Thursday, June 21, 2007

Blog Goes Dark

Out to Australia. Back July 11th (and very jetlagged, I'm sure). With pictures. Lots of pictures.

Have a great three weeks, everybody!

Monday, June 18, 2007

Ah, the Joys of Travel

Yep, I'll be heading off-continent at the end of this week, never to be heard from again not to be heard from for the next three weeks, and I'm taking plenty of fresh paperback reading material for the flight. Newest at the top:

Tithe, by Holly Black - I've been looking for this book for months now, and all my bookstore ever had was Valiant and Ironside. Finally, success! I tracked it down on my weekly bookstore run today. I've heard really good things about this author and series, so I've wanted to read it for awhile.

A Countess Below Stairs, by Eva Ibbotson - stumbled across it at the bookstore last weekend. I love the author, though she's written for younger readers in the past; I'm interested to see how her style holds up here.

The Cry of the Icemark, by Stuart Hill - bought it at a bookfair some three months ago. Haven't gotten around to reading it yet.

That should keep me through a transpacific flight, shouldn't it?

Thursday, June 14, 2007


What can I say? I like to call attention to people. It's good practice for not calling too much attention to myself.

Ink Johnson, an astoundingly talented writer and one of the best friends anyone could hope for, has finally started a blog. And she'll probably have more interesting stuff to say than I do, all things considered. She has a bright future ahead of her, I assure you. (And as a critique partner, she's helping me with mine!)

So...go over and check her out. Please.


Happy Thursday.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Repeat Reading and Autobuys

First off, a huge Congratulations! for the winners, 20-Hour club members, and other finishers and participants of Mother Reader's 48-Hour Book Challenge is in order. I love it when people come together to do literary things.

During this weekend, when I was looking over my shelves for stuff I could read as I couldn't get to the library, I noticed a few interesting things about my bookshelf.

Oh no, you're thinking. Here she goes about that bookshelf again.

Well, yes. But I noticed there are three distinct categories of author represented there. What I tentatively call my single-title authors, repeat authors, and autobuys.

Does single-title here mean they've only published one book? Not necessarily. It just means that only one book caught my attention. This is the case with Susan Fletcher's Shadow Spinner, an interesting take on Scheherazade (though she tamed the spelling to Shahrazad for younger readers), and Meg Cabot's All American Girl, which I bought in an airport and loved, but haven't gotten around to getting the sequel yet. (And I think a friend of mine still has my copy, though she insists that she doesn't.) I haven't figured out exactly why these cases happen. Something to do with my eclectic tastes, I guess. Does anyone else see this happening to them? Any particular reasoning for it?

Repeat authors are those authors that I've bought two or more books from, or maybe all of a single series, but have stopped short of buying everything with their name attached. Examples would be Scott Westerfeld and his Uglies trilogy, which I think are the creepiest and coolest futuristic books I've ever read, and Jonathan Stroud's Bartimaeus Trilogy, which I've seen described as a "pessimistic vision of Harry Potter's magic released in the world," which doesn't do it justice in the least. I love those books so much I'll probably be giving away a set around October. Come to that, I'll probably be giving away a set of Uglies and the rest, too. Have a big trilogy-pimp giveaway.

(In all fairness, Scott Westerfeld's well on his way to being an autobuy for me, but with my sad lack of book funds at the moment, I'm just not there yet. And I'm waiting to see if Jonathan Stroud comes out with anything new, because the Bartimaeus books are an incredibly hard act to follow.)

And the last, the autobuys, are fairly obvious. If it has their name on it, I want it. Doesn't matter if it's subject matter I've never thought of as "me", sci-fi, historical, outright weird, whatever. I want it and I will buy it. Sometimes even in hardcover.

