High Summer Read-a-thon Wrap-up

I was and am still behind on my reading for July, but I did get some quality reading in for the High Summer Read-a-Thon (#HSreadathon) last week. This is a read-a-thon coordinated over at Seasons of Reading, and they also have a Facebook group for discussion.

The first books I finished were ones that I had already started. 2016 Fourth Annual Battle of the Bards Poetry Contest is a collection of finalist and honorable mention poems from the local library’s contest. (My entry is on page 14.) The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North is something like what you might get if you were to ask John le Carré to reboot Groundhog Day. Big Magic is a refreshing take on the “just do it” genre of self-help books for creatives and makes me want to read something else by Gilbert.

Later in the week I started Promises, Promises by L-J Baker and Wages of Rebellion by Chris Hedges. I have yet to finish either one. I’m not really in the right frame of mind for Baker’s screwball sense of humor right now, and reading Hedges during this election season, while a smart thing to do, is a scary and depressing thing to do. I really should find some middle literary ground right now. Maybe a nice cozy mystery or a fun steampunk adventure.


I Am the 1 Percent

On Goodreads, anyway.


If you say so.

I’m still not entirely sure how they calculated this, though, and chances are they will never reveal their algorithm. They’re Amazon, remember? And I still remember how Amazon’s recommendations algorithm used to think, based solely on my age and gender, that I was a rabid fan of all things Barney the Purple Dinosaur. It’s a bit ironic that I called them out on this in one of my most-liked reviews. With a whopping four likes, it’s tied with my review of Garfield Minus Garfield.

But I won’t pretend that I’m not pleased with this bit of recognition for something that has become an important part of my literary life, so thank you for that, Otis & Elizabeth. I’ve long kept a private reading journal, and I enjoy having this platform where I can share (some of) my (hopefully properly filtered) thoughts with and connect with other book people.

And they have stats!! I love stats. They are so much fun to play with. (One of my favorite grad-school reading assignments was a book called How to Lie with Statistics.) I’m sure I knew before today that there were various personal Goodreads stats available to me, but this is the first time I clicked the little link at the top of my “My Books” page and looked around. Interesting stuff. And it’s given me some ideas for adjusting how I enter and maintain my data there in order to make the stats cleaner and more useful to me.

I’m also a little more committed now to clicking the like button without overthinking it. My brain is a huge fan of overthinking, so this will take some effort, but it will be worth it. I think.

With My Eyes

I belong to an online salon, and one of its other members recently posed the following question: What’s your favorite way to read? He was not pleased when some of us answered that our preferred reading mode was with our eyeballs. I can’t speak for the others, but I wasn’t trying to be a smart-ass, honest.

It’s just that “way to read” is pretty vague, and I didn’t feel like analyzing all the options, so I went with a broad choice: with my eyes, as opposed to with my ears or with my fingers. I have tried several times to learn braille, as I have had vision problems since childhood and very nearly lost my vision in one eye a few years ago, but I thoroughly suck at it. I have come to appreciate audio-books, but listening is still something I have to work at. On the other hand, I’ve been reading with my eyeballs since I was three and am pretty much incapable of ignoring text, so “with my eyes” is the clear winner. I haven’t actually tried reading with my tongue or my nose, but I don’t anticipate that the results would be encouraging.

I do read e-books, and I have three Kindles if you count my phone (which also boasts at least two other e-reader apps), but in most situations I much prefer to have a dead-tree version. (Of those, I possess…well, let’s just call it more than three.) Even for travel, when mass is an issue.

Part of it is nostalgia, true. I love having tangible reminders of my favorite reading experiences and author events.

The smell of antique books takes me back to my grandparents’ home in St Joe. Grandpa had an estate sale addiction hobby and never failed to return with at least one box of books. Their two-story foyer/stairwell was lined floor-to-ceiling with shelves crammed full of books, and Grandpa always made sure I left with a fresh supply of reading material.


One corner of the library after my parents moved out and put the house on the market.


My own childhood home also had a library, and I loved organizing my shelves (and everybody else’s), so it’s no surprise that I was also a student librarian in middle school. But my preference for “real” books also has a basis in practicality. I like to be able to flip back to earlier passages, scan ahead to see if a boring book picks up steam, scribble in the margins, puzzle over previous readers’ bookmark choices, build Christmas trees out of them…. IMG_20151225_170753 And don’t forget BookCrossing!


Just one of the book buffets at the 10th Anniversary BookCrossing Convention in Washington, DC.

I’ll admit it, my inner smart-ass was tempted to answer with “hanging upside down from a railway bridge.” I can read just about anywhere, which my mother appreciated when I was a child. As long as she could stick me in a corner with a book, I’d stay out of trouble. And I’m the one who shows up at the 4th of July picnic with a flashlight and a book. In truth, though, I prefer sitting in my blue armchair next to the fireplace for reading. IMG_20150917_191801 I bought it specifically for that purpose. I was wandering through IKEA with no actual furniture-buying intent (I go primarily for the frozen Swedish pancakes), but I needed to sit for a bit (hey, IKEA can be physically taxing), and the chair I selected turned out to be perfect for reading.

