Readathon tallies

Well, the Readathon is over is over for this spring, and it was my first go at it.

My tallies are:

Behind the Mask, a short story collection on a theme of superheroes. 108 pages to complete the read in progress

The Cloud Versus Grand Unification Theory, a poetry collection. 49 pages to complete the read in progress.

Taking the Titanic, one of the Bookshots books from James Patterson and Scott Slaven. I listened to just over an hour of the audiobook, with less than an hour to go.

Toru: The Wayfarer Returns by Stephanie R Sorenson. It’s a steampunk novel set in 1850s Japan, before the rest of the world forced Japan out of it’s Shogun imposed isolationism. I started this one after finishing off the two books I was already reading, and I hit page 176.

As well, I have a pulp novel that I read in the bathtub (a favorite relaxer), and I read about 30 page of it.

So, just over 360 pages, and 1/3 of a short audiobook. Not bad, considering I did get a good night’s sleep in the second half of the 24 hours.

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24-Hour Readathon, anyone?

Tomorrow is the twice annual Dewey’s 24 hour readathon, which is something I’ve never tried doing before.  We’ll see how far I can get. For my location (Ottawa, Canada), it goes from 8am Saturday to 8am Sunday. Thankfully, they give the option of taking breaks for food and sleep. I don’t know that I’ll make it a full 24 hours, but it gives me a chance to catch up on some reading.

As the day goes on, I’ll be adding updates here.

8am: And we are off. I am starting the day with two books in progress: A book of poetry and a book of superhero themed short stories, both through Netgalley.

9am: I read 5 poems (don’t want to read too many at a time)  and 2 short stories in hour one.

10am: 6 more poems and 3 short stories. I’ll definitely finish these two books today.

11 am: more poems, and 2 more short stories. There’s only 20 pages left in each book. Time to take a break for food, and maybe a walk with an audio book.

12pm: Well, I got the food, but took a shower instead of a walk. But I have finished the book of short stories  (Behind The Mask). Now to finish the poetry book.

1pm: The poetry book is now finished (putting me over 150 pages so far) and I have started a steam punk novel set in Japan.

2pm: 20 pages into the new book, and I am at Broadway Bar and Grill for lunch. Chicken Quesadilla with fries, followed by ‘monkey tails’ for desert

3pm: Stopped at the library on the way home to pick up a book on reserve. Now the hockey game is on, which makes great background to reading.

4pm: I am now 25% through the steam punk novel. I did take a break to read a little fanfiction. But I’m getting rather bleary eyed and the hockey game is tied (go Senators!), so it time for a short nap of an hour or so.

6pm: okay, I needed that nap. And when I got up, the game was still tied, and about to go into overtime. 

7pm: The steam punk novel is at 35%, and I have also listened to an hour of an audiobook  (one of James Patterson Bookshots.com,  so it’s only 3 hours long, and much shorter when listened to at 2x speed)

8pm: It’s been 12 hours, and I have read 250 pages, as well as listened to an hour of an audiobook.  The current book is now at 40%. I doubt I’ll make it up til midnight,  let alone 8am tomorrow,  but it’s been a hell of a ride so far.

9pm: A nice little break for a soak in a hot tub, and a little fanfiction reading as a palate cleanser (like a bowl of ice cream or potato chips) 

10pm: I am at 50% of the current book, and I am losing steam. Still 300 pages, nearly half an audiobook and some fanfiction is pretty darn good for a day, and there is still time in the morning, when I get up.

Bed time…

7am: I’m up and doing one last push.

8am: I read another 50 pages in the novel, hitting the 71% mark. Not bad.

Tie-ins don’t all suck

30139665When I was teenager, I read a lot of tv/movie tie-ins, mainly in the Star Trek universe. It was the heyday of the tie-in. Then they went through a period of time where they were churned out by writers who didn’t have the chops that I expected. They read like they were just produced to cash in on fandom. Even a lot of the Star Wars books (which were at the higher end of the tie-in novels, since for the longest time they were the replacement for the third trilogy, before Disney bought the franchise.

And I guess that over time I just lost interest in them. That may need to change. The Librarians and the Mother Goose Chase is the second novel based on the very fun tv series The Librarians (spun off from a series of tv movies that I have not had the chance to see).