At the moment I have one true autobuy, one borderline, and two authors where buying the next in the series amounts to autobuying. The true one is Eoin Colfer (the Artemis Fowl books, Half-Moon Investigations, The Supernaturalist, The Wish List). I realized how in love with his voice and style I was when I picked up a new book by him off the shelf, read the first page, and bought it, despite its being in hardcover and the first person (which I can stand but don't exactly seek out). He's hilarious. It makes for fun reading. But he's not afraid to tug your heartstrings either.

Borderline would be Garth Nix (the Abhorsen Trilogy, the Keys to the Kingdom, the Seventh Tower) as there are several standalones (The Ragwitch and Shade's Children) that I haven't gotten my hands on yet, and I haven't bought his newest, Lady Friday, in hardcover, despite the nasty cliffhanger at the end of Sir Thursday. I've gotten used to nasty cliffhangers from this guy. I love his writing, but he's very different from Eoin Colfer. The Abhorsen Trilogy in particular is distinctly...dark. There's no other way to put it. The stuff is dark. That's why it's one of my top-three favorite trilogies of all time. (By now, I'm sure you can guess the others.) He does have quite a bit of humor in his writing, but it's pretty black.

My two one-series wonders are D.J. MacHale (Pendragon) and, of course, J.K. Rowling. I will go out and buy their newest books in hardcover on the day of release, but I'm hoping that once those series are done, they'll come back with more.

So. Big question after a big post: What makes an autobuy for you? What keeps you coming back to an author over and over? What can make you stop short of full-on fangirling (or fanboying, as the case may be) but still keep you with an author within one series or subgenre? What can keep you from buying any more of an author's books, even if you loved the first one?

On a mostly-unrelated note, Diana Peterfreund is volunteering a lot of really good basic knowledge for anyone in the publishing industry - part one and part two. Be sure to check it out!

Sunday, June 10, 2007

This Would Be Review #2

...but the second book I read was Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, so I think everyone who might read this is pretty familiar with it.

So I'll make this my final wrap-up/summary post instead.

48-hour period: 7 A.M. Friday to 7 A.M. Sunday
Hours spent reading/reviewing: Approximately 18
Books read: 2
Pages read: 1134

All in all, not groundbreaking, but not too shabby, either.

Good luck to those of you who are still going, and a tip of the hat to Mother Reader for arranging everything. This was fun.

Well, actually, it was more than fun. It was a kick in the pants for reading the likes of which I haven't seen in a long time. Most of the timed challenges I do are for writing - NaNoWriMo and the minichallenges involved in that, like 10-minute Word Wars and 10k Black Friday - but I think it's so, so important to remember to read other people's work once in awhile, keep the image of good storytelling fresh in your mind.

An afterthought, some hours later: Is it fair of me to be thoroughly embarrassed by what was apparently a lackluster performance? Oi. To all the 2k- and 3k-pagers, I salute you. Seriously.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Review #1

Well, eight hours into the day (sadly, only four of those were reading hours), and I've finished my first book of the challenge.

Title: Sir Thursday
Author: Garth Nix
Length: 344 pages

Sir Thursday is the fourth book in the sequence called The Keys to the Kingdom, in which Arthur Penhaligon, an asthmatic poster boy for "in the wrong place at the wrong time," has been anointed the Rightful Heir of, well, everything. In the past three books, he's faced down Mister Monday, Grim Tuesday, and Drowned Wednesday with assorted helpers who pop in and out at random, with the exceptions of Suzy Turqoise Blue, a.k.a. Monday's Tierce (the hour midway between Dawn and Noon. Knew that? I didn't.), and Dame Primus, who is the embodiment of the Will of the Architect of All, along with an assortment of officials known as Dawns, Noons, and Dusks. It's a shame that such beautiful, powerful Denizens of the House that is the epicenter of the universe are usually trying to kill him. Throughout these battles, poor Arthur has amassed the titles of Master of the Lower House, Lord of the Far Reaches, and Duke of the Border Sea, and the Mastery of Three of the Seven Keys to the Kingdom.

