Tag Archives: GoodReads

Summer Reading List 2009

I’m taking a page from Ken Newquist‘s book (or rather, his blog and podcast) to present my Summer Reading List. As we’re well into the season, the list includes books I’ve read since late June, those I am currently reading, and those I intend to read before summer comes to a close. The last of these three lists is—to put it lightly—mutable, as which book I pick up next is subject more to whim than design.

Pages Past

  • Shambling Towards Hiroshima by James Morrow. During World War II, a B-movie actor is hired to play the part of a giant, fire-breathing lizard in order to convince the Japanese to surrender or have a trio of Godzilla-like creatures unleashed on their cities.
  • The Touch by F. Paul Wilson. The third installment of The Adversary Cycle tells the tale of a doctor who suddenly gains the ability to heal with a touch. It wouldn’t be a medical thriller if there weren’t a terrible price to pay. This isn’t my preferred genre, but I enjoyed The Keep and The Tomb, so I thought I’d continue the cycle; The Touch isn’t anywhere near as creepy as its predecessors, but it’s a pretty entertaining tale.
  • Glasshouse by Charles Stross. In a far-flung future where technology makes changing your gender, race, and even species as commonplace as changing your shirt, and humanity has been through a great Censorship War, Robin wakes with no memory of his past and a killer on his tail. How much of what makes you you is determined by your physical being, your memories, and your relationships with other people? This was really a fascinating read.
  • His Majesty's Dragon by Naomi NovikHis Majesty’s Dragon (Temeraire · Book 1) by Naomi Novik. During the Napoleonic Wars, the H.M.S. Reliant, a British naval vessel, captures a French ship and siezes a most unusual cargo: a dragon’s egg. When the dragon hatches and bonds to Will Laurence, the Reliant’s captain must leave the Navy behind for His Majesty’s Air Corps. I love Novik’s writing style and the relationship that forms between the dragon, Temeraire, and Laurence is beautifully executed. This is definitely my favorite book of the summer so far.
  • Anathem (Audio) by Neal Stephenson. The audio version of this lengthy tome consists of twenty-eight compact discs and took me eleven weeks to complete. As Chris Miller pointed out to me, Neal Stephenson doesn’t so much write novels as essays stitched together with bits of story. Much time is spent explaining how the world in which Anathem takes place is different from our own, complete with excerpts from The Dictionary (4th Edition, A.R. 3000) that mark the beginning of each of the eleventy-three thousillion chapters. Anathem follows Fraa Erasmas of the concent of Saunt Edhar as he ventures out into the sæcular world during (and after) Apert. And to explain every term in that sentence would require more space than I’m willing to devote to a single bullet point right now.

Pages Present

  • Lamb by Christopher MooreLamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore. The Bible doesn’t go into a whole lot of detail where the first thirty years of Christ’s life are concerned, and now Levi (who is called Biff) has been resurrected by the angel Raziel to fill in the gaps. Chris Miller and I will be discussing this somewhat-apocryphal gospel on a future episode of The Secret Lair.
  • The Strain (Audio) by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan. Vampires!
  • Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell (Audio) by Susanna Clarke. Magicians!
  • The Way of Shadows (Book 1 of The Night Angel Trilogy) by Brent Weeks. Assassins! (Sorry: wetboys.)

Pages Future

Finally, here is a fourth list, which may be considered a bonus by some and entirely excessive by others. I have been using GoodReads to track my ever-expanding library and hummingbirdlike reading habits, but there are a number of similar sites and as I become aware of one I can’t help but set up an account and import at least a portion of my books, just to see how it compares to the others. Here is a list of said sites (I don’t claim it is comprehensive, and if you know of another please leave a comment with a link to it.) that I’ve been using recently, in the order I joined:

  1. GoodReads. Very well put together. The interface is generally very intuitive, though management of group “shelves” could be enhanced. GoodReads is, unfortunately, ad-supported.
  2. Readernaut. My favorite of the bunch so far. Pages aren’t as “busy” as those on GoodReads or LibraryThing and there’s a lot of flexibility around tweaking books (I especially like that I can upload my own cover images). Pages tend to render poorly on some installations of Internet Explorer. Readernaut is not currently ad-supported.
  3. Shelfari. My least favorite by quite a large margin. I’m not a fan of the default “shelf” layout and though the add/edit book interface is nice and streamlined, it is also rather limited. Shelfari is ad-supported.
  4. LibraryThing. I haven’t played with this one very much, but I do like that there is space for BookCrossing IDs (though it’s been months since I last logged in to BookCrossing) and they seem to pack in a lot of information about individual titles. LibraryThing is not ad-supported, but offers both free and subscription-based models, so I can only assume that the size of my library (as a free user) has a limit.

