Posts tagged ‘reading’

February 7, 2014

Book: The Shambling Guide to New York City.

Friday is supposed to be for my ‘Home’ posts, but it seems to be drifting in the direction of ‘Books’. However, that still seems fitting and so I’m happily going with it. In fact, the whole blog has become distinctly more book, magazine and paper orientated—whether that’s a sign of Winter hibernation or that I should just give in and write a blog about paper remains to be seen…

As I mentioned last week, I seem to have accidentally become a big fan of fantasy novels and so I found myself wandering in the fantasy section of Waterstone’s earlier this week, seeking a follow up book to The Night Circus, which I loved.

Sitting amidst all the gothic-looking fantasy novels was this book. I’ll admit that the cover quote from Scott Sigler did it for me. ‘If Buffy grew up, got therapy and found a real job, it would look like this’. I was obsessed with Buffy when I was away at agricultural college. I used to get it recorded (on VHS, no less) so that I could watch back to back episodes every time I came home. I bought all the box-sets, fan-books, action figures, magazines. I even queued to meet James Marsters but wasn’t able to stay long enough to actually see him; a fact which still makes me sad…

The Shambling Guide to New York City

Anyway, I digress. I bought Mur Lafferty’s urban fantasy novel ‘The Shambling Guide to New York City’ and, after a day, I’ve finished it. It’s brilliant. Fast-paced and contemporary, with the wry humour and wit that Buffy was great at, and a mix of comedic and slightly disturbing that only a novel containing zombies can probably manage. I love that she creates characters that I care about, even if they happen to be Death Goddesses, water sprites or vampires. It’s lots of fun and hugely engaging right from the start. I think that it would be a really good introduction to fantasy novels for those of you who might be as sceptical as I was about fantasy as a genre.

A whole series of ‘Shambling Guide’ novels set in different cities are planned with the second—set in New Orleans— to be released later this year; I already know that I will be waiting impatiently for its arrival.

What I really want to know, though, is why I’ve never heard of Mur Lafferty before? She’s ace. I’ve had a quick read of her blog and noticed that she’s a pod-caster so they’re next on my list…

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January 24, 2014

Discovering fantasy novels.

Planning a trip last year, I threw a few possessions into an overnight bag without really taking too much notice of them. Toiletries, clothes, a couple of books. One of those books was a gift that I’d had sitting on my shelf for over a year. A fantasy novel. I’d been curious of the choice when given it; I’d never expressed any real interest in fantasy. In fact, I was firmly of the opinion that fantasy novels were for Other People. People with enough time to read epic series with twelve volumes, learn about other worlds, giant family dynasties and, y’know, elves and stuff.  Clearly, I was basing my understanding of fantasy on a combination of Tolkien and Robin Hobb — only one of whom I’ve read anything by, in any case.

In a period of huge life change, I decided to get over myself and give the book —and, by association, my friend– the benefit of the doubt.  The book was Scott Lynch’s The Lies of Locke Lamora and it changed the way I feel about fantasy novels forever. I’ve since read Nick Harkaway’s Angelmaker,  the Glass Book series by G. W Dahlquist, Ben Aaronavitch’s PC Grant novels set in London, and I’m currently enthralled by The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.

Whether all of these books are fantasy is one matter. I’m reliably informed that Dahlquist’s books are steampunk, and I’m not sure how all of the authors would class their own works. Certainly they’re not all found in the fantasy section of Waterstone’s. Whether they’re fantasy, sci-fi, steampunk, magical, or a surreal mix of genres, it matters not. What they share is escapism from reality. One could argue that all fiction does that, and of course it does. But taking away the ‘normal’ world enhances that experience, even if the books are set on Earth, or even, in the case of Aaronovitch’s novels, in London.  It’s been something of a revelation to me. Now I’m one of the Other People, and very happy to have realised it. Whether I’ll ever get my head around Robin Hobb’s oeuvre is still in doubt, mind you…

Once I’ve finished The Night Circus, I don’t have a reading list. Now you know the kind of books I’ve been loving recently, I’d really love you to recommend a book for me!

What are you reading now? What books do you love? And what should I add to my reading list? 

January 9, 2013

2013 Goodreads Challenge.

Instead of doing a ‘here are my plans for 2013’ kind of post, I thought I’d write a handful of posts about individual things I’d like to do with my year. Today’s subject is my reading goal. Last year, I set myself a Goodreads Challenge to read 52 books in 2012.  I have utterly no idea what possessed me to think I could read a novel a week, given my other commitments, but I like to think it was with a sense of optimism, rather than sheer idiocy.

Anyway, to cut a long story short – which is probably a good thing, given the subject at hand – I failed in my attempts. I read 46 books, and about ten of those were children’s books as I reached December in a self-induced panic and decided that was the only way I’d get close to my goal. I read excellent children’s books, mind you. ‘Moominvalley in November’ is a thing of beauty that would be wasted on many children. Neil Gaiman’s ‘Coraline’ is so good it’s a ‘read-in-one-sitting’ kind of book. And whilst I didn’t really love the ‘Series of Unfortunate Events’ books that I read, I guarantee that they’d be loved by many people. So, it wasn’t time wasted.

What I came to realise about the whole exercise, as I wrote in my review of the year, was that although its important for me to set challenging goals, as far as reading fiction is concerned, I’m more interested in quality over quantity. And with that, I’ve decided that this year’s Goodreads Challenge will be 26 books. A figure I arrived at by the deep and meaningful thought process of cutting last year’s goal in half…

Alongside this has been a giant book cull. I’ve gone beyond clearing out the books that I don’t like and have now plucked up the courage to clear out books that I know, in my heart of hearts, I will never read. Even if I’ve bought them new and they’ve been sitting in my house for years, patiently waiting to be picked up. I’ve got rid of my copy of classics too, kept forever in a misguided belief that I should keep a copy of Hardy, or of Dickens. After all, I do not want to live in a world in which I could not buy a new copy –  or borrow from the library – if I so desired. And, in many cases, I know that I won’t.  I don’t actually like Thomas Hardy and so it’s highly improbable that I will want to read his work again. Even accepting that has been something of a relief.

Clearing out my house of unread and disliked books has brought a sense of freedom to my reading. No longer will I be taunted by dusty piles of unread fiction, or suffer from feelings of guilt over them. I read a wonderful article by Lesley Garner about how clearing your house of unfinished projects, unrealised ambitions and dreams gives you room and freedom to create new ones. This is how I feel about having cleared out all my books. As though I can start afresh with books I really want to read instead of feeling as though I should read them because they’re already in the house.

My new rules are thus: I will read one ‘big’ novel a month and one easier read. I will only buy one book at a time, and read it completely before buying the next. If I choose to keep that book, then I will operate a ‘one in, one out’ policy to prevent the claustrophobic feeling created from by having too many possessions crushed into my tiny house. And, I realise that 26 books is a little more than two a month, but I am optimistic. Or idiotic. I’ll leave that for you to decide…