Despite using far more than its allotment of capital letters and inherent surrealism at most parts, I have enjoyed this series, and Sir Thursday was especially clever in its use of otherworldly military tactics on a very interesting battlefield. Sir Thursday's command is known as the Great Maze, a massive grid of square-mile tiles, a thousand miles to a side. Besides the handfull of fixed locations, these tiles move to new positions every night at sunset as preappointed by Sir Thursday himself. Don't get stuck on the borders at sunset. For those of you familiar with the Harry Potter universe, think severely botched Apparition. For everyone else, the phrase "death by dismemberment" should suffice. It's also very good for splitting up large companies of enemies, which is exactly the use it's been put to.

And while Arthur has been pushed, prodded, and pulled by the hair into the midst of battle (somehow the poor kid managed to get himself drafted into the Glorious Army of the Architect, commanded by Sir Thursday and based in the Great Maze), back on Earth, his friend Leaf has something else to contend with entirely - a form of House-specific monster, called Nithlings, masquerading as Arthur and spreading a mold to everyone around him that, when fully formed, transforms the host into a total puppet under the Nithling's command. Now, Leaf's popped up a few times on Monday and Tuesday and had a very large part in Drowned Wednesday, when she decided she wanted the adventures Arthur was having and followed him into a pretty nasty situation involving pirates, slaves, and extremely hungry Leviathans. She's been thoroughly cured of her need for adventure by this point, but now she's actually needed. Her job is to make sure that the puppet-master Nithling is stopped. Fun, huh?

These books are particularly interesting when you can see hints of the author's earlier work. In this case, the style with which the military scenes are executed is highly reminiscent of Garth Nix's series for slightly older readers, The Old Kingdom Trilogy or The Abhorsen Trilogy (I'm not sure if either of those names is official, but I've seen it called both), composed of Sabriel, Lirael, and Abhorsen. In these books, a huge wall of stone and magic keeps a strict divide between magical and nonmagical realms coexisting in the same world, and instead of the standard fantasy attitude, which would be to leave it wide open with only menacing rumors to ward off intruders so that some plucky schoolboy hero could climb over it and into adventure, a military zone called the Perimeter has been established and strictly enforced. (Trespassers will be shot without warning.) There are similar situations scattered throughout Sir Thursday, and they were written in a forward-motion, making-light style that held a comfortable familiarity for me as a repeat reader.

So, my overall impression of the book was a good one. (For what it's worth, I'm still partial to The Abhorsen Trilogy. What can I say? I liked apocalyptic fantasy.)

I know that I need to work on my reviewing style. Trying to balance informative with unspoilery is, um, difficult. I hope that was at least mildly interesting, though.

Now a short break, and on to my next book, an old favorite that I'm rereading in preparation for certain releases in July. Care to take a guess? ;)

Let the games begin!

Yep, that's right. I'm one of them crazy early birds, starting Mother Reader's 48-Hour Book Challenge at 7 A.M. on the dot. For the next to days, this blog will be thoroughly usurped by a number of book reviews/reader responses/whatever I can be bothered to write on each book I read. Or, put another way: actual content! GASP!

Good luck to everyone taking the challenge, and a good weekend to everyone regardless.

As of right now...I have forty minutes left. So I'm going back to bed.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Last Warning--Err, Reminder

Just in case you haven't seen it already, Mother Reader's 48-Hour Book Challenge starts tomorrow at 7:00 AM sharp! (Well, for me it does. For everyone else it can start any time between then and 7:00 AM sharp on Saturday, if they're putting in the whole 48 hours.)

Here's the official sign-up post, and here's the most recent reading of the rules.

Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Yo-Ho, Haul Together

Why the distinctly pirate-like title? Because I'm reading Drowned Wednesday, of course!

