Friday, 30 January 2015

catch-up for a Friday evening

The short list for the inaugural James Herbert Award for horror fiction was announced today.  The 6 books in contention are:

The Girl With All the Gifts - MR Carey
The Troop - Nick Cutter
Cuckoo Song - Frances Hardinge
The Loney - Andrew Michael Hurley
Bird Box - Josh Malerman
An English Ghost Story - Kim Newman

I already own The Troop, and An English Ghost Story was added to my wish-list in the fall.  I've added Cuckoo Song, and now I just need to read find them!  I'm excited by this award, it is a good way to see what is good in horror in the vein that James Herbert used to write in.  Plus, Nick Cutter is Canadian, so it's good to see Canadian horror writing getting publicized.  My good friend Sue has already read The Troop and really enjoyed it.  She's a true horror fan, reading more horror than anyone else I know, ever.  Cuckoo Song features a creepy doll, which I get chills from just thinking about.  So if you need something frightening for a cold winter's night.....

Speaking of chills, we have had a very cold January.  This weekend looks set to be another very cold - bitterly cold - few days.  Our low on Monday is supposed to be around -29c when I put Graham on the school bus.  Many of the mornings are in the -20c range, and we often don't get above -10c during the day.  I really want to hide out when it's like this, and that's exactly my plan for this weekend. Hibernation and reading.  That's what I've been doing for most of January, though I had expected to blog more.  I have also been making a slow return to work since mid-January, and this has been sooner than I expected.  It upset me enough that I haven't been able to blog while I adjust.  So sorry about that, as I did have some posts planned, but the return to work sent everything from my mind.  The joys of anxiety.....

 I have read some very good books though in January, so I hope to blog about them soon.  Meanwhile, it's hunker down and enjoy the fact I have a lovely home and a reading corner (see my blog header photo) and all the errands are done, so I can truly read as much as I want - and stay warm in cosy socks and comfortable home clothes, drink tea, and eat popcorn.  Pleasure!!!  I hope you have a lovely weekend with some good books lined up to read, too.  Plus there's the Superbowl game on Sunday.....

What are you reading?  What's your winter been like so far?  Are you longing for spring yet?  I am.  On the few days that we get above -10c, it feels so balmy.  I could get used to a winter warm like that! 

Monday, 5 January 2015

So I went book shopping for some classics for my challenge......

I went to a Salvation Army outlet near my home today, on my way home from dropping my youngest son at school today.  It was bitterly cold, and his school bus was an hour late (according to the transportation schedule), which we checked after half an hour of waiting outside. So rather than wait in the cold for another half hour and get sick again, I took him in a taxi to school.  My excuse to get books treat was to stop into the Salvation Army outlet on the way home, and scope out their book section, which sometimes has interesting books.  I never know what I will find there.  I went in saying, "Ok, I need Green Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson so I can read his Mars trilogy for the Classics challenge.  Oh, and let's see what literary classics are in too."  This is what I came home with:                 
 The steal of the day, for me, the find that made me exclaim and get all excited?  The Dark Imaginings, A collection of Gothic Fantasy, edited by Robert Boyer and Kenneth Zahorski.

 I have never seen this book before, and I love, love, love the cover.  There are 17 illustrations inside by James Cagle.  Some of the stories are ones I've never seen before:
Cross Purposes - George MacDonald
Darkness Box - Ursula K LeGuin
The Unholy Grail - Fritz Leiber
The Troll - T.H. White
Lila the Werewolf - Peter Beagle
The Crowd - Ray Bradbury
The Brown Hand - Arthur Conan Doyle

There are 17 stories in total in this collection.  They are the same editors of The Fantastic Imagination (1977), and The Fantastic Imagination 2 (1978), exhibiting the best of fantasy writing for 100 years, both of which I own and have only partially read.  Hmm, maybe I should add these to the fantasy challenge portion......

Actually, I exclaimed over all the books I found today. Madame BovaryThe Day of the Triffids!  Jack Kerouac!  The Count of Monte Cristo!  The Giant Squid book, which I am going to read while I read Moby DickWe, the classic Soviet science fiction novel!   And the Colin Dexter book The Way Through the Woods which Margaret at BooksPlease just reviewed and I don't own among my Morse mysteries. And it was half-price day too, so I can still hunt for Green Mars and feel virtuous in this first week of January.

Now to update my challenge list page......

I love finding books second-hand, especially the hard-to-find and out of print books.  

