reading challenges

Reading resolutions

I can’t possibly resolve to read more. I will have to either quit my job or stop sleeping. But while that option is out, I can resolve to read differently.

I don’t want to make resolutions like ‘I will only read women authors’. Instead, I think my resolutions should be more like ‘I will read fewer/none white straight cis dudes’. Because I can resolve to read only women authors, but should I not also read gender-nonconfirming/non-binary/trans folks? Let us not make our reading resolutions binary.

I want to read more POC authors. I read a bunch in 2015, but not nearly enough (especially given how much I read).

I want to read more speculative fiction. It’s my original love, and it’s been somewhat neglected in 2015.

I want to read more short stories.

And yes, I will be doing Read Harder challenge 2016.

We’ll see how this works. We’ll also see how this works with whatever ARCs and galleys publishers throw at me.

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On reading challenges (or lack thereof)

Reading challenges are not my jam. They normally don’t pack enough actual ‘challenge’ for me. I read too much (#bookbrag). Or I forget about them. It’s occasionally fun to do a themed month (hello, vintage sci-fi month in January), but mostly I get distracted by yet another shiny galley or cover and wander off to read for hours without any requirements or readathons.

IMG_0655I did, however, pick up the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge list at the Read Harder book group in my city (there might be one in yours!). The purpose of this list is to make you read more widely, to pick up books you normally would not pick up. There are obviously a few categories where I would like to put down ‘see attached spreadsheet’ (graphic novels, LGBTQ lit, sci-fi), but there are four that I am missing completely (I feel rather guilty about missing an author from Africa; I can name at least five off the top of my head, yet I read exactly zero books by African authors this year). And while you can use the same book for multiple categories, I am a reading overachiever and aim to avoid this. Audiobooks are hard for me because I don’t have a commute and also forget to pay attention when listening, at least with fiction. I might try non-fiction and pretend it’s a long podcast. Romance novels aren’t particularly difficult, I just don’t read them, which is basically the exact situation this reading challenge is supposed to rectify.

I also don’t read self-help books. Not because I think I don’t need help (or that I am beyond it), I just can’t stand most of self-help literature. So I am sort of cheating and listing Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson as a self-help book. It technically is. It’s helping me right this moment by saying that having irrational fears and depression most of the time is not weird. Plus, there is this amazing chapter titled ‘Things My Father Taught Me’ that is chock-full of useful life advice such as ‘Always shoot first. Because bears don’t shoot. They just eat you. You’ll never win if you wait for the bear to get the first shot. This is all basic hunting 101.’ I am Canadian, I feel like this is advice I can use.

Alternatively, I might listen to Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed on audio. Because that’s also good advice.

A feeble attempt to decimate my ARC pile

The ARC situation at home is once again out of control. I attempted to make neat stacks out of ARCs and galleys, which made them look even more intimidating and despair-inducing. So I just picked a handful that I am planning on tackling in the next week or so. Let us assume this is 1/10th of my ARC collection (that’s probably a lie, but let’s pretend I’m bad at math). If I get through this pile, I will successfully achieve my first ARC collection decimation.

This initial pile is mostly new stuff:

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Four are bookstore events-related, so you can say they are work-related. That sounds a bit silly, since anything book-related is also work-related. A few are already out (but at least not in paperback!). Follow me as I attempt to tackle this ARC construction while being distracted and sidetracked by the re-read of the Dresden Files, new releases that look better than old ARCs, random ancient sci-fi that looks better than all of the above, and works of Turgenev that I always want to read when it’s summer and nice outside.

One Upon a Time VIII: The Steel Remains by Richard K. Morgan

Steel RemainsSometimes I have to overcome my bookseller’s instinct to sell you ALL THE BOOKS. Because let’s be honest, you don’t actually want all the books. You want a select set of books that were written just for you. You know, the ones where authors looked inside your brain and wrote down exactly what they saw.

So let me just say that if you can’t tolerate swearing, gruesome things, violence, or graphic sex scenes (though rather well-written, in this case) you probably won’t like The Steel Remains, the first book in Richard K. Morgan’s The Land Fit For Heroes trilogy. It’s rated R all the way. I’m not going to say ‘if you like’ such things, because honestly I don’t really ‘like’ gruesome stuff, but I can take quite a bit of it in my fiction. I do enjoy swearing if it’s done well (I’m Russian, I believe there is such a thing as the art of swearing).

Ringil is probably one of the best characters I’ve had the pleasure of knowing in fantasy literature. He is irreverent, cynical, and misanthropic. He is also queer. Not only is he queer (and fairly openly), he is queer in the world that does not tolerate that kind of, hrm, lifestyle choice. He is protected from some more drastic punishments by being a member of a noble rich family, but he is not protected (well, as much as a guy with a giant sharp sword is not protected) from insinuations and name-calling.

9780345493064The Steel Remains is a rather slow-moving volume. It’s also one big setup for more things to come. The dust jacket blurb leads you to believe the book is about some dark lord rising. In fact, we don’t get into even a mention of said dark lord until well into the book. Ringil is asked by his mother to assist in finding a family member sold into slavery. This is somewhat complicated by the fact that selling into slavery and prostitution is now legal, and Ringil can’t just go about bashing heads in to save his cousin (that doesn’t stop him, by the way). There are also mysterious attacks, some shadowy otherworldly forces, and a vanished race, all the good sword-and-sorcery (sworcery?) stuff. In fact, I quite enjoyed the world, and the book definitely satisfied my need to read about people poking each other with sharp implements.

The trilogy continues with The Cold Commands and concludes with The Dark Defiles, out in October. I am a big fan of authors finishing their series, so continuing to follow Ringil now seems even more attractive.

A couple of days ago, NPR had a post on what other fantasy works would make a great ‘Next Game of Thrones’ series. One of my bookgroup members pointed out that if HBO picked up The Land Fit For Heroes books, they wouldn’t have had to put in all the gratuitous sex scenes.

And thus I complete the first of five books I set out to read for Once Upon a Time VIII. Head over to Stainless Steel Droppings to discover Once Upon a Time participating blogs, or sign up yourself (it’s not too late).

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Once Upon a Time VIII: snowstorm, what snowstorm?

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Rejoice, magically and fantastically-inclined folk! It has come to my attention that Once Upon a Time Challenge has begun. It is hosted by Carl over at Stainless Steel Droppings to celebrate the beginning of spring and this year it lasts from March 21st to June 21st.

This is my first time participating, and I am going to use it wisely to read some really good fantasy or mythology. Or maybe I’ll just get some beer and sit reading sagas for three months. Or maybe I will finally read Little, Big (which currently holds the Longest On TBR Pile title at my house).

There are several participation tiers to suit a variety of tastes. I am going to take a somewhat easy route and do Quest the First.

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This means I’ll be reading at least 5 books that fit somewhere within Once Upon a Time categories. Here are some contenders at the moment (subject to change by the management):

1. Fox Woman by Kij Johnson

2. Way of Kings and Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson

3. Talus and the Frozen King by Graham Edwards

4. Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison

5. Little, Big by John Crowley (oh, why do I even try)

Basically, I am using this challenge as an excuse to read some good fantasy. I’ve been leaning rather science-fictionally lately, but I think my brain would enjoy reading some stuff with swords and spells that makes the peoples fall down!