in, actually filling in spaces in a colouring book? I never really liked it. The crayons resisted every step of the way. The tough, cheap paper most colouring books for kids use didn’t help much, either.

Then when I got older and started drawing, I discovered the pleasures of colouring in with felt markers. And the surprising thing is, unlike the world of crayons, where professional artist’s crayon is a delight to use—smooth, gliding sweeps of colour wherever you want it—children’s felt markers are almost as nice to use as professional art markers, especially when it comes to colouring in things.

Once I discovered this, I was hooked. There was a time when I actively searched for colouring books that would actually take markers. And featured intricate designs. After looking for ages, I finally found one called SpinLights. I knew what a treasure I had right there—so much so, I bought FOUR of them.

Spinlights

Mandala

A little obsessive, I know.

As illustrator Johanna Basford says in The Guardian article about her books, ““I think it is really relaxing, to do something analogue, to unplug. And it’s creative. For many people, a blank sheet is very daunting; with a colouring book you just need to bring the colour.”

And she’s right—it is a really meditative activity, and best of all, when you’re done, you’ve got something really beautiful.

It’s actually been a while since I last sat down to do some meditative colouring. Dylan doesn’t use markers anymore—he’s like me, more fond of his drawing pencils—so we don’t have any right now. But I’ve put in an order for both of Basford’s books, and in the meantime I’m going to see about getting the biggest pack of Crayola markers I can find!

And if you’d like to give a colouring page for adults a try, check out these gorgeous colouring pages Judy Clement Wall has available for free download on her site.

Did you colour in colouring books when you were a kid? What about now?

Pet Sematary Readalong Completed!

I finished Pet Sematary a few days ago which means Yay! I’ve completed the readalong! This was my first large-scale readalong, with hashtags on Twitter and Instagram and everything, and it was a whole lot of fun.

But probably the best part of the readalong was this little guy, a little cat-duck sent to me by Jill to be dressed in whatever gangster cat gear I wanted:

Gangstercat poses

Dylan and I had so much fun dressing this little guy up today! Dylan made the gun and the suit, while I made the hat and the tie. We used Crayola Model Magic, which worked quite well. We even googled 1940s gangster suits, hats and guns so we’d have a good idea what we were aiming for!

And now this little guy will sit in a place of honour on my desk, reminding me of the fun of joining in on the #gangstercats readalong.

gangstercat at home

And as for Pet Sematary itself? Definitely not my favourite King book. I enjoyed the first part—King writes those family with kids scenes so well, brings such life to them. And what happens to the Creed family is just gut-wrenching. But once we get to the part where we know what Louis is going to do, and we also know it’s not going to turn out well (not to mention, we’re screaming at him, “No! Don’t do it! Don’t do it!”), it started to feel (to me) more a matter of turning the pages in order to get to the end than anything else.

Compared to It, which I read back in February, Pet Sematary lacked that tightly wound tension that makes you hold your breath in anticipation … of what, you have no clue, but you know for sure it’s going to be good, whatever it is.

The ending was a nice touch, though. I liked the question it left in my mind: was Louis right? Was that really the reason why things went so terribly wrong? Was it in his power to right this one last particular wrong?

Despite the book not being my favourite King book, it was still a good read. And #gangstercats more than made up for the lack of oomph as the book neared its end.

Have you read Pet Sematary? Or seen the movie?

Monthly Wrap-Up : March 2015 Reads

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I was going to say, “wow, this past month has just sped by”, but I suspect it’s something I’ll more or less be saying every month. So consider it not said. I’ll just think it!

I’m doing well with my goal to read 96 books this year. In March I read approximately 15 books—I say approximately, because I read ten issues of The Woods; currently the first four issues appear as Volume 1 of The Woods, and Volume 2 isn’t out yet, so I’m counting The Woods as two books in total (although it really should be 2.5,  I guess, but my reading spreadsheets aren’t designed to accommodate half a book!).

The Books

Taking a step back from my month, I can see it was very much a mystery month around here. I sped through several of S.J. Bolton’s Lacey Flint books, as well as a number of standalones, for a total of eight mysteries read:

Four of the books I read were graphic novels or comics:

  • Alex + Ada by Jonathan Luna and Sarah Vaughn
  • An Age of License by Lucy Knisley
  • The Woods (issues #1-10) by James Tynion IV and Michael Dialynas
  • Lumberjanes (Volume 1, or issues #1-4) by Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, Brooke Allen and Shannon Watters

I also read 84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff and The Camelot Kids by Ben Zackheim.