Oh, who do I think I’m kidding? I was at IKEA to buy bookshelves.


IKEA calls this a TV stand. ::smh::

My Reading Challenge for 2016

If you have been reading my 2015 book reviews (yes, sorry, still working to catch up on those), you may have noticed that I have been noting which ones meet which PopSugar Reading Challenge criteria. Soon I will begin reviewing 2015 reads that did not meet any of those criteria. So I started keeping a list of criteria they did meet, and those will form my own personal reading challenge for 2016.

I’m not quite done writing the reviews, but here are all of the categories:

  1. A book in which a character dies – Bird Box
  2. A book featuring a prisoner – The Diabolical Miss Hyde
  3. A book set in a retirement community
  4. A book set in a place I know well – A Bad Day for Pretty
  5. A book set in a capital city – Partners in Crime
  6. A book set on another planet
  7. A book with multiple POV characters – The Vintage Teacup Club
  8. A book set on an island – Partners in Crime
  9. A book featuring a country house setting – We Were Liars
  10. A book featuring a cat – The Artistic Cat
  11. A book club selection – Bird Box
  12. A book about a royal personage – The Nightingale
  13. A book featuring a mythical figure – The Secret History of Wonder Woman
  14. The first book in a series – A Darker Shade of Magic
  15. A book whose author has died – The Wit & Wisdom of Mark Twain
  16. A book published in the 21st century – Bird Box
  17. A book featuring Scotland Yard – Partners in Crime
  18. A book borrowed from the library – The Big Four
  19. A book written in the second person – The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up
  20. A book with horse-drawn carriages – The Diabolical Miss Hyde
  21. A book with footnotes – The Murder of Roger Ackroyd
  22. A book about the end of the world as we know it – Bird Box
  23. A book with feminist themes – A Darker Shade of Magic
  24. A book featuring an amusement park – Joyland
  25. A book featuring an ancient artifact – A Darker Shade of Magic
  26. A book set in Africa – The Nightingale
  27. A book featuring a bookstore
  28. A book with a queer protagonist – Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls
  29. A fictional tale about a real person – The Diabolical Miss Hyde
  30. A book with a character who has superpowers – A Darker Shade of Magic

Please feel free to recommend titles that qualify for these challenges! You are of course welcome to join in this reading challenge, but there is no formal sign-up process. If you like, you can post your updates in the comments here.

How I Spent My Mile Hi Con: Saturday

By some miracle, I managed to wake up and make myself presentable in time to grab a bagel and some juice at the Kaffeeklatsch sponsored by Who Else! Books/Broadway Book Mall. I think I even managed a few coherent sentences for Dave Boop and MHC Toastmaster Ian Tregillis. Then I set about perusing the art show and melting my plastic in the dealers’ room.

After purchasing various books and baubles, I caught part of the Researching Fiction panel featuring S Jackson, TL Morganfield, R Owens, J Strickland, and J Van Pelt. They had some good suggestions for resources, time management, and avoiding info dumps. Of those three, I think the time management is the hardest for me to do effectively. I am constantly going off on tangents in my research. Sometimes that is beneficial, but I am getting better about focusing on the writing and inserting flags to alert me when I need to go back and hunt down specific information.

Then I spent the afternoon flitting in and out of panels between monitoring my bids in the art auction. Some highlights were an Hour with Author GoH Catherynne M Valente, The Much-Maligned Happy Ending Defended by Connie Willis, and Beyond Brass and Goggles (featuring S Chambers, Guy De Marco, J Heller, Sam Knight, and David Riley). I had been stressing out quite a bit over the fact that I don’t have much in the way of advanced scientific knowledge and was worried that it would reduce my credibility as a steampunk writer. It was nice to hear that the steampunk genre still has a pretty broad spectrum of what degree of scientific detail and feasibility is required. The key seems to be to pay attention to consistent world-building in the first place. There’s a reason steampunk is considered alternate history, after all.

I wrapped up my evening with Positions on Writing Sex, a panel featuring Paolo Bacigalupi, H Bell, AK Davis, R Owens, and C Valente. This was a fascinating discussion of what can be included in YA and New Adult fiction (pretty much anything these days), what makes a sex scene effective (or not), and what the sudden popularity of 50 Shades of Grey means for the genres of romance and erotica (not much, since it is neither). This discussion gave me a lot to think about, both as a writer and as a woman, so you may see another blog post on that from me before very long.

Tomorrow I plan to post my Sunday MHC recap, and then I’ll be hunkered down for NaNoWriMo, but I hope to post updates as I explore a completely alien world: Reality TV!