I have been talking this year about finally starting and following through with a project; at first that was going to be a writing project, but I ended up deciding on starting a new podcast.
I present to you: The Slow Reader – A Podcast About Books. It’s basically an audio version of my GoodReads updates. Right now the first two episodes are scheduled, and should be a bi-weekly podcast. They’re short, but I think eventually I’ll get into a groove and expand on the length a little bit. I know that I rushed my delivery a lot in these first two episodes.
The trailer is available today; the first episode will be out tomorrow (Thursday). Right now the podcast is only live on Google Play, but it should be available on Apple Podcasts and Spotify as well. I’ll probably submit it to Stitcher soon.
About a month ago I presented my reading list for 2018. I figure since the first two months of 2018 have come and gone, it’s time I provide an update of where I am.
Well…I’m not doing so well. I’m 67% of the way through “From A Certain Point of View” (short story collection based on Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope). I’ve been putting most of my time into listening to podcasts and catching up on movies (re-watching in some cases…thank you Star Wars BluRay set!) and TV shows.
I’ve got a big move coming up, so will likely be packing away many of the books on my 2018 list. So my new, updated goal right now is to finish “From A Certain Point of View” and get started on “A History of the World in 12 Maps”. I likely won’t get much further than that until the Summer.
I would like to have finished at least 4 books on my list by July. We’ll see how it goes! In the meantime – what are you reading that I can add to my never-ending list?
Last year I made a lofty and un-researched goal of reading 25 books; I didn’t get that far at all. I wrote about my reading habits during the year and I don’t think I’ve really changed too much about them. This year my goal is a lot more reasonable. I’ve set my goal to 12 books for 2018, and I have a concrete list of what to read to get me started.
You see, I have many books that I’ve received as gifts that I intended to read but haven’t gotten to yet. I keep adding more books. This is a problem. So, theoretically, I’ve got the books I’m going to read for 2018 and not going to add any more until I see some form of end in sight.
You can follow my reading progress over at Goodreads – that’s where I talk the most about books. So, here’s the list of what I’m going to start the year reading; I have more on the shelf that I can add, but figured this was a good place to start.
From A Certain Point of View (Star Wars) – Currently reading this one; it’s a collection of short stories featuring side characters from A New Hope, in celebration of its 40th anniversary.
A History of the World in 12 Maps – this one caught my eye even though I don’t usually go for history books. Looking forward to diving in.
Tunnels by Roderick Gordon
The Immortals (Olympus Bound #1) by Jordanna Max Brodsky
Informal Biography of Scrooge McDuck by Jack L. Chalker
True Canadian UFO Stories by John Robert Colombo
Blackout (Riley Covington #3) by Jason Elam
Gone (Gone #1) by Michael Grant
Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey
Like I said there are other books to be added, but those will definitely keep me busy for a long time for the first bit of summer. I’ll share my thoughts when I can.
I’ve been doing a little bit of research lately to try and get more eyeballs onto my blog, and one of the things I’ve been trying to do is read what other people are writing. That’s something I’ve been neglecting for some time.
That honestly sounds like a lot. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows hovers around 500 pages. A Game of Thrones is 873 pages, and A Dance With Dragons clocks in at 1200+. If you’re adding with me, that’s 2573, leaving 1077 pages to go and that’s only 3 books.
Author Chris Flores breaks it down a bit more reasonably. Flores suggests reading just 10 pages a day, which is where the number 3650 comes from (365 days x 10 pages = 3650). If even that seems daunting, the suggestion is to read 5 pages a day – which is still 1825 pages!
But the point isn’t really the amount of pages you should read. The number, like I said, simply comes from being something that is manageable on a per-day level. 10 pages? That takes 15-20 minutes, depending on your reading speed. Sure, you can find time out of your day to do that. You probably read that much in online articles and blogs. It’s a much easier ask than throwing a book at someone and telling them to read it in two weeks.
I won’t re-hash the benefits of reading that Flores outlines (check out his blog post, he really does a good job describing the benefits). Instead, what sparked me to write this was what clicked in my head after reading the article. I often lament that I don’t have time (or don’t make time) to read, and as a result have many books just sitting on the shelf.
To look at things in a “10 page a day” pace, it makes things much more manageable. I’m currently reading Catalyst by James Luceno; its length is 288 pages and I’m on page 177. 111 pages? If I read just 10 pages a day I’ll be done in 10 days.
Update: Actually, I wrote this last week – since then I just finished reading Catalyst last night – see my Goodreads entry on it if you’re interested!
Currently I have a goal to read 25 books this year (including comic books / graphic novels); I’ve read 11 so far. I plan on getting as close to 25 as I can using this new-found reading spark. I’ve got a lot of good books waiting to be read, and I keep finding more!
It’s been a while since I finished reading something, and this month I managed to finish two things. One was a full length book, the other was a piece of short fiction. Here are my reviews.
The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared
I received this book as a gift at Christmas this past year, and is a story I’ve had my eye on for quite a while. What I didn’t know about it: it was originally written in Swedish, translated to English (and presumably many other languages since). It’s a simple story, and starts exactly as the title suggests: A 100-year-old man climbs out of his window and disappeared, launching a man-hunt for him across Sweden.