Sunday, 4 January 2015

In which I make a resolution for 2015 reading

Ugh.  Confession time.  I have been in a book reading shock since Dec 31.  I was looking at my totals for the year, proud that I had managed to read 81 despite what happened in October.  Though I barely read anything from then until Christmas,  suddenly I was able to complete 3 books in the past two weeks.  I was proud until I looked at what I read over last year, when to my dismay, I discovered that I had not read one single classic novel.  On top of which, I read 4 fantasy and 2 SF novels.  Shocking!  How on earth did I miss reading any classics?  And so few SF and fantasy books?  Shocked is an understatement for how I have felt.  How did this happen? 

2014 Reading Year

8 - Poetry
34 - Mystery
 7 - Fiction
4 - Fantasy
2 - SF
1 - Children's
3 - YA
4 - Biography
6 - non-fiction
5 - graphic novel
6 - horror

Then, I picked up one of my Christmas novels, The Year of Reading Dangerously by Andy Miller. I've read the first three chapters, and am enjoying this book immensely.  What I love so much is that he not only reads each book, he is reflecting on it.  Why is this book good?  Can he relate it to his life somehow?  What does he get out of reading it?  Which is what I feel the classics do, it is the reason why they are classics: they are art which reflects our lives, our world, back to us, to help show us who we are.  He is allowing the books into him, and this is what I want myself to do when I read a classic book.  Now Andy had realized before this book that he wasn't reading anything - one book in three years.  So this became his catalyst for this project.  He was going to pick 50 great books, books he had either said he had already read when he hadn't, or books that he had always said he would read one day, or books he really wanted to read before he died.  And he was going to read them over one year.

So with his beginning in mind, I reflected on what my last year of reading has shown me:  if I'm not careful, if I don't pay attention, a year will go by without me reading any of the classics that I do want to read.  And I have two shelves of them, plus more on my 'I want to get to read one day' list.

I do accept I have limitations in this.  Unlike Andy Miller, I don't want to read 50 literary *(edited to add this) classic novels in one year.  I don't read that many non-genre fiction books, ever, in one year. I have always read fantasy, science fiction, horror, and mystery.  No matter how low the totals are!  I have decided that I am going to make a list of 50 classic books to read over 2015, in different genres.  I'm breaking that 50 books list down into 10 and 20 book segments.  Or 5.

Because, there are classics in every area that I read in, that I haven't read. Or books that I have long wanted to read, but haven't got around to.  

So my 50 books in one year list looks something like this:

Classics: 10
Fiction (including almost classic status not there yet books): 10
Mystery: 10
Horror: 5
Poetry: 5
Journals, biographies (of writers and poets mostly) - 5
Science Fiction: 10
Fantasy: 10

I haven't made my lists so big that I don't have room for new books to add.  My goal is once again to try to get to 100 books read this year.  What I have learned over the years though, is that more important than the total, is to read so that I absorb the book.  There are books that I think I've read 20 or 30 years ago, that I no longer recall if I have read them.  Why is this?  Did I read too quickly?  Did they fade with time?  So I might not get all these read this year.  I will read as many good books as I can, classics in their field, this year.  This is a lovely resolution and I am delighted making it.  

Separate page for titles
If you want to know what books I am reading, I'm making a separate page for them,up under my blog header, and I will let you know here  which books are on my 50 books to read list, when I review them.

Another new year promise to myself is to review more books this year.  I'm a little ashamed of how little I did blog last year, and have made a promise that if I want to say something about a book, say it.  And try to post every day or every few days, this year.

Good site for finding books in genres:
For finding classic books in science fiction and fantasy, one of the best sites I have discovered over the past three years is Worlds Without End site.  Here you can find listings of award winners and nominees for all genre fields of fantasy, science fiction, horror, and even a few mysteries are creeping in.  For someone visual like me, it's so much fun to click on Nebula winners, and see the covers posted. It's a click to mark that I have read the book, or have it on my reading list.  Voil√†!  Suddenly I can see what I've read over the years in each season, and where I have gaps.  Bram Stoker Award, Mythopoeic Award, World Fantasy, etc.  They are all listed here. 

So, that was my first 4 days of 2015.  Madly looking at sites and lists and shelves and books, discovering what books I really want to read this year, that I don't want to miss reading.

What resolutions for books and reading have you made this year? 

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

And I'm back, with books I received for Christmas, a book review, and feeling better

Well, I'm sorry I missed wishing you all a Merry Christmas last week.  I was very sick with a bad cold for most of it.  It was all I could do to get the Christmas dinner cooked and not just give up and go to bed!  It was very quiet, as we all had variations of this cold.  I was the last one sick with it, and the longest  - not boasting, this is what having a chronic illness does to me.

