Microblog Monday- reading and audiobooks

I have been listening to a few audiobooks recently. Partly because my old phone is now basically an mp3 player on our alarm clock and i also now have audible on my phone. So far it has been mostly re reads. I have been listening to various discworld books at night. They are quite good because the story is only part of the appeal, it is the insights and the characters that i enjoy, so i can listen until i fall asleep without worrying that i have missed something.

On my audible account i have started a couple of new books, but also listened to ones i read years ago. Listening is a very different experience from reading. I think i prefer rereading books in audio because of my other reading quirk.  I often (usually) will read the end of the book before the rest.  I need to have an idea of what is coming up to fully enjoy the book.  I don’t like overly suspenseful stories.

I find it really interesting that there has been such a boom in audiobooks recently.  Is it because we all now carry around portable players (phones) so we are used to listening? Or was there always this pent up demand that no one was catering for? My mum preferred to listen to books when we drove long distances, so consequently i “read”quite a few interesting books.  I can remember sneaking out to the car for the final tape of “far from the madding crowd” because we arrived home with about 20 minutes left. For a long time i preferred just to listen to music, but podcasts have lured me back.

A good narrator is important.  I am ambivalent about one author, i like her books, but the narrators she has don’t work for me and it is putting me off her books.

Reading challenge fail

I signed up for a reading challenge on Goodreads last year- 100 books.  That should have been easy- i read so much, or so i thought. I ended the year at 75 books or so.  Some of this is the fact that i don’t instinctively track on good reads, but maybe i am not reading as much.

So this year, i will try again, but i will also try to track my reading here.  Maybe that will help? I have already read a number of books- vacation plus train travel does that. Maybe a post for tomorrow.


Microblog Monday- book discovery

I recommended an author to someone at work last week, and today I got an email following up, plus with a commentary about struggling to find new authors.  It got me thinking about authors I recommend.  So some of the authors I reread, in no particular order

1. Connie Willis- she writes time travel and near future sci fi and science books.  Her books are either going to make you giggle( Bellwether or to say nothing of the dog) or sob (Passage or Doomday book). She is also a very slow writer. I went in once to place a preorder with my local sci fi and fantasy bookshop, they asked me where I heard of the new book (the Internet) and said a new book was predicted often, but appeared rarely.  It would be another two years!

2. Lois McMaster bujold.  I think I write about her books often.  Just go read them


3. Terry pratchett. I love the Discworld series. I have been reading them since high school, the early books are a bit tough, but the later ones are amazing.


4. Kate Baker – another author I recommend often. Time traveling cyborgs, a mysterious company manipulating human history and chocolates as the most intoxicating substance available.  The last couple of books do get weird.


What all of these authors do is make me reflect on what it means to be a human, to be in our world and what people are really like.  They are also about what brings out the best in people, what motivates us.  There are also people behaving badly.

In high school I had a friend who would reread Narnia every year.  A lot of the books by these authors are like that- series I return to periodically to remind myself to the power of books.

Any recommendations?

Microblog Monday- rereading

I have been slowly rereading the Harry Potter series over the past couple of months.  I started before Christmas and only finished this weekend.  This is in part because I read other books in between and around.

But it’s also because I slowed down on the last three.  They were harder to read, knowing what is to come.  Sadder too.

But it was nice to be able to read them in quick sequence, rather than over the years as they were released.  

I enjoy rereading books- sometimes experience has given me new insights, sometimes my reading pace has shifted and I pick up new things, sometimes knowledge of what is to come makes the story different.  But I know there are those who do not like to reread- my mum is one of those.  There are very few books she will reread!


Microblog Monday- reading material

Not sure what #MicroblogMondays is? Read the inaugural post which explains the idea and how you can participate too.

I have been rereading The Sharing Knife series by Lois McMaster Bujold.  It’s been a few years, while I love her work, this series is a bit different. It also has a strong theme around pregnancy (wanted and unwanted), miscarriage, pressure around fertility and Bujold staple- parenting/ taking responsibility. It’s fantasy and romance ( of a sort)

The first two books feature a traumatic ( and unnatural) miscarriage and some consequences of that.  The next two don’t have such a strong thread of that, but family responsibilities are still an ever present factor.

About halfway through the fourth ( and final) book there is a scene between the hero and the healer he is training with.  The reader and the main characters had previously learned that the healer and his wife had suffered a number of early miscarriages, until she divorced him, married another and had kids.  So he has had his fair share of infertility heartache.

