Saturday, 28 January 2012

new books, second-hand books, how did you get books into your house this week?

So, this is how you can tell when a hardcore bibliophile is on the way to health again:  on my first day out after surgery (surgery was Mon 16, Friday the 20th my first day out), I ended up at a second-hand store looking for books.  Specifically science fiction books for the Damon Knight Grandmasters Challenge.  I didn't find any books for the challenge, but being completely in love with books, that didn't stop me from finding other books, including ones I can use to increase my reading totals in the Nebula and Hugo award catagories.  Here is what I found:

Sunshine - Robin McKinley (I owned a copy of this, gave it to a friend to read, and have decided it's found a home there and picked this one up.  One of my favourite vampire novels of all, I will be rereading this sooner or later!)
The Murder Stone - Charles Todd (My friend Lee in Dallas just read this and really liked it.  I have many in the other series by this author-duo)
The Time Machine - HG Wells (I've never read this!  Seen different movie versions, and thought, hey!  classic science fiction!)
The Dragon in the Sea - Frank Herbert (one of the disabilities of being a hardcore bibliophile is that everything looks interesting.  I love Dune, so why not try a book by him I've never heard of???)
Dhalgran -  Samuel R. Delaney (for the Nebula nomination reading.  Another classic to catch up with.)
Chasm City - Alistair Reynolds (a sequel to Revelation Space, which still eludes me. It was $1.50, so couldn't really go wrong here!)
December - Phil Rickman (not part of the Merrily Watkins series, a stand-alone horror novel by him.  I have to try it!)
Tales from the White Hart - Arthur C. Clarke (I have nothing by Clarke, who is on my Grandmaster reading list.  A collection of short stories sounds fun while I try to find some of his novels)
The Golden Key - Melanie Rawn, Jennifer Roberson, Kate Elliott (this book caused a big stir in the fantasy world when it came out.  It made the nomination list for the Nebula award, too.)

Except for Alistair Reynolds, all the books were 3/$1!!!!  So you wouldn't blame me, right?

Then, because it was January and a new month and I had a gift card to use, I bought these:
The Alien Shore - C.S. Friedman (classic sci-fi, not on any nomination list though)
Timescape - Gregory Benford (Nebula Award winner!  yaaay!  and it's a time travel book back to the 1960's.  Looks very fun)
Psychic Tarot - Nancy Antenucci with Melanie Howard (I have been studying the tarot again, and this book came up on several lists as a good new book with some insights on how we use our intuition while reading the cards)

And then, just because I wanted something science fiction to read from my favourite bookstore Collected Works, I found a copy of
- Lucifer's Hammer by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle (Nebula-nominated), which I then proceeded to read that weekend, and it is FABULOUS!!!  I will be writing a post on it tomorrow.  End of the world disaster novel that is so very good.

Wow, and there I was, convinced that my binge over the holidays was enough to stop me buying books for a month or so - or failing that, surgery would prevent me from buying them.  Not so!!!!! 

So far, Cath at Read-Warbler, Geraniumcat at Geraniumcat's Bookblog, and Chris at Stuff as Dreams are Made Of have confessed to bringing books into their house this past couple of weeks. I've linked you to their book posts.  Of course, as is our way here in book-blogging land, I've now added 5 book to my to-buy list because of their posts.  We do egg  each other on spread the joy about books so very well here!  How did you do, dear Gentle Reader?

Somewhere it is spring in the world:
By the way, Chris also has a fabulous post with pictures from his garden.  I am desperately craving some green - we've had freezing rain for a month now, which means everything is dangerously slippery, and grey, and the signs of spring are still months away for us.  Chris's post and pictures cheered me up tremendously.  He's even got broccoli growing now!!! 

Surgery update
Speaking of which, I've fallen already in the past week, slipping on some ice last Friday as I came home on my first outing.  I landed right on my knees, and for a moment couldn't believe the irony of falling right after surgery.  Luckily (though I didn't think so at the time) I landed right on my knee cap, rather than twisting my knee or leg at all, so I didn't do any damage to my tiny incisions.  For those who don't know, I had arthoscopic surgery on my knee, as I had torn cartilage in it last March in our last big snow storm.  Except when outside right now, I am able to move around very well, the pain deep in my knee is gone, and soon I won't be limping at all.  It was successful, and I can look forward to getting into my garden more easily this summer.  I am so relieved and thankful to have the surgery done.  Now if only the freezing rain would stop and it would snow.  Snow is much less dangerous to walk around in than ice.  I know of two other people who fell in the last week also.  We've had  freezing rain every week for the month of January.  Ice is everywhere. Personally, I am using this as my reason to stay indoors as much as possible and read!!