The Year-to-Date Stats

Okay, can I just say how I love being able to trot out my year-to-date stats like this? Hurray for spreadsheets and all the fantabulous tabulating and calculating and other stuff they do! (Mind you, I messed up this month and didn’t enter my books read in a timely manner—not that anyone’s very surprised—so I had to leave out the actual dates I completed certain books, as I didn’t remember exactly what those dates were.)

So far this year, I’ve read 41 books, for a total of 12,716 pages. Sixteen male authors (40 percent), 24 female authors (60 percent). Thirteen of my reads, or 30 percent, qualify as diverse books (I track that based on whether there’s a POC, LGBTQ person, disabled person or a person older than 60 as one of the main characters).

In terms of format, print books take the lead so far this year, with 24 books being in print format (five hardcovers, seven paperbacks and 12 trade paperbacks). Eight were ebooks and nine were audiobooks.

So that’s how my reading went in March! What was your March like in terms of books read?

The Rereading Dilemma

I don’t dare to do a count, but the current state of my TBR is, well, pretty bad. These days, not only do I have a physical TBR:

Part of my physical TBROne of my TBR stacks

I also have an ebooks TBR, an audiobook TBR and a Scribd TBR. Not to mention the library holds I pick up every week.

When your TBR piles are so big you know you don’t have much of a chance of getting through them all unless you swear off adding new books to your to-read lists for the next ten years or so (and I know lots of you know exactly what I’m talking about here), what do you when you feel the urge to reread a book?

Every now and then, this happens to me. Despite all these new, unread books beckoning to me, calling out my name, almost but not quite reaching out to wrap their bookish arms around me, I suddenly think of a much loved older read and I want nothing more than to cuddle up in my reading chair, snacks at hand, and re-read to my heart’s content.

Sometimes I give in. And sometimes I resist. But it’s always such a dilemma every time this happens.

And that urge to reread? Anything can trigger it. Here are some books I’ve found myself wanting to reread over the past three months or so, and the reasons why they came to mind:

Emily of New Moon, by L.M. Montgomery. Because I was on Twitter the other night when the #womeninfiction hashtag came up and I immediately thought of Emily.

The Forever King, by Molly Cochran and Warren Murphy. Because I was reading The Camelot Kids for a book tour, and The Forever King is one of the best urban fantasy King Arthur novels I’ve read.

Pride & Prejudice, by Jane Austen. Because I always want to re-read Pride & Prejudice, at least a few times every year. Despite this, it’s been nearly ten years since my last re-read of it.

Make Way for Lucia (The Mapp and Lucia books), by E.F. Benson. Because I received an email a while ago from author Guy Fraser-Sampson who has written some sequels to the Mapp and Lucia books (and this reminds me, I never emailed him back—this was way back when I was at inbox 1000 and non-essential emails were getting lost all over the place). What really bugs me, though, is I went hunting for my copy of Make Way for Lucia and couldn’t find it. And I suspect it accidentally got placed in the books-to-give-away pile when we made our big move to the city four years ago.

Any of the Bill Bryson travel books (I have all of them). Because I read this post from the Guardian Books blog about Bryson’s forthcoming new release, The Road to Little Dribbling, and suddenly I wanted to sit with one of his books and spend the night smiling and laughing with his words.

The Good Soldier, by Ford Madox Ford. Because I read an article about this book recently (I can’t remember where or even what the article was about specifically) and this happens to be one of the few classics (that’s not a play) that I really enjoyed when I was in school.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette, by Maria Semple. Because Candace happened to mention on Twitter a few weeks ago how amazing the audio version is, so now I really really want to listen to it in audio.

So there you go. My ongoing rereading dilemma. Out of all these books I’ve just mentioned, I know I’m going to do a reread of Where’d You Go, Bernadette in audio (I put a hold on it at the library as soon as I heard how good the audio is), and I am *this* close to rummaging around for the first Emily book. And the others? They’re still tugging at my heart.

What about you? Do you like to re-read books? Do you ever feel that re-reading dilemma?

#Comics on my mind

Thanks to Memory and Kelly, my comics TBR has grown immensely this month. The two of them are absolute geniuses when it comes finding comics gems in Scribd (and on Amazon too), and as a result I have a very nice comics reading list now.

So it’s no wonder I have comics on my mind!

All. The. Time. (Well, maybe not all the time, but it sure feels like it sometimes.)

Here are the comics I’m hoping to get to this month:

Lumberjanes

Lumberjanes by Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, and Brooke Allen.

Wilds end

Wild’s End by Dan Abnett

monster on the hill

Monster on the Hill by Rob Harrell

Hexed

Hexed by Michael Alan Nelson

The Fall of Cthulhu

The Fall of Cthulhu omnibus by Michael Alan Nelson

I just need to pick which one I want to read next!

Have you read any of these? Any suggestions as to which one I should reach next?