The hero had just figured out his wife is pregnant ( she is the one who had the traumatic miscarriage) and is worried.  The healer says “Don’t let fear swallow all your happiness.  Don’t forget to take joy.” I think I need to put that on a card to remember on the bad days.

Boredom, things to do and the lack of free time

I have a very busy couple of weeks ahead of me (mostly my own scheduling) after quite a busy holiday.  For starters, tomorrow night there are three events that I am or would like to participate. Only one of them is something I have officially said I will do- I signed up for a fun run/walk through work.  The other two are a wine tasting night by the same people who have been running all the other ones I have gone to, and a getting to know people dinner for the team I am playing on at the Masters (which I will be playing at next week).

This weekend is going to be a overscheduled fun time with at least two trips to the Gold Coast (Masters again), a quick visit to Ikea, another to the Valley (although we may have preempted that tonight at the grocery store) and some time at the food and wine show.  All things I want to do, but I have no time.  And I say I because while Greg will be coming along to these activities the only ones he has actively suggested are the trip to the Valley and Ikea.  It’s me that has overbooked.

I do this because I hate the feeling of being at home and doing nothing for weeks, but then when I am this busy all I crave is some down time to be bored in.

We live in an increasingly time poor society where people constantly say that they do not have enough time, yet we apparently find the time to spend on things such as Facebook (and the rest of the internets too) and tv.  Hmmm.  Perhaps it is a fear of being bored, we fill up our time with other things.  I miss not the actual boredom, but the space it gave to the day, and the time to do things.

I don’t read as much as I used to, and I don’t play as much with my electronic games thingies (GameBoy and DS) as I used to.  This is because both of those activities were things I did when I commuted by public transport.  They were essential to stave off the boredom of waiting for the train/bus and then the actual trip.  Now that I drive, neither is a good idea.  As to driving, there isn’t much that I can do that fills the space.  I am usually in the passenger side, but to read or play games would not be good.  The most space filling that I get is the 3 minutes of podcast I listen to between dropping Greg off and arriving at my work.  We listen to the radio for most of the trip, so we have an idea of the traffic, but those three minutes don’t require that.

I think that is why I feel so time poor- the space that used to be available for mindless and mindful things has gone, and I can’t replace it.

I really miss the reading, the chance to find new books.  Now I am lucky if I read a book or two a week.

Book Journal

One benefit to spending so much time at home sick, or at least medically suffering is that I do get the chance to read.  I have read quite a bit of late.

The first two lives of Lukas Kasha by Lloyd Alexander is a children’s book, about a village wastrel who doesn’t do much.  As the story begins he is provisionally employed by the carpenter to become his apprentice (Lukas appears to be a teen), and given some money as an article of good faith.  He takes the money down to the tavern, and is selected by a travelling showman for a demonstration.  His head is plunged into a bucket of water and he finds himself in another country, drowning in the sea.  He has dramatic adventures, as he is crowned king, avoids murder and sets out on a mission to avert war.  It’s entertaining, and familiar (that could be because I have read it before).  Good fun and an afternoon’s read.

Henry Reed’s Babysitting Service by Keith Robertson is another children’s book, part of a series about Henry Reed.  Henry is a diplomat’s kid, used to traveling the world.  His parents have decided he needs some experience of the US, so he spends his summers with his aunt and uncle in New Jersey.  He starts small businesses with a local girl his age to earn pocket money.  In this one he starts a babysitting service, and has to deal with obnoxious teens taking his customers, bratty kids and random acts of fate.  It is entertaining, but not as satisfying as the book above.

The Court of the Air by Stephen Hunt is a big book, 582 pages of fun.  It is weird, kind of a Dickens with fantasy and adventure story shoved in.  It starts with one orphan, Molly, heading back to poorhouse after being fired from her new job.  She is acquired by a high end brothel, but assassins soon come after her, and she must make her escape with a steam man.  The other orphan lives with his uncle, after being orphaned in an airship accident that also exposed him to the fey mist.  Both orphans have to set out both to survive and to help their country “Jackals” survive agasint the invading communist (its not called that, but that is what they are) armies that wish to bring back insect gods.  It is interesting, but very confusing, as  the description above may indicate.  It has taken me three years to get through the whole book.