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Among Others and some science fiction thoughts on reading science fiction

Among Others by Jo Walton is an extraordinary novel about a Welsh teenage girl who is sent to a boarding school in England after she runs away from home.  Her twin sister is dead as the result of a car accident which has left Morwenna crippled, able to walk, but never to run or move freely again.  Her mother is.......strange, her grandfather had a stroke, and the courts have deemed that Morwenna is better off with the father who abandoned the father shortly after the girls' birth, rather than force her back to live with her mother.  You would think this would make the book a downer to read, heavily depressing, but it doesn't.  Most of it is because Morwenna is so matter-of-fact about everything.  At one point while reading it I found myself dissatisfied with the lack of emotion she shows. Why isn't she grieving over the loss of her twin?  Why isn't she furious with her mother, who caused the accident that killed her sister? I realized that Morwenna is simply trying to survive the best way she knows how.  And her way is the same way I did, when I was a teenager and my life was in complete shambles - books.  Morwenna reads voraciously, almost anything she can find, and most particularly science fiction.  Morwenna reads to escape her life, of course, however she also reads  to explore different ideas - she's captured by what could be, by changing things, by possibility.  And this sense of discovery is what I love about science fiction so much.  Along the way of reading this novel, watching her discussing the books she was reading, I rediscovered something I had forgotten growing up:  how much I enjoy science fiction. In Among Others, Morwenna finds a book club at her local library, where they discuss science fiction.  One of the questions they ask each other one meeting is, Which would you rather meet, an elf or a Plutonion? I'll ask that now of you, Gentle Reader, and at the end of my post I'll tell you what Morwenna thinks it means, and what my answer was. 

. Among Others is much more than just a discourse on science fiction.  Plato, Mary Renault, and Susan Cooper (yes! The Dark is Rising is mentioned!) are some of the other books Morwenna reads. Elves feature, and they are imagined in a way that I really like.  I am happy that  fantasy feature here in this novel. It's not quite as large of course, because other than Lord Dunsany, Tolkein, Anne McCaffrey,  The Earthsea Trilogy by LeGuin, and  CS Lewis (all of whom Morwenna reads), there was no fantasy being written before1979, the year this book takes place in. It's significant that it's this year, since it's just before the 80's and the explosion of fantasy and science fiction as a viable genre of literature, with all the conventions and book tours and famous authors coming into the public sphere. During the novel Morwenna hears about conventions in the US, and that there is going to be one in Glasgow the next summer, and she plans to go. Her discovery of other people who read science fiction, and the chance to meet science fiction authors, blows her mind in the novel.  It's kind of refreshing to read about a character who is excited about the possibilities of the world, instead of the jaded youth who have seen and done it all that people our YA novels right now.  The fantasy element is important, because Morwenna can see elves.  It's part of her family, and something that interestingly is part of her nature, and not something that she fights against, as you would normally expect in a teen coming of age novel.  Instead, Morwenna must think her way through the repercussions of using magic, using her intelligence and reasoning.  She is very perceptive, which is why the period when I wondered if she was crazy, was so distressing - though it made sense, especially given that no one else can see the elves.  She is alone, among others.

I really enjoyed Among Others, very much.  It's well-written, well-researched historically (walkmans are just coming on the market in 1979 in the book), and despite the reserve of Morwenna, there are times when it is extremely moving as well.  The ending is particularly good, as Morwenna faces what she fears most.  I haven't written about the idea of her mother being a witch, which Morwenna talks about through the book, and how she thinks she is like her mother, because it seemed an odd fit to me.  At one point I wondered if Morwenna herself was crazy and had imagined everything in her past. I didn't want Morwenna to be an unreliable narrator because that would have been too easy to do.  I'm happy to report that she isn't crazy.  I don't want to say any more, because the ending and what she does is truly remarkable and powerful, and I really liked it. Walton has made fantasy and science fiction fit together, and that's remarkable also..  I love the use of books to illustrate what Morwenna is going through, and how she uses books to find her way to her own future.  I love that her love of books brings her together with her father, her grandfather, her new friends at the bookclub, and eventually her first boyfriend.

The novel is set in Wales and in England.  For anyone who knows anything of these two countries, Wales is not and never will be English.  Morwenna (and her twin sister Morganna) are the product of a mixed heritage, Welsh, English, and eventually she discovers other cultures in her background.  Her boarding school is in England, so Morwenna goes from her childhood idyll in Wales, running free among the hills, to being tightly monitored in an English boarding school, where she faces racism for being from a poor family and not from England. Among Others is a layered title, playing on science fiction idea of being a stranger in a strange land, of being not like those around you, of being Welsh when everyone around you is English, of having your mother crazy but no one protecting you, of losing a sibling, one who knows you better than most, and that sense of aloneness that comes with all these things. Morwenna has no one to talk to, no one she trusts, in this strange new place, so the novel is told from a diary perspective over one year. Among Others is also about how Morwenna has to learn to live among others without her twin, the person who finished her thoughts, and discovering that she and her twin were not the same person and she would have to live her own life after all. It's quite a clever novel, and I liked it.

