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Category: Reading Updates

Reading Update 05/13/20 – Barrayar

Today’s post will be a short one. An actual “update” if you will.

As previously mentioned, I decided to use the audiobook medium as a means of re-“reading” books. There is a lot of stuff I’ve wanted to get back to for the longest time, but couldn’t, because there was always something new to read. So, adding audiobooks to my “non-reading” time has been a game changer!

After finishing Dune, I went to Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkossigan Saga, which I have been aching to come back to. I am going through them in order of internal chronology, and since I read Shards of Honor last year ago, I started listening to Barrayar. It is absolutely fantastic, just as I remembered it from my teens! Bujold’s writing is effortlessly engrossing, in a way that fills me with dark envy.

Sidebar: I am taking a stance against male narrators pitching their voice high when reading female-coded dialogue. Come on, dudes, it just makes the characters sound scared all the time!

Reading Update 05/06/20 – Audiobook Developments, and Brandon Sanderson Book Porn

Listening to Books, and How It Can Go Wrong

My adventures with audiobooks continue. After the awesome experience with John Scalzi’s Redshirts, I decided to try Catherynne Valente’s Space Opera next.

The result was horrific.

Don’t get me wrong. The book is adorable. But my body was not ready for a slow-reading Brit doing accents and dialects. My body was particularly unprepared for an entire chapter in the voice of a southern diner waitress. I think I will have to stay away from works that include dialects and “funny voices”. For my own sanity, you understand.

Next, I started Dune, because Denis Villeneuve’s movie is OBVIOUSLY going to be the greatest work of science fiction ever made. And also because I have been meaning to reread it for years. So far, it is going splendidly, and the production is really impressive, with multiple voice actors and even some background music.

As an aside, it seems that audiobooks might be a solution to a problem. Since they have the dubious honor of occupying my “at night, while playing video-games” time, I think they can help me with getting back to works I’ve already read. A solution to the constant struggle of feeling like re-reading is a waste of time when there are so many new books to experience. Vorkossigan Saga, here I come!

Mistborn Goodness

In unrelated news, I wanted to brag about finally completing my set of Mistborn collector hardcovers. Guest featuring, the newest Dragonsteel HC — Warbreaker. Now all that’s left is Elantris, once I have the resources for it, and whatever Brandon Sanderson decides to tempt me with in the future.

The quality of binding of these editions is absurd, and the artwork galleries are stunning. And for fans of Sanderson’s Cosmere, it should be criminal that the books contain charts with information on Scadrial’s magic systems not actually in the stories themselves…

All in all, if one is about that collector’s life, these editions are a must. Of course, if you are a normal human with normal human priorities, there is no justification for spending the amount each of them costs. (Not a criticism to Brandon, his agreement with Tor does not allow him to sell them for less. And frankly — the quality justifies it). But if you are like me, I cannot recommend them enough.

Reading Update 04/29/20 – Doing Aural For Virgins

During quarantine, my daily routine has been fairly fixed. Mornings are for writing, editing, and blogging. Afternoons are for reading or other work. Evenings are for movie/tv time with the boyfriend. And late evenings are for videogames and podcasts after he goes to bed.

But with that said, I ran out of episodes on the podcasts I follow, and it struck me that I could attempt — cue dramatic drum effect — an audiobook! I have always been resistant to the idea, but the reality of the fact is, I had no rational reason for that resistance. So I went and downloaded something I thought might be a good gateway, and a book I hadn’t read: John Scalzi’s Redshirts, narrated by Will Wheaton.

Well, about halfway in, I have to say I am loving it! I do get characters confused here and there, and the “[name] said” tags are profoundly visible in this format. It has, if not limitations, then certainly a learning curve, but I had no trouble maintaining attention, and I couldn’t stop listening. Of course, it does help that the actual book is really good. I will definitely not be “switching” to audio from now on, but as an addition to my reading, it is certainly not nearly as awful as I expected.

As an aside, this project features TWO people that have been given the “KHAAAAAAN!” approach — both Will Wheaton in The Big Bang Theory, and Scalzi himself, in early seasons of Writing Excuses, where he was, for a time, Brandon Sanderson’s “nemesis”.

As for the title of this post… I know. I’m sorry. I will see myself out.

Reading Update 04/22/20 – Not in Bulk, but Piecemeal

I have made a discovery!

It is profound and triumphant, and makes the discoveries of irrigation, electricity, and vaccines not just pale in comparison, but appear truly embarrassing and pedestrian. It is a discovery of such magnitude, in fact, that I am offended that I have not been given the Nobel Peace Prize for it yet.

Here it goes:

You can — and I hope you are sitting down for this — read short stories from anthologies without committing to the entire anthology! Boom! You. Are. Welcome.

While we are on the subject of “duh”, I have to admit it is truly impressive how well your mind can hide the obvious from you, when it sets its… um… will toward that goal. My resolution to read at least three short story collections this year has been in armed conflict with my ARC pile, and my “squirrel!” random reads, and I was beginning to worry that a third into the year, I have not read a single word in short form. But then it dawned on me — with the aforementioned “duh” — that I could just read one story here and there, instead of dedicating days to going through an entire collection.

So, little by little, I am now making my way through The Mythic Dream, so far enjoying every story I have read from it. And I don’t have to pause on my novel reading to do it.

I am, truly, an unrecognized genius.

Reading Update 04/15/20 – The Novella Conspiracy

So, here’s the thing. Reading has always been a huge part of my life. Growing up, I never didn’t have a book I was currently on, and it impacted every aspect of my existence. My hobbies, my first freelance work, things I have been doing for literal decades (reviewing), and things I have only been doing for a short time now (writing).

