Reading Round Up – July 2019

With a sudden net gain in free-time in July, I read a healthy amount. Most of it nonfiction, so most of these titles will be new to you and sadly the “thoughts” aren’t as effusive as they are when I read more fiction. I didn’t read as many short stories as I would have liked this month, but hey. I’m still good with how much time I spent reading this month.

Title: The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line (Veronica Mars #1)vm thousand dollar tan line
Author(s): Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham
Format: Trade Paperback
Goodreads Rating: 4/5 Stars
Thoughts: A quick and satisfying plunge back into the witty and gritty noir world of Veronica Mars. This book reads exactly like an arc of episodes from the original show. There’s plenty to like here, especially if you’ve watched the movie recently. For a more detailed breakdown, check out my full review.
Recommend: Absolutely! Especially if you’ve watched the movie but haven’t started the new season yet. There are some things you might want to know.

Title: The Weeding Handbook: a Shelf-by-Shelf Guidethe weeding handbook
Author: Rebecca Vnuk
Format: Trade Paperback
Goodreads Rating: 4/5 Stars
Thoughts: A really easy read, full of good tips and knowledge but shared in approachable language. I plan on buying a copy for my personal collection. I’m sure I’ll have occasion to use it in the coming years.
Recommend: If you’re in the library field, absolutely. It breaks down weeding collections shelf-by-shelf, making a humongous task that much easier.

Title: Mr. Kiss and Tell (Veronica Mars #2)vm kiss and tell
Author(s): Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham
Format: Trade Paperback
Goodreads Rating: 4/5 Stars
Thoughts: Another solid contribution to the Veronica Mars canon. Characters, setting, and tone come together to make up for the inconsistent pacing and competing plot lines. Veronica is her usual self, and honestly, it’s starting to get old. Get my full thoughts in my review.
Recommend: Sure. Again, if you’re a fan of the show you’re still going to enjoy this. If you have no idea what the hell Veronica Mars even is, you may want to pass.

Title: Library Management Tips That Worklibrary management tips.jpg
Author: Carol Smallwood
Format: Trade Paperback
Goodreads Rating: 3/5 Stars
Thoughts: This book was a little disappointing. I don’t think it was the book’s fault, but it didn’t actually have much content I could put to use in my new job. It’s a very broad look at library management aimed more specifically at sizable Public Libraries. I’m working in a high school media center, so a lot of the content did not translate. I still read it, because it’s stuff I find interesting and I may have need of the knowledge someday. Also, the language of the book was… dry. Made it a bit difficult to get through.
Recommend: Meh. If you’re really into best practices for library management and operations, go HAM.

Title: Leading from the Library: Help Your School Community Thrive in the Digital Ageleading from the library
Author(s): Shannon McClintock Miller and William Bass
Format: Trade Paperback
Goodreads Rating: 3/5 Stars
Thoughts: I found the writing really prohibitive in this book. It’s chock-a-block full of lingo and different educational standards and I was a bit adrift through the whole thing. I think there’s valuable information in here, but it may require a reread once I’m settled into my role.
Recommend: Meh. Not so much. Again, only if you’re really interested in the details of how libraries work.

Title: Hacking School Libraries: 10 Ways to Incorporate Library Media Centers into Your Learning Community (Hack Learning Series, volume 20)hacking school libraries
Author(s): Kristina A. Holzweiss and Stony Evans
Format: Trade Paperback
Goodreads Rating: 5/5 Stars
Thoughts: Oh man! This book! I LOVED it. Each chapter was really well laid out, with a ton of information, followed by action steps for the reader to take as soon as they’re ready. There were a ton of pictures and diagrams and a huge list of resources in the back. I’m going to buy a copy, for sure.
Recommend: Yes. But again, only if you really want to know more about working in a school library.

Title: “Skerry-Bride”sonya taaffe.jpg
Author: Sonya Taaffe
Format: Trade Paperback
Collection: Transcendent 2: the Year’s Best Transgender Speculative Fiction
Editor(s): Bogi Takács
Goodreads Rating: N/A
Thoughts: I loved this story. It’s short but languid, twisting and turning through the language. Grim with longing, poignant and tragic but lined with hope. It reads like a fairy tale, but it’s in second person which is always fascinating to me.
Recommend: Yes.