Okay, you know how in the post before last I mentioned that I was going to do a full-blown NaNo before June 22, when I leave for three weeks in Australia? Now, post-surgery, that's looking mightily...stupid. I'm going to work my sore little mouth off to get another 25k at absolute minimum, though. I want to get into the last third of this thing before I have to all but abandon it for three weeks. Ever get the feeling that if you drop a project it might not be there when you get back?

However, Mother Reader has posted a challenge that I can't refuse. Read books and review them on the blog for fourty-eight hours straight? For possible nifty prizes? I'm in! And with over fifty people already signed up, it's sure to be quite the energetic weekend. You'll be able to feel the reading energy swirling around in the cosmos. Personally, I'll be rereading the Harry Potter books in preparation for July's big premiers for most of that.

If you haven't signed on to Mother Reader's 48-Hour Book Challenge, and you have nothing to do this weekend, you should take a look.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Eight Things Meme

I mentioned Thursday that I'd been tagged by Robin Brande for a meme. The rules are:

Each player lists 8 facts/habits about themselves. The rules of the game are posted at the beginning before those facts/habits are listed. At the end of the post, the player then tags 8 people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know that they have been tagged and asking them to read your blog.

I'll be cheating slightly, because I seriously don't know eight bloggers who haven't already been tagged. This meme's been around the block and back again.

With that in mind, here are my eight (kind of strange and highly eclectic) things:

1. I have a serious problem with balloons, specifically popping balloons. I'm not too fond of airbags either and avoid them whenever I can, though I'll really need to get over that eventually. I didn't have any kind of traumatic childhood experience with balloons or airbags; I just can't stand to be around them. Dropping a balloon in front of me disrupts my focus as long as it's there.

2. Similarly, I can't fully function in a room with an open door. Again, no traumatic experience involving open doors; I just hate them. The smaller the room is, the worse it gets. Related to this is my discomfort in sitting with my back to a door in a restaurant. I'm starting to think I might have a paranoid personality. =)

3. Strictly speaking, I'm not allergic to anything, but I have worse allergies than probably 80% of the world anyway, thanks to where I live. In most cases a high pollen count is in the 80s. We're routinely in the 1500s.

4. The earliest book I owned that's still on my shelf is The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis, the 1994 HarperCollins printing. I also have the 1995 first Scholastic printing as part of a box set I bought, but I kept the first copy too because the cover's cooler. That's the only book that I currently own two copies of.

5. The Chronicles of Narnia caused a bit of a stir with my least favorite teacher from elementary school, the one from second-grade. Once I'd received the box set, I'd started bringing them to school and reading them really quickly, and one day at the beginning of Self-Selected Reading time, my teacher pulled me aside and said, "Miri, I know you like to look at the pictures, but you really need to go find books you can read." The next week I took all seven Accellerated Reader tests and made 100% on each one. She didn't like me too much after that.

6. To the best of my knowledge, the fastest I've ever read a book of substantial length was Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince in eight hours. Suffice it to say there was nothing else to do.

7. My idea of a perfect vacation includes either a huge mall or a quiet beach. Eclectic, right? The only common denominator is books. Either I'll be reading a book on the beach or browsing a mall bookstore. Relatedly, I went to this Beta Club convention in middle school, and instead of eating at the venue, everyone was bussed over to the huge mall nearby. They let us loose in the mall, the only conditions being that we get something to eat and stay in groups of four or more. While most groups went to the trendy stores like American Eagle and Hollister, my group spent an incredibly pleasant hour and a half reading manga in the bookstore. I'd already watched all fifty-one episodes of the anime Fullmetal Alchemist, but after being stared at by the first volume of the manga for an hour as I started reading something else, I finally caved and bought it. I now own all twelve of them currently released in English.

8. I'm partial to Joe Muggs (the Books-A-Million cafe) for frozen coffee drinks, but for straight-up coffee, Burger King takes the cake. Why? No idea. But it's good coffee.

This is where I would tag people, but as I mentioned before, I really don't know anyone who hasn't been tagged yet. If you're reading this and haven't done it yet, consider yourself tagged.