But something happened around the time when I left home and came to study in America. For the first time in my life, I was living alone, had a personal laptop (don’t @ me, I’m Eastern European, and old), and then — not long after — came out as gay. Life changed, and reading was kind of left by the wayside. It’s not that I stopped reading, exactly, but I went long periods of time without a book by my bedside.

Last year, I decided to do something about it. I was already doing much better, but I wanted to get ambitious (for me). So I set a Goodreads (by the way, follow me!) goal of 52 books in 2019. A nice, weekly number. The only problem? I set that goal in late September. What’s a boy to do?



Desperately trying to catch up (I had not read over 30 books by that point), I turned to the venerable literary form of the novella. And realized that I had been an idiot, because that is, as far as my scientific analysis shows, fiction in its most perfect form. The “condensed novel” is a brilliant medium, and I discovered a metric fuckton of writers I would have otherwise ignored — some who write long form as well, and some for whom this is as long as they get.

Needless to say, I have leaned heavily on novellas for my 2020 reading challenge as well. Maybe this time I will go higher than 52. But either way, I will have read so much great fiction, that I won’t care.

Moral of this confession — cheat often, you never know what will come out of it!

Reading Update 04/08/20 – Staying on Course

If self-quarantine is good for one thing, it is curbing my “squirrel!” instinct of going to bookstores, allowing random books to catch my eye, and deciding I MUST read them IMMEDIATELY. Staying home and only making the occasional online purchase, I have been able to keep up with my reading goals. I am nearly done with “political non-fiction book 1/3” (as per my previously stated plan): Un-Trumping America by Dan Pfeiffer of Pod Save America (and, yunno, the Obama Administration) fame. It is giving me exactly what I need in these grueling times when we have malicious mobster toddlers at the helm — a systematic analysis of our current political reality, with proposed pathways to get out of it and stay out. It’s mostly things I am already aware of, as an avid PSA listener, but it is weirdly calming just the same.

Meanwhile, my pile of ARCs (the only ones I am likely to ever get, since apparently the outside world has been abolished) is slowly melting. I have arranged them by release date, and I plan on reviewing most of them when they are about to come out. I am, of course, open to requests and recommendations.

And in the mean time, happy reading, and stay home!

Reading Update 03/25/20 – Conscientious Purchases

Navigating any field when you want social justice to be a consideration, is tricky. Literature has its own fair (read “gargantuan”) share of awful people, well meaning mishaps, toxicity, representation issues, and good old-fashioned bigotry.

On that last note, I have no trouble admitting that Orson Scott Card is probably the ONE famous name in the field of Speculative Fiction that I have no qualms over trashing. He is a horrible human being. Not uniquely horrible. In fact, chances are he probably isn’t close to the MOST horrible person even in SFF. However, I take his horribleness personally, because A) I used to love his work and it was a huge drive for my love of science fiction; and B) he hates homosexuality, and I am very intensely homosexual.

All that said, it is a rule of mine to never directly support people that I consider to be problematic in ways that are important to me. And by that I don’t mean my tween gesture of throwing my copy of Ender’s Game into the trash back in the day, when Card announced that any government that would support gay marriage was his enemy, and he would take up arms against it. No, I am talking about money. I cannot purchase a book by a person like that, knowing that even a fraction of my dollars would go to their wallet.

However, for all his character flaws (and supposed massive drop in writing quality, which I would not know anything about, as it’s been a decade since I have read any of his work), Orson Scott Card remains someone with a lot of knowledge about the craft of writing. After finding his How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy in a used bookstore last year, I had decided that despite the sexist undertones, I could learn a lot from him. Which is the end of my extremely and unnecessarily long prelude to the admission that I just got Characters & Viewpoint through a second hand retailer, and I now feel vaguely gross, despite knowing Card won’t see a red cent from the transaction. But I think that if one wants to read a work by a problematic person for whatever reason, second-hand is the only conscientious way of going about it. Bigots shouldn’t get your money.

Reading Update 03/18/20 – The Forgotten Pile

In honor of self-quarantining (which, I am told, is now official euphemism for masturbation), I figured I should reveal the shame of what is currently occupying my nightstand. Those are books I have at one point or another bought on a whim, thought to pull out of my bookcases because I “really wanted to check them out”, etc. An odds-and-ends affair, patiently waiting for a better world, in which I read something like five books a week, or have otherwise magically caught up with all my “urgent” reading. Thoughts and prayers.

Reading Update: 03/11/20 – The Relentless Arc!!!

Another braggy post, but I can’t contain myself! I thoroughly adore the Lady Astronaut books by Mary Robinette Kowal, and have been eagerly awaiting The Relentless Moon. And now I get to read it months in advance! However, I shall be strong. Not keeping to reading schedules is the mind killer. It is the little death that brings total obliteration. I will face my reading schedule, and integrate The Relentless Moon into it, rather than blasting it to smithereens (again). I will permit it to pass through me, and… Ok, you get it. I’ve read Dune.

But still, The Relentless Moon! Squee!

Reading Update: 03/04/20 – Post-Convention Shameposting

C2E2 was very much a success (in the sense that I got to listen to people who are living out my life’s dream talk about living out my life’s dream, which is simultaneously its own punishment and its own reward), but my book acquisition rate continued its upward trajectory. There is a reality show somewhere, waiting to have me on an episode, and I do not know if I should be proud, or deeply ashamed. But either way, here is the boon — some of it purchased, some freely given, most of it autographed — for accountability purposes. Not featured — Chris Kluwe’s Otaku, which I forgot to put in the shot, and which gives me just the right kind of Ready Player One vibes.

Now if I can be strong enough to keep to my previously established reading plans…