Title: “The L7 Gene”jeanne thornton.jpg
Author: Jeanne Thornton
Format: Trade Paperback
Collection: Transcendent 2: the Year’s Best Transgender Speculative Fiction
Editor(s): Bogi Takács
Goodreads Rating: N/A
Thoughts: Man. I’m still not sure about this story. I… liked it? It’s as far from “Skerry-Bride” as it could be. Straightforward prose, anger in every line, it works for the tale. But, reading it right after something so elegant and artful as “Skerry-Bride” probably did it a disservice. The plot is very intriguing, but the ending is open and a little unsatisfying.
Recommend: Sure. Another short tale with punch, worth the half-hour or so to take it in.

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Reading Round Up – March 2019

Blogland,

March was another weird month for reading, which is making me think 2019 might just be a weird year for reading. Normally there’d be a lot more book reviews by now and a much higher number on my Goodreads tracker. I don’t think I’ve ever started the year this far behind! But, where there’s a will and all that…

Title: The Black God’s Drumsblack god's drums
Author: P. Djèlí Clark
Format: Paperback Novella
My Goodreads Rating: 5/5 Stars
Thoughts: This is a wildly inventive book with an amazing narration that demanded my attention. In just over 100 pages, there’s an incredible amount of world building and character development. I loved everything about this story and will be on the lookout for more stories from Djèlí Clark.
Recommend: YES! This was an amazing little standalone story, perfect for an afternoon of riveting escapism.

Title: Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fearbig magic
Author: Elizabeth Gilbert
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Elizabeth Gilbert
My Goodreads Rating: 3/5 Stars
Thoughts: I think there are definitely some gems in this book, but they require some digging and I wasn’t fond of what they’re buried in. Gilbert is the author of Eat, Pray, Love so it shouldn’t have come as a surprise to me that she’s a little mystical in her thoughts and processes. I… am not. So, take that with a grain of salt.
Recommend: Eh. If you’ve got nothing better going on and want to read someone’s very specific thoughts and feelings on the creative process, why not?

Title: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Societyguernsey
Author: Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
Format: Hardback
My Goodreads Rating: 4/5 Stars
Thoughts: A fun and surprisingly light read for a book that centers around the aftermath of World War II. I watched the Netflix movie adaptation and loved it, and while the book was just different enough they are very similar. I would even say the movie is better, which I almost never say. For more thoughts, check out my review here.
Recommend: Sure! It’s a sweet read, perfect for vacation or any low-priority reading.

Title: Red Rising: The Sons of Aressons of ares
Author: Pierce Brown and Rik Hoskin
Format: Graphic Novel
My Goodreads Rating: 4/5 Stars
Thoughts: Bloody and gory and brutal in all the best Red Rising ways. I was never a big fan of Fitchner’s, although I changed my tune a bit toward the end of the series. But, I do love Sevro, and this is as much his origin story as it is the Sons of Ares’.
Recommend: Yep, as long as you’ve at least read the original Red Rising Trilogy, otherwise this is allllll kinds of spoiler-y.

Now that I’m back to just the one job my reading should be back to its speedy-self. I’m starting with Charlie Jane Anders’ The City in the Middle of the Night, hope to finish Putting the Science in Fiction after that, and then start Trail of Lightning. You see? I’m booked!

I’ll be back on Monday with the usual Goals Summary. Until then, Bloggos!

 

BZ

Reading Round Up – February 2019

Blogland,

I really liked last month’s Round Up. It was  nice to write up smaller thoughts and impressions of books I’d read, and it really streamlines my search for “what the heck I read last month” when I’m writing other posts or want to look at my reading to look for book recommendations at the library. Useful and convenient? Yes, please!

Title: Rivers of London vol. 4: Black Mould
black mould.jpgAuthor: Ben Aaronovitch, Andrew Cartmel, and Lee Sullivan
Format: Graphic Novel
My Goodreads Rating: 4/5 Stars
Thoughts: This is a fun side story in the Rivers of London universe, following Peter and Guleed as they chase down a sentient, malicious, magical mold (mould if you’re British). What I really like about all of the graphic novels is that they give side characters a chance to shine. Guleed, Molly, and even Toby the Terrier get their time in the spotlight. The only reason I didn’t give this a 5 star rating is because they tend to be so fluffy. This are fun spin-offs and nothing more. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
Recommend: Absolutely, for fans of the novels.

Title: Rivers of London vol. 5: Cry Foxcry fox.jpg
Author: Ben Aaronovitch, Andrew Cartmel, and Lee Sullivan
Format: Graphic Novel
My Goodreads Rating: 4/5 Stars
Thoughts: Another good installment, although this one bummed me out a little. The character Renard was introduced in one of the later novels of the series, and I found his true neutral personality to be very intriguing. but in this story, Renard firmly plants himself in the realm of the baddies. *sigh* But, this was another example of side characters getting their time to shine. This issue featured Abigail and Guleed as unwilling players in a modern-day version of The Most Dangerous Game.
Recommend: Absolutely, if you liked the novels.