At long last, yesterday I began to feel better, and today I was able to go outside without that special wheeze I get when I'm sick.  I'm well enough to blog again, which is also a relief after making a valiant attempt to blog every day for the Christmas month.  I enjoyed it, so I'm planning on continuing to blog every day if I can. 

I don't have any lists done yet for this past year.  However I do have two happy things for you: 
1) my pile of book goodness (presents) from this past week.  Included are books from my box of books to myself:
   Still Writing - Dani Shapiro
   The Explorer - James Smythe
   The Echo - James Smythe
    All Mortal Flesh - Julia Spencer-Fleming
    I Shall Not Want  -  "         "           "
    Through the Evil Days - "   "        "
    City of Dragons - Robin Hobb
    Blackout - Mira Grant
    The Heist - Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg
     The Year of Reading Dangerously - Andy Miller
     The Dark Lord of Derkholm - Diana Wynne Jones
     Reflections on the Art of Writing - "    "        "
     Young Woman in a Garden - Delia Sherman
      Highfell Grimoires - Langley Hyde
      Autumn, All the Cats Return - Philippe Georget
      Ghost Girl - Lesley Thomson

A very lucky book reader, I think.  Very grateful to be reading a little more now, as time goes and I begin to heal. 

2) I READ A BOOK THIS PAST WEEK!!!!!!!!!!  Yes, a heavenly chorus is singing hallelujah.....and no pun, the book was Miracle and Other Christmas Stories by Connie Willis.

A quick review:  8 stories are included in this collection. They all feature Christmas, whether the season, or in the case of Inn and Epiphany, taking elements of the religious story of Christmas and retelling it with a modern twist.  Both are among my favourites in this collection.  Now, you may be wondering how I as a pagan can read Christian fiction and like it.  It's simple. I was raised a Catholic, and no matter how far in the spiritual world I go, those stories I first heard are part of me.  So when the story of Mary and Joseph is retold so poignantly (and brilliantly) in Inn, with some kind of time hole opening so that Mary and Joseph are there at the church in modern day USA, in the middle of winter, dressed for the desert, it takes kindness and charity for someone to take them in and find them back on their path.  The ending made me cry.  This is the spirit of the this time of year. 

In Epiphany, Mel is already on the road.  He is a pastor, who upped and left his church when in the middle of a sermon about not knowing when Christ will come again, he has the strongest feeling that Jesus has already arrived, is here, and waiting for people to find Him.  Even though he is Presbysterian and so not supposed to have epiphanies or visions, he cannot shake the intense feeling that he must go, right then, and head west.  Even though he does not know what he is looking for, or whom, or what signs, he starts driving.  Along the way he keeps seeing fair rides on the backs of trucks.  And he stops to help one of them who has run by accident off the road, because it is just after Christmas and everything in Iowa is icy with snow and storms and fog.  Then he meets a woman who keeps turning up wherever he is, who is driving west, and then another say any more would be to ruin the sweet nature of this gentle story.  It is another modern version of part of the holy story of the birth of Jesus/Christmas, and so well done that I didn't catch on until near the end.  He does have a bout of doubt, and I found that I did not want him to quit his quest to keep looking for the coming of Jesus (or arrival).  There is something about faith that I want to see rewarded, and this story is about that. 

Miracle is about the film 'Miracle on 34th St' versus 'It's a Wonderful Life'.  Everyone in the story but two people love 'It's A Wonderful Life', the other two people loving 'Miracle on 34th St'. Of course, the girl who loves 'Miracle on 34th St' doesn't love the guy who also loves it, she wants someone else who loves 'It's a Wonderful Life'.  It takes the special humour and tricks from her guardian angel to show her her true love.  With lots of the little scenes and dialogues that make Connie Willis's writing so delightful for me.

These are my three favourites from the 8 stories, followed by Newsletter which is hilarious as a young woman finds something strange is happening to people when they suddenly begin wearing hats in the weeks before Christmas. Are they being taken over by aliens?  I had read this story in another collection before, and it is just as good in the reread.  Willis has an ear for dialogue, comical scenes, and wry comments that make me burst out laughing time and again.  It was so good to laugh this Christmas, and I have a feeling I have a Christmas collection to reread for every holiday season now. 
 5/5 Perfect for Christmas 
  Relief that  I read a book for Christmas: priceless

Dr Who Christmas Special
Oh, and I have to say:  Wasn't that Doctor Who Christmas Special wonderful?  I loved it. Dark, scary, funny, brilliant.  One of the best Christmas specials ever for Dr Who. A dream within a dream within a.....featuring Santa, Rudolph, and scary dream creatures.  LOVED it.  How do you wake yourself up from a dream?
So, may I wish you a belated Merry Christmas, and be the first to wish you happy preparations for the new year.  It's almost 2015! 