Kubuntu, Firefox, Adobe, GoodReads and Opera: Can’t we all just get along?

Yesterday, I switched from Firefox to Opera on my Kubuntu Linux install, primarily for performance reasons. I’m running Kubuntu from a USB thumb drive and in the past few weeks I’ve found that Firefox 3.0 is entirely unusable for 5-10 minutes at a time while Ubuntu reads and/or writes to the thumb drive. This seems to happen on a regular basis; perhaps once every 30 minutes. I noticed that I didn’t have the same issues when using the Konqueror browser, but I can’t say I’m a big fan of Konqueror. So I installed Opera and so far have not seen the same performance issue I did with Firefox 3.0. Granted, I haven’t quite gotten the Adobe Flash Player plugin working yet, but that’s a minor quibble; I’m okay with sacrificing the ability to view videos on YouTube if it means the browser doesn’t lock up for 20 minutes out of every hour.

I thought by now we were beyond the whole “this site best viewed in” garbage from the Great Browser War, but apparently I was mistaken. I browsed to GoodReads last night and saw this:

Browser recommendations from GoodReads

Now, I really like GoodReads; it feeds into my obsession for keeping track of my stuff online and allows me to see what my Interfriends have been reading. It’s part pack rat’s delight, part social network. But no “official support” for Opera (the only browser that, once upon a yesterday, I paid for)? What kind of nonsense is that?

What I’m Reading (February 2008 Edition)

Bloginatrix Lorelle van Fossen issued another of her blog challenges earlier this week: Blog about what you are reading, what you like to read, and why. I hesitated to take up the challenge because we’ve been talking about books and such a lot over at The Secret Lair, but then J.C. Hutchins took up the call and I thought I’d be a good little clone and follow suit.

What I’m Reading
Blood and Rust by S. A. SwiniarskiBlood and Rust by S.A. Swiniarski is actually two previously-published horror novels collected in one volume. Both stories are set in Cleveland, Ohio, but in different eras.

Raven, set in the present, is the story of a man who wakes up in a storm drain with no memory of how he got there or who he is. His investigation into the events leading up to his awakening reveal the horrible truth: somehow, in the last few days, he has become a vampire.

The Flesh, The Blood and The Fire is set in the late 1930s, after Safety Director Eliot Ness failed to capture the Cleveland Torso Murderer, a notorious serial killer who left more than a dozen decapitated, mutilated corpses in his wake. From the back cover text: …one Cleveland cop refused to give up the case. And his search led him down a bloody trail from the depths of the city’s shantytowns to the inner citadels of industrial power to the darkest parts of the human soul…

Swiniarski, who publishes science fiction novels under the name S. Andrew Swann, is a local author and Chris Miller (persuasive fellow that he is) talked me into buying Forests of the Night, the first book in Swann’s Moreau series (which now has four volumes) last winter. Looking at Swann’s bibliography, I realized that I’d read another of his books, The Dragons of the Cuyahoga, several years ago; so after finishing Forests of the Night I grabbed the sequel to Dragons: The Dwarves of Whiskey Island. Both were fun reads; enough so that I thought it might be worth giving his horror a try.

Spook Country by William GibsonSome people might consider this cheating, as I’m listening to Spook Country by William Gibson on CD, but I’m not going to argue the merits of listening to an unabridged audio production versus reading the actual text; I’m just going to enjoy the damn book.