Title: I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killeri'll be gone in the dark
Author: Michelle McNamara
Format: Digital Audiobook
Narrator(s): Gabra Zackman, Gillian Flynn – Introduction, Patton Oswalt – Afterword
My Goodreads Rating: 5/5 Stars
Thoughts: Oh my god, where do I even start with this book? I loved everything about it. The prose, the narration, the details. McNamara did an amazing job of not shying away from the horror the Golden State Killer wrought across California, but painting it in an incredibly human light. She focused on the victims and how it felt to be one, or to know one, or to fear you might become one. She also did an incredible job of humanizing herself without making the book about her. She acknowledged the insanity of her obsession and the toll it had on her life and her relationships, without coming across as whiny or unaware of her own privilege. She was thoughtful and that showed in her narrative. The narrator did a fantastic job of bringing this book to life for me, and her voice could be so soft and quiet, and then so gravelly and terrifying. Her range astounded me. I even liked the introduction, afterword, and extras included at the end. A really wonderful book if you have even the slightest interest in true crime or serial killers.
Recommend: Yes. Yes, yes, yes.

Title: Firefly: Big Damn Herobig damn hero
Author: James Lovegrove (original idea by Nancy Holder)
Format: Hardback
My Goodreads Rating: 2/5 Stars
Thoughts:
 You know I hate giving low reviews, but this was an underwhelming and trope-filled adventure through the ‘Verse. There’s better fanfic available for free on the internet. See my full review for more details.
Recommend: Nah. There are better media tie-ins out there. Or better yet, just go back and watch the show. If you really have a hankering, you could always find some high quality fanfic to scratch that itch.

Title: Lies Sleeping (Rivers of London #7) 
Author: Ben Aaronovitch
Format: Hardbacklies sleeping
My Goodreads Rating:
5/5 Stars
Thoughts: Aaronovitch is a really consistent author. I have a great time reading the Rivers of London series no matter which installment is currently in my hands. This latest novel is no exception. It was a little slow to start, but that is likely more my fault than the book’s. This book really picked up in the second half and even brought me to tears once. It’s at once fun, harrowing, and emotional. I really enjoyed my time with it. See my full review for more details.
Recommend:
Yep! But you’ll need to read all the others first. Oh no… more books to read!

Not too shabby for the shortest month of the year, and one with a major video game release. I’ll count this as a win, for sure. In March I’m reading a short story a day on top of my normal reading, so keep an eye on the What I’m Reading page for updates!

Talk soon, Bloggos.

 

BZ

 

 

Reading Round Up – January 2019

Blogland,

In a strange turn of events, I didn’t read any Fiction in the month of January! I’m not entirely sure how I feel about this, other than I’m a bit disappointed to have no book reviews to share with you this month. I’ve tried to write my usual, in-depth reviews for the Nonfiction I’ve read these last 30 days, and I just couldn’t make any of them work. So, instead of an individual post for each book, I’ve decided to do something a little different. Welcome to the blog’s inaugural Reading Round Up!

Title: Spying on Whales: The Past, Present, and Future of Earth’s Most Awesome Creatures
Author: Nick Pyensonspying on whales
Format: Digital Audiobook
Narrator: Nick Pyenson
My Goodreads Rating: 4/5 Stars
Thoughts: It’s about whales, so I knew I would like this book going into it. My personal bias aside, I found the author’s narration to be well done, if a little fast. I normally speed up my digital audio, but I didn’t need to with Pyenson’s narration. The book was a really great mixture of narrative storytelling and educational fact, not always told in a linear, chronological order. Facts were delivered as they related to the narrative at the beginning and ending of each chapter. I think that really helped me digest the more technical passages. That being said, it is still a lot of science speak and I found myself zoning out on more than one occasion. Not sure if that’s my fault or the book’s.
Recommended: Yes!

Title: Astrophysics for People in a Hurry
Author: Neil deGrasse Tysonastro for people
Format: Digital Audiobook
Narrator: Neil deGrasse Tyson
My Goodreads Rating: 4/5 Stars
Thoughts: This was a tough one. I liked the narration a lot, but the subject matter was still way over my head. I’d have moments of clarity where deGrasse Tyson said something that I thought I understood, only for the information to flee my brain a moment later. Also, his voice is entirely too soothing; I kept falling asleep! I’m sure in comparison to the true, complicated nature of the subject matter, this book is very approachable and accessible, but to me it was still taxing. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but I think you need to know your learning style if you hope to retain what deGrasse Tyson is trying to teach you. I’d go with a paper copy, personally.
Recommended: Sure.