Monday, 22 December 2014

Book Advent Calendar day 22: I am sick

My cold has worsened.  I had to step out for last-minute things ** even with my cold because we have a storm coming in over night.  Freezing rain, snow, rain.  Who knows?  So I dashed out, and now I know I probably shouldn't have.  I'm shivering and huddled under blankets, about to have ginger and honey tea, watching the Dr Who Marathon that is running on our Space channel all week until Christmas night, when the new special airs.  My husband is also sick with this cold, while our children are recovering now.  Let's hope it's done with by the 25th.  *achoo* No reading, my head is all stuffed.  The Dr Who marathon was showing Season 4 with Donna today.  We have had fun picking out references in the early episodes that happened later on in the season or even later on in the show with other doctors.  Such a well-written show!  And perfect when I need to be entertained and cuddle with my kids at the same time.

** I confess:  I had no cranberries, no sausages, no bread, and no birthday cake for my daughter's birthday on Wednesday.  So I had to go out.  What's turkey without stuffing???? or cranberries??? lol  And the birthday cake!!!  We had put it off all weekend by staying in, hoping this would help our colds disappear faster.  My husband ended staying home from work today. We both were worse this morning. He's improving, or seems to be.  Fingers crossed for me.....

Book Advent Calendar Day 21: Happy Solstice to you

Happy Solstice to you, dear and gentle readers.  It is now the turning of the year and the sun will stay gradually longer each day. 
Winter is not all bad.  It does give us an excuse time to be indoors and read by the fire.  There is a quietness that settles on the earth and in the air up here in the northern hemisphere in our winter.  A time to be still, to dream, and to wait.   Creativity and growth and new life can only come after a time of darkness, and planting seeds.  In my life, in the midst of this PTSD crisis I have been in for the past two months, there is a slow change in me, a settling down again of some of what was stirred up.  The soul has it's own time.  So I am learning how to sit still, and what being peaceful feels like.  These are good things for me.  It's good that it is winter now, I think.  It matches what I need inside me.  I am certainly more calmer than I was, though the anxiety is there, just under the surface. 

My wish for you and for myself  is:   May the coming year be filled with peace, contentment, and many good new books.    May the light increase in your life, and mine.                   

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Book Advent Calendar Day 20: Dark night of the solstice, and some links

    I have declared this a  pyjamas day for us all here in my household.  We are all in various degrees of this virus, with my husband and I having very bad sore throats today.  I think the universe wants me to be silent and listen more.  Which, as it's Dec 20, and the day before the solstice, is something I was hoping to do anyway.  This year the solstice is extra special with the new moon occurring on the same day as the solstice.  So this is like the dark of the year, and the dark of the moon, combined.  Here is a link to a blog where Beth Owl talks about the significance of tonight.
Beth Owl is a tarot card reader and one of my favourite blogs to visit for insights in how to live more naturally with the seasons.  This has been a long-time goal of mine. I've only recently come to realize that I want to hibernate during the winter season, including through some of the holiday season.  This is the second year in a row that we are all sick at the beginning of the holidays, so it looks like we all need some time to be quiet when the holidays start.  Do you notice something similar, or another kind of rhythm, when the holidays start for your family?  Do you go to a lot of social activities - work, school for the children, friends?  I used to do more.  I love gatherings and potlucks and parties, open houses, though as I've gotten older I've realized that I am truly an introvert and gatherings tire me more quickly now.  So it's about finding a balance between social activities and quiet time now.  Have you discovered anything similar for you?

Celebrating the solstice
 There is something refreshing about silence, and about thinking about the meaning of this season.  It is the change from one year to the next, so one thing I like to do is think on what I learned this past year, what I'd like to leave behind, and what I'd like to let in and learn about in the next year.

Some fun links:
 Scary Icelandic terrors for Christmas:    **Shiver.**  These would have been terrifying to hear about as a child!  And I still have to buy two articles of clothing for two of the males in my family.

Crimson Peak:  Oh my goodness, anything that  features Jessica Chastain and Tom Hiddlestone in a Gothic setting is going to be fun!  This is something to look forward to next year when there are no more new Hobbit or LoTR movies to look forward to. Just look at this picture released by the movie company:

Lovely dark stuff. 

Happy last night of the solar year to you.