The first Gibson novel I ever “read” was Virtual Light way back in the days when books on CD were a novelty but books on cassette were abundant at the local library and I was still driving a hand-me-down ’77 Mercury Marquis (ride-engineered by Lincoln-Mercury). My 30-minute commute to and from work was the perfect time to catch up on my reading, and I would go to the library check out any of the Recorded Books audiobooks if Frank Muller was the narrator. Unfortunately, Frank Muller was severely injured in a motorcycle accident several years ago and is no longer able to narrate; Spook Country is narrated by Robertson Dean. I’ve only listened to about 10 minutes of the first disc, so I can’t render even a partial review at this time, except to say that Dean seems like a good narrator.

Skein of Shadows by The Wandering MenSkein of Shadows by The Wandering Men is a book I’ve mentioned here before. At last year’s Con on the Cob I interviewed one of the authors, Brannon Hollingsworth, then pre-ordered a signed copy. The book arrived in the mail just before I went on The Great December Information Detoxification and I had every intention of reading it while on my vacation to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. As usual, I managed to get distracted by a host of other stuff and I find myself just over halfway through the book.

Skein of Shadows is five short works, each by a different author, that tell a single story. I really enjoyed “Vendetta”, “Fiend Fighter” and “Seaborn Sentinel” (by Nathan Ellsworth, Davis Riddle and Brannon Hall, respectively), but “The Bonds That Bind Us” by Corey Blankenship feels disconnected and has really slowed me down, to the point where I don’t look forward to picking the book up and continuing where I left off. This is unfortunate, because I’m very curious about the final story in the book, Brannon Hollingsworth’s “Tenet’s Tale”.

I Am America (And So Can You!)I Am America (And So Can You!) by Stephen Colbert is one of those rare books—along with The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Presents America (The Book): A Citizen’s Guide to Democracy Inaction—for which I’ll break my “no hardcovers” rule; the books just work better as hardcovers. Plus it was a Christmas gift.

I Am America is one of those books that can easily be read in little bits over the course of a few months, which is exactly what I’ve been doing. The humor is an extension of what Colbert does Monday through Thursday on The Colbert Report, complete with margin notes that duplicate the ironic bullet points on “The Wørd”.

What I Like To Read (and Why)

  • Science Fiction – No surprise there. As a child of Star Wars I tend to prefer the more fantastical sci-fi to the hard stuff. I’m in the definite majority minority of people who prefer Kevin J. Anderson’s Star Wars novels to those written by Timothy Zahn. Speaking of Anderson, I also like the Dune stuff he’s written with Brian Herbert, which is probably cause for the hardcore Frank Herbert fans to burn me as a heretic.
  • Fantasy – Again, this isn’t a big shocker. I think the first fantasy novel I read was Azure Bonds by Kate Novak and Jeff Grubb, which I picked up thinking it would help me beat The Curse of the Azure Bonds game for my Apple //GS. No such luck. Not long after that I started reading the Dragonlance Chronicles by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman. Stephen King’s Dark Tower series also falls into this category, as do the Harry Potter novels, which I loved to the last (more than I can say about Dark Tower, unfortunately).
  • Mystery/Thriller – It’s probably not fair to lump these two genres together into one, but when you’re writing your own list you should feel more than free to separate them. I read plenty of Agatha Christie (and before that Carolyn Keene and Franklin W. Dixon) in my youth, but I don’t read much in the way of pure mystery anymore. Instead, I go for stuff like the Agent Pendergast series by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child.
  • Horror – I read plenty of Stephen King, Robin Cook and Dean Koontz in my post-adolescent years, and I do enjoy a good vampire novel now and again (though most of those probably fall into the Fantasy genre). I read most of a Lovecraft short story collection last year, but H.P. can be a difficult slog.
  • Non-Fiction – Every once in a while I pick up a random non-fiction tome, such as Holley Bishop’s Robbing the Bees: A Biography of Honey—The Sweet Liquid Gold that Seduced the World or Daniel Schorr’s Staying Tuned: A Life in Journalism. Come to think of it, NPR seems to drive a lot of my non-fiction reading.
  • Chuck Palahniuk – I have no idea what genre this guy writes in, but I love it.

You can always see what I’m reading (as well as what I plan to read and what I’ve recently read) over at GoodReads.com.