The Truth by Terry Pratchett is a Discworld novel.  If you haven’t heard of Terry Pratchett you are probably from North America, where the publishers just don’t know how to handle him (their covers suck for starters).  He writes of an alternative world where science is replaced by magic and all myths are true.  And its funny!  This novel is about newspapers and journalism coming to the big metropolis of Ankh-Morpork, and the repercussions that follow.  This is one of the more entertaining discworld novels, and part of a recent move on his part to highlight certain societal elements we take for granted (newspapers, banks, the postal system and football).  Always worth a reread.

A lady of expectations by Stephanie Laurens is part of the Lester family quartet.  I have talked about the other three previously.  It is a fairly classic Regency romance.  Well off gentleman woos a respectable young lady, unfortunately she is under the impression he needs to marry money, and while she has a reasonable dowry, it isn’t enough she fears.  He has money, and must persuade her to marry him.  A secondary story about her cousin and her country beau is also part of the plot.  Okay, not brilliant, not awful.

The Puzzle Ring by Kate Forsyth is another children’s book, by an Australian.  It’s about a young girl who finds out that her father was an earl, before he disappeared a day after she was born.  She and her mother journey back to the ancestral castle in Scotland to deal with the family curse.  Some time travel back to Mary, Queen of Scots, some dealings with fairies and some growing up ensues.  She finds her father and reunites her family.  It is well written and entertaining and manages to squish in some history.

The Starthorn Tree, also by Kate Forsyth is a Fantasy novel.  Five children, from different races and backgrounds must join together to break the curse on the dying young Count.  If the curse is allowed to continue all of their peoples will suffer.  Good, another story about growing up and learning to understand other people.

DragonHaven, by Robin McKinley is a young adult book.  I really like this author, but her style in the last few books I have read has changed, it is trying to be too hip, too teenagerish, and it interferes with the story. Or I am not a teenagers anymore.  But I still love her earlier books.  This book tells the story of a kid who grows up next to a dragon sanctuary and one day accidentally adopts an orphaned dragon- which is highly illegal.  His efforts to hide the dragon, and ultimately return her to her place change the relationship between humans and dragons.  It is good, and interesting take on dragons, but I want more Damar instead.

The Dreams our Stuff is made of is a nonfiction book by Thomas M Disch about how science fiction has infiltrated our lives. It is an interesting look at the cultural, social, military and  scientific changes wrought by science fiction.  From a pulp area dominated by men writing for adolescent boys it is has become a major part of our lives, without anyone really thinking about it.  Very interesting, and some interesting points about the way we live now.

Declare by Tim Powers is kind of weird, but good.  Tim Powers is a very odd author, who comes up with some interesting ideas.  This is a spy novel, set in WWII and the early years of the Cold War, crossed with Arabian Nights.  Two spies, half brothers (unknowingly) battle it out to control the Djinn.  While both are English, one is working for the Soviets, and the other spends some time pretending to.  I did mention it was weird?  And quite engrossing.  Weirdest bit- author’s insistence that all events are plausible with real actions taken by the real world people included in the story.

Another young adult fantasy by an Australian, Finnikin of the Rock, by Melina Marchetta, is another coming of age story (aren’t they all?).  Exiled by the usurpation of his kingdom’s throne, blocked from accessing the country by a curse and with his father a prisoner in the mines, young Finnikin wanders the world with his guardian.  They try to plead the case for their countries exiled citizens and find them somewhere to live.  Their own country is walled off by a curse.  One night, Finnikin dreams that the young heir is still alive and that he must go to a religious house, where they meet a young exile who will help them.  All is not what it seems.  This was quite good, although there was a bit too much angst for me.

Making Money is another Discworld novel by Terry Pratchett, this time about the banks.  Published a couple of years ago, it has some quite pertinent thoughts on the value of money, and gold and what we really think when we put our money in banks.  Read it.

The last two books are Too many Crooks spoil the Broth by Tamar Myers, and Death of a Trickster by Kate Borden.  Both are thin murder mystery novels with a kitschy hook.  In one it is  Pennsylvania dutch setting and in the other a small New England town.  The Penn Dutch one includes recipes (part of a trend that includes scrapbooking mysteries, stitching mysteries and other hobbies).  Both were light, easy reading.  No challenge, no real thrills.

That is a significant chunk of my reading over the past week.