The concept of the series is of a secret organization that protects the world from magical artifacts by collecting them and storing them away in The Library (think a magic version of the series Warehouse 13). The series is a lot of fun, mainly because it never takes itself too seriously. You have Flynn, the rather manic Librarian, and his Guardian Eve, who used to work in anti-terrrorism. Then there are the three new Librarians, still in training: Jacob Stone (a rough type who publishes scholarly papers under a variety of pseudonyms), Cassandra Cillian (a mathematician with a brain tumour that is killing her), and Ezekial Stone (a rather sardonic young master thief). In the first season, the villains unleashed wild magic on the world, and it is continuing to have a wide-ranging effect (including the Librarian becoming the Librarians)

One of those effects has now impacted the Mother Goose treaty. It’s been safely stored away, but now it has been stolen, and three descendants of the original Mother Goose have been targeted. They also have a connection to the three parts of the original book of Mother Goose rhymes, which is really a book of spells, and the villain wants to use it to destroy the universe and create a new one (I was never quite sure why this was the goal, but oh wall). Oh, and Flynn has disappeared. Again.

Needless to say, each of the trainees teams up with one of the descendants (Ezekiel with a non-nonsense farmer’s wife/children’s librarian, Stone with the hot university professor, Cassandra with a tree-trimmer/aspiring rapper), while Eve goes after the central threat, and they all come together in the end.

This would have made an excellent episode of the series, and the writing pulls the reader along in a light and breezy way. It even managed to surprise me in a couple of places. As near as I can tell, Greg Cox writes only tie-ins, and while I am tempted to read some of his other tie-in novels, I would also love to see something completely original from him.

Still, by the time I was half-way through the book, I had put a reserve on the first book at the library and should be getting it next week. Beyond that, I look forward to the third book of this trilogy.

What am I reading now

As usual, I am working on multiple books

  1. Library book: Echoes in Death by JD Robb. I’ve been reading this series for more than a decade. I usually can’t hang onto a series that long. I eventually get tired of a series, with the same characters over and over again. And while this series has had a few stinkers, I keep grabbing the latest volume from the library when it is released. Halfway through.
  2. NetGalley: Behind the Mask, an anthology of superhero stories from Meerkat Books. I went for this mainly based on Seanan McGuire (and her story was fantastic), but I’m enjoying the majority of the stories so far. One third done.
  3. NetGalley: The Cloud Versus Grand Unification Theory, a book of poems by Chris Banks coming out this fall. This part of my plan to expand my readings. Poetry is something I haven’t read much of since it was inflicted on me in high school. This one looked interesting, and as I read, while it isn’t what I traditionally think of as poetry, it is creating definite feelings as I go on. About one quarter done.
  4. Library Audiobook: Death of a Gossip/Death of a Cad by MC Beaton. ┬áThis is another long-running mystery series, but one I’ve never tried before. And since the library had a downloadable audiobook of the first two volumes, I thought I’d give it go. Just started.

Audiobooks: Journey to Munich

32962722This was my first shot at a Maisie Dobbs book, which is mining Alan Furst territory by dealing with the period between the two world wars. In this book, the series character, Maisie, a recent widow, is approached to travel to Munich (the title kinda tells you about that) to collect a genius/publisher who was arrested and thrown into Dachau, which I never realized was on the outskirts of Munich.

Apparently the Nazis (we are in 1938, so the Nazis are in complete control, and about to invade Austria) insist that a family member collect the man, and since his only living relative is a daughter dying of tuberculosis, Maisie is recruited to go in her place. Since she is finally coming out of the funk she’s been in since her husband’s death and her resulting miscarriage, Maisie agrees. And she also agrees to a side mission from a powerful man to find his daughter, who has run off from her husband and child and landed in Munich, and convince her to return to the safetly of England. The complication is that Elaine is the cause of the death of Maisie’s husband, since she was supposed to be the test pilot for the plane that crashed and killed him after he took her place when she didn’t show up.

All in all, the story was very competent, as was the reader. I did find one element at the end a little problematic, since Maisie made a confusing choice that seemed to be designed to let her see a Nazi officer be brutal, since he’d been almost sympathetic up until that point of the story. There’s also no real resolution to the murder of a Nazi that Elaine was sleeping with and that she was witness to. Why was he killed? Who did it? There were hints, but nothing definite.

The most successful aspect of the book was the portrait of a city under Nazi control, knowing that war is coming. Occasionally it gets a little heavy-handed (the little German girl and Jewish girl playing together in secret because they can’t do so openly), but it was still effective.

While, I don’t feel an urge to go back and read the earlier books in the series, I have reserved the digital audiobook of the next book from the library.