Title: Zen in the Art of Writing zen in the art of writing
Author: Ray Bradbury
Format: Paperback
My Goodreads Rating: 3/5 Stars
Thoughts: Don’t hate me. I was… unimpressed? I love Bradbury’s fiction, especially his short fiction, but this collection of essays lacked that inarguable punch that is so typical of his writing. I think it actually comes down to the fact that this book did not age well. There are several passages that are kind of sexist (a standout one refers to an actress as a “porker”) and though he cites multiple women authors and their works, he never once refers to the reader as anything other than “he”. It’s ultimately a small thing, and really a non-issue considering the age of the book, but it still irked me. That said, there were several lines and paragraphs that stood out for good reasons. I took pictures so I could refer to them as needed. But, this book is much more a memoir on the craft than it is an actionable account of how to live your own writing life. Maybe this was an instance of an author not living up to my imagined expectations, but this book just didn’t do much for me.
Recommended: Eh.

Title: The Business of Being a Writer business of being a writer
Author: Jane Friedman
Format: Paperback
My Goodreads Rating: 5/5 Stars
Thoughts: I loved this book! Friedman answered more of my publishing questions than I even knew I had. From querying an agent, to signing the contract, to developing your online presence and “brand” Friedman tells all. And if you’re more interested in the Self-Publishing side of the writing business, don’t fret, because it’s all in there. Even how to do your taxes! What I really appreciated, besides the sheer quantity of information, was the approachable language and conversational tone of the book. It felt less like reading a textbook and much more like sitting down for several in depth conversations with a VERY knowledgeable friend. Navigating the publishing industry is scary enough without author resources adding to the fear factor. This book gets that, but doesn’t do you the disservice of holding your hand either. Friedman tells it like it is, giving you the information to make career decisions with confidence.
Recommended: Heck yes! I will be buying a copy for my office.

Well? What do you think? Hopefully this is a quick, painless way for you to decide if a book is worth trying for yourself and I still had all the fun of writing a review, even if they were condensed versions.

Don’t worry, I promise I’ll still post full reviews for any and all fiction I read over the course of the year, but now I’ll add these Round Ups for Nonfiction and Graphic Novels.

See you in February, Bloggos!

 

BZ

Goals Summary 2019 – Wk #1

Bloggos,

I hope you all had an awesome first week of the year! I know it felt incredibly long to me and especially exhausting. I spent yesterday doing some shopping and meeting friends at the local board game cafe to play some really interesting new table top games. I wanted my weekend to be focused on turning my brain off and recharging for the week ahead.

Last Week

  • Publish two blog posts
  • Finish listening to Spying on Whalesspying on whales
  • Write 1k on Tavi
  • Outline/Brainstorm for Santa Sarita

How’d I do?

  • Publish two blog posts
    • Yep. Although that’s easy to do during the first week of the year. There’s a lot to talk about.
  • Finish listening to Spying on Whales
    • Yes!
  • Write 1k on Tavi
    • Yes! I wasn’t sure this would happen, but I ended up writing about 1300 words and finishing chapter 8!
  • Outline/Brainstorm for Santa Sarita
    • Yes… and no. So, it turns out, I had already done some brainstorming and outlining back in October. I have no memory of this, but that’s cool since I no longer agree with the route I had planned. I’ve made some new plans, but nothing concrete. But, I did do a tiny bit of writing on this so I’m counting it a win!

Weekly Word Count: 1,477

The first week of the year is always a busy one on the blog. Goals Summaries, Monthly Recaps, and the blog overhaul and Yearly Review. Lots of writing about writing, collating the stats and accomplishments of the year and analyzing my failures and successes so I can make the most of the year to come. Honestly? It’s one of my favorite times of year, when I can really dig deep into my process and figure out how to tweak for even more efficiency and output. It’s like giving my mind a tune-up!

When it came to listening to Spying on Whales, I didn’t know if I’d really be able to finish it. The book is great, and Pyenson’s passion really shines through the narrative and his narration, but I am not great at reading/listening to nonfiction. Even something as interesting to me as the past, present, and future of whales (I freaking LOVE whales) still had me zoning out for large chunks of text. I frequently had to rewind a segment and figure out where my brain had turned to white noise.

But, I still finished it last night, and really enjoyed it. I don’t think the problem was the book, but more my short attention span. If you like nonfiction, or want a broad overview of the history and lives of whales, I highly recommend it!