It earns many comparisons to Forest Gump, mainly because the story of his past is told in parallel with the present-day story. In his past, he interacts with many different historical figures and winds up inadvertently shaping historic events simply by dumb luck.
I’m normally not a fan of descriptions that compare the book to another work of fiction, simply because it saddles a lot of preconceptions onto the new work. I tried not to think about the Forest Gump comparisons but after finishing the novel, felt that it was a pretty apt description.
The story is pretty funny overall, and the pacing was generally quite good. At some points I thought that this wasn’t the case; some of the telling of his life in the past felt slow and left me wanting to get back to what the main character was up to in the present day.
I give it an A-, definitely worth a read.
Dead Trees Give No Shelter
This is a shorter piece of fiction, about 40 pages. Wil Wheaton (yes, THAT Wil Wheaton) wrote it with an intended release for Halloween, as a break between a longer novel that he’s working on.
It’s a supernatural / horror story, which coincidentally also moves between the past and present day (and a quick jaunt into the year 2031). I didn’t intend to pick two stories to review that had a similar story mechanic, it’s something I just realized.
A quick but very enjoyable read. Wil Wheaton created a moody atmosphere and did a really good job of “hiding the monster” until it needed to come out of hiding. The story has a certain symmetry to it as well. At one point when I was reading it, I was listening to the E.T. soundtrack, which perfectly fit the tone that I think Wheaton was aiming for. There were some instances where the dialog didn’t work for me, but it wasn’t enough to make me give up reading in disgust. Solid read – pick it up after watching Stranger Things (or watch Stranger Things after reading this).
I really liked it. Around the time that I finished reading this I also binged through the rest of Stranger Things, which was great. Similar atmospheres, which I think is exactly what Wheaton was going for.
Since you probably won’t need help finding The 100 Year Old Man… on book shelves, I’ll just give you a link to Dead Trees Give No Shelter. You can pick it up in multiple forms – I personally bought the eBook. You can also listen to the Audiobook, which was narrated by Wil himself.
What’s next? I’m going to finally read Timothy Zahn’s Survivor’s Quest + Outbound Flight; I’ve also got a World War II book I picked up from a bargain table that looks interesting. I definitely have no shortage of things to read on my bookshelf.
I recently (more like finally) finished The Mechanical, an alternate history novel written by Ian Tregillis.
The Mechanical is the first of three books in a series known as The Alchemy Wars. In this novel’s universe, the Dutch are the world’s super-power, having mastered alchemy and keeping order with various models of mechanical men, known as “clakkers”. France is the only nation to really oppose the Dutch, and do so with chemicals.
Most of the story takes place in New Amsterdam (North America), with smaller parts taking place in Europe.
We are introduced early on to three characters: Jax, a clakker (mechanical servitor); Berenice, a French spymaster; and Visser, a Catholic priest working for Berenice undercover in Dutch territory. As the book winds along, it’s clear that the main characters in the story are Berenice and Jax, with Visser serving a secondary yet important purpose.
As characters go, both Berenice and Jax have a well-defined character arc, each of them complete within the novel with a beginning, middle, and end. Visser’s story doesn’t really reach a conclusion in this novel, which leads me to believe that he’ll have a more significant role in the next novel in the series (The Rising, also published in 2015).
I found that I didn’t really like Visser, though. He was somewhat cowardly and really thought highly of himself and his role. I imagine I felt about him the way I was supposed to – he was definitely very self-aggrandizing, to the point where he wasn’t very good at his job as a spy.
Beyond those three characters though, there wasn’t a lot of depth. I give The Mechanical a grade of B- for characters.
Story & Writing
I mentioned at the top that I “finally” finished reading The Mechanical last week…this is because I started reading it over a year ago. The story builds up very slowly at the beginning. This is a 400+ page book, but I think it could benefit from some culling.
Part of the problem is that Tregillis has to do a lot of world building to start the novel, because you need to be able to see how everything works AND understand how the Dutch took and remain in power. But the downside to this is that it progresses very slowly in the first half.
Once we get into the second half, and especially in the last third, the pace really picks up. I think this part of the book is a better demonstration of Tregillis’ skill as a writer, because his pages aren’t being spent giving us long scenes of exposition.
Overall I like the aesthetics presented in the book. It’s always neat to get a peak at alternative histories, and this one is very well thought out. I do appreciate that things weren’t spelled out, but I could still understand the background. The writing was a bit to “gratuitous” at times but generally, it’s good. I give The Mechanical a B- for Story and Writing.
While I really enjoyed the last third of the book, the first two thirds really didn’t do it for me. Normally, a “long” book for me takes a few months to slog through. This one took a year, and I stopped to read other things in between. I can’t in good conscience give The Mechanical a strong rating.
On GoodReads, I gave it 3/5 stars. Keeping with the letter grades I’ve been giving in this blog post, The Mechanical deserves a C+; a good read for parts of it, with strong main characters, but it really drags and feels like a chore to read in many other parts.
Coming up this week on the blog: a look at Paul Feig’s online TV show, Other Space.
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