Canada Reads 2017 Book 4

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I’m still trying to figure out how this book made it onto the Canada Reads 2017 list, let alone to the final two. Don’t get me wrong; Company Town is a solid, enjoyable SF novel. It could also, if you squint, tie into the whole ‘missing and murdered aboriginal women’ controversies in Canada these days (for the Americans, this is close to being our ‘black lives matter’). It also has a look at what people would like to see for sex workers (unions, reps, bodyguards).

The central story is of Hwa, a very tough woman who is the only person in the town (an oil rig in the Atlantic) without enhancements that can be manipulated by outsiders is hired to be a bodyguard to the youngest son of the Lynch family, that has just bought the rig. At the same time, someone has started killing sex workers.

Everything chugged along until the climax. When the ultimate villain is finally revealed, I was scratching my head wondering if we’d met the character before. Completely unmemorable. And I’m still not sure just what she/he is. The whole ending, from the elevator to the last page, was rather muddle. I liked the 250 pages up to then, but the ending dropped my rating.

Far more successful was the romance subplot. Daniel was an interesting character, and they manage to work a slow move towards a relationship without Hwa wallowing in ‘why oh why would he be interested in me?’. She does have some of that, but definitely no wallowing. The heir she is bodyguarding was also a very likeable kid without being saccharine.

So, having read four of the Canada Reads 2017 book (only The Break left to go), I can firmly say, this one is the bottom of the list for me. However, as just a science fiction novel, it was a worthy read. Except for the confusion at the end.

My current rankings for Canada Reads:
1. The Right To Be Cold
2. Nostalgia
3. Fifteen Dogs
4. Company Town

I still play to read The Breach, but probably not immediately. I have a number of other books to finish on a deadline. NetGalley, Library, etc.

Canada Reads

Well, I’m a little late getting to this, but Canada Reads came to an end.

Day 1

I was a little surprised that The Break was the first book eliminated, since from what I’ve heard of the book (it’s the last one I have to read, and the only one I haven’t started yet), it’s just the sort of book that the competition loves. A crime, the lives of witnesses, native point of view. And yet, out it went

Day 2

Nostalgia was the next to go. I actually really enjoyed this one. It was slow starting, but the ideas started coming together midway through the books, and in the end, it had a lot of meaning in relation to the present

Day 3

The Right To Be Cold wasn’t so much of a surprise. Personally, I thought this was an very important book to read, but from the first day, it was clear that the panellists didn’t understand the book. They were focused on it being a book about climate change, and didn’t like having all the other elements (memoir, pollution, colonialism, etc) in it. To me, that was painfully short-sighted. As well, there was one panellist who complained that the writing was too difficult for the average reader in Canada. Sigh.

Day 4

So in the end, it came down to the magic-realism (Fifteen Dogs) and straight sf (Company Town). I’m nearly finished Company Town, and while it’s a really good book, it just isn’t what I would consider a Canada Reads winner. As a result, I wasn’t surprised at all when Fifteen Dogs won. And for the panellist who wanted something… easier for Canada, a book that is less that 200 pages is just what he wanted. Personally, I think that’s short-sighted. Canada Reads should pick something that informs and challenges, along with entertaining the public.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think that Fifteen Dogs is completely unworthy of the title, I just think that pretty much any of the others (other than Company Town) would have been a better winner.

Still, Canada Reads is over for another year. It will be interesting to see what contends next year.

The Themis Files

25733990The Themis Files is a series that I picked up the first book based only on the descriptions I was hearing: In the style of World War Z (a story told through interviews), follow a girl who falls into a hole and lands in the palm of a giant hand that turns out to belong to a giant robot.

To be honest, I was expecting something more like the children’s movie Iron Giant, but I got giant robots and politics and war, told through interviews and files. The girl is quickly moved to adult, and works with a mysterious government person to find all the parts of the robot, which were scattered around the world. The search turns deadly at times. Then comes the quest to find people who are capable of piloting the robot. The military is heavily involved, and then international politics. And once pilots are found, an unethical biologist tries to experiment on them in order to ‘create’ more pilots. Definitely not Iron Giant.

30134847With the second novel, we go even further. It’s nearly ten years later, and the world has (mostly) come together, with Themis (the giant robot) primarily used as a peacekeeper and propaganda device. But now, new robots start appearing, and they are anything but peaceful. As well, one of the acts against the pilots of Themis in the previous book bears fruit (almost literally).

And even though book one was nothing like what I expected, I was honestly shocked by events in book two. Especially several deaths that I would never have thought possible. This book also ended on more of a cliffhanger, leaving me anxious for book three. Sylvain Neuvel is proving himself a writer to watch.