I jumped back into writing my urban fantasy novel this week after ignoring its existence during the whole month of December. As expected it, it was sort of slow going. It’d been long enough away from the text that I didn’t really remember where I’d left and felt pretty distant from my narrator’s voice. So, I spent a lot of my “writing” time reading the manuscript over from the beginning. writing gif

Now, that’s always dangerous with a rough draft because it makes me want to edit. I see the repetitious sentences and the clunky passages and I cringe. But, that’s not the point of this readthrough. I needed to get back in Tavi’s head, so I could tag along with her on the crazy journey of this utterly pantster novel. And it worked! In fact, it not only worked, but got me excited about this project again. With rough drafts I’m always terrified that I’m going to hate them when I read them again for the first time. I fear that I’ll read the first few pages and wonder what the hell I was thinking, writing this garbage? But Tavi really surprised me! I think it’s really good. In a few places I even managed to forget I wrote it, I was so enthralled with the dialogue and the narrator’s voice.

So, that’s good.

Santa Sarita is percolating. The characters are taking up space in brain again and I’m almost ready to sit down and really hash out some words on this fic. I think it’s going to be much different than I originally planned, and that’s probably for the best. There’s a reason my first attempt at this story flopped, after all. In the meantime I’m going to write some small tumblr prompts and get used to writing these two once again.

So, what’s next?

  • Publish two blog posts
  • Write 3k on Tavi
  • Work on something Santa Sarita related

This looks really thin to me, but jumping up from 1,000 words to 3,000 is going to take some serious effort. And even then, I’ll still be about four thousand words behind my monthly writing goal. Which is okay. The point is just to write consistently again after so much time off. The words will come.

knight's shadowI have a backlog of tumblr prompts to work on, the majority of them for Santa Sarita, so that should be an easy one to knock out this week. I also have a nebulous idea for a blog post, but we’ll see if I go with that or something else I’ve been sitting on for a while. Don’t expect a book review this week. Sadly I have zero interest in writing reviews for nonfiction, and my time with Knight’s Shadow has been really limited lately. Honestly, all of my time is limited lately, so if I’m going to make my writing goals expect my reading to slow down.

Thank goodness for audiobooks! I just downloaded Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil DeGrasse Tyson, and though it’s pretty far over my head, I figure I’ll still know more about astrophysics by the end than I do now.

In other news, I received my rejection letter from Oregon Literary Arts. I was not a recipient of a fellowship this year, but better luck next time! I also received a rejection on my horror short story Lifelike last night, and it’s already off and onto the next magazine. Getting two rejections in one week feels bad and it feels kinda good. It means I’m working hard and eventually one of these emails will be an acceptance!

Talk to you soon, Blogland!

 

BZ

Goals Summary 2018 – Wk 52

Can you believe it, Blogland? 2018 has come and gone, and that means there’s a lot to talk about. However, this post isn’t meant for that. I have to talk about the last week of 2018 before I can start making plans for 2019!

Last Week

  • Publish two blog posts
  • Finish any last minute reading
  • Write something

How’d I do?

  • Publish two blog posts
    • Yep. Nothing too important or dense, but I made an effort to show up!
  • Finish any last minute reading
    • Yes! I finished reading Dragon Age: The World of Thedas vol. 1, just like I planned!
  • Write something
    • Yes! I wrote a little oneshot for a tumblr prompt! Hurray!

Weekly Word Count: 592

This week was really just a matter of tying up loose ends. I finished my lingering tumblr prompts, caught up on some reading, and made an effort to relax. I also picked up some stray hours between both jobs, so I worked a little more than I originally intended.

The really big question mark is, what the hell comes next?

What’s Next?

  • Publish two blog posts
  • Finish listening to Spying on Whalesspying on whales
  • Write 1k on Tavi
  • Outline/Brainstorm for Santa Sarita

I’ll be honest, I haven’t really nailed down my yearly goals for 2019, which means I don’t have any idea of what my monthly goals should be, which in turn means… I have NO CLUE what I’m supposed to do this week. I’m gonna fake it ’til I make it!

I spent December decompressing my the marathon of November’s Nanowrimo. I won’t lie, I’d followed my story pretty much blindly until it took me to a scene I didn’t know how to get out of. I’d started to think I’d written myself into a corner, and then on my drive home last night my brain decided to notify me that we could proceed with the novel at my earliest convenience.

So, that’s nice.

For now I’m really marinating on what really worked in 2018. What were my successes? What were my obstacles? How can I learn from each of these in order to make the most out of 2019?

Tune in on Tuesday to find out, and for the traditional blog renovation!

 

BZ