By the way, to Morwenna's question:  would I rather meet an elf or a Plutonion?  I would rather, always, meet an elf.  Especially an elf like in Lord of the Rings. I always wanted to sail away with them at the end of LotR.  I thought and always have thought, they were beautiful and powerful and courageous, like the very best we could aspire to be. Not the faerie, who are completely different, and frightening (and should be), just the LotR elves.  The point of the question is, to meet an elf or to meet a Plutonion is to meet the past or embrace the future.  Maybe the Plutonion is wandering around here already on earth, among us.....that wouldn't be so bad, right? And this sense of discovery is what I love about science fiction so much.  Along the way of reading this novel, watching her discussing the books she was reading, I rediscovered something I had forgotten growing up:  how much I enjoy science fiction.

Reading science fiction leads to.....
So, on to my science fiction thoughts: reading Among Others awoke those memories of possibility in me, that I remember from the science fiction conventions I went to in the 1980's, from the authors I heard talk, from the buzz of so many people coming together to discuss books and ideas and what they loved.  It reminded me that the reason I join Carl's Sci fi experience very year is to read science fiction more often.  I always pick fantasy first out of a choice of fantasy and science fiction, because I find myths and fantasy easier to relate to imaginatively......but I am a person of contradictions, as we all are, and I have always looked up at the stars and wondered what's out there.  I desperately wanted to be an astronomer but couldn't do the math. You, my Gentle Reader, know of my love for so many things science fiction - Dr Who, Star Trek, Star Wars, Fringe, X-files, Firefly, etc.  Reading science fiction though, has sort of lurked at the corner of my life for the past several years (ok, truthfully, at least a decade), the neglected genre that I mostly read for Connie Willis.  I think that over the years, because I couldn't keep up with the science end of things, I let my enjoyment of science fiction slide until I was barely reading any at all.  I felt like an imposter when I talked about science fiction because I couldn't understand the truth of the science behind it, when realistically, I never read it for the science, I read it to know what was possible for us to do as people of earth.  That's what I miss, imagining the future that is possible, that fantasy doesn't give me.   Lately I've been wandering through the science fiction and fantasy aisles, looking for something new to read.  I have been trying to find a copy of Alistair Reynold's Revelation Space to buy for well over a year, and it's not available (not out of print, just not available).  It's one of the classics of the new space opera science fiction story that I find interesting.

 So when Carl posted earlier this week about a new science fiction challenge, on Worlds Without End blog, I read it through curiously.  On the blog, laid out in easy to use format, is a booktracker program where you can input all the science fiction, horror, and fantasy you have ever read, and see how you are doing on reading the best of (or all anyone has written) in science fiction, fantasy and horror. Well, it was like a light bulb lit up for me!  I did the book tracker and realized that I have read a little of everything, but not lots of any one thing.  I'm pleased to note I have read some Hugo and Nebula winners, which I do try to keep track of.

So......*takes deep breath*

I have decided to join the Grand Masters Challenge, and read one classic science fiction novel by one of the Grand Masters, every month for a year. I'm excited.  I want to go back now and rediscover what's good and the best of it again.  Here's my chance to reconnect with the roots of science fiction, and  to read the best, and see if I can find some new favourites.

The Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award reads like a who's who of science fiction:  Robert Heinlein, Robert Silverberg, Isaac Asimov, Ursula K LeGuin, Anne McCaffrey, Connie Willis, Jack Williamson, L Sprague De Camp, Fritz Leiber, Andre Norton, Alfred Bester, Ray Bradbury, Arther C Clarke, Clifford D Simak, Lester Del Rey, Frederick Pohl, Damon Knight, A. E Van Vogt, Jack Vance, Hal Clement, Brian Aldiss, Philip Jose Farmer, Poul Anderson, Joe Haldeman, Harry Harrison, Michael Moorcock, Harlan Ellison, James E. Gunn

So far I've signed up to read -
-yes, Connie Willis was my first choice!  Luckily I have one new one to read, All Clear  :-)  because I've read everything else by her.
- Robert Silverberg (and Cath just reviewed a book by him on her blog, that was quite interesting),
- Ursula K LeGuin - at last! I can't believe I haven't read The Earthsea Trilogy yet.
- Isaac Asimov (who I grew up reading) - I honestly can't remember how many of the foundation books I've read, so I need to reread the first one and I, Robot (which I recall really liking when I first read it as a teenager), just to start catching up
- Anne McCaffrey (I have Dragonsinger sitting right here on my shelf.  Again, an unread classic...)
- Alfred Bester (if I can find it, The Stars My Destination is a classic)
-Poul Anderson (happily, I just picked up two by him, Hrolf Kroki's Saga and The Midsummer Tempest. Though technically these might qualify as fantasy, so I need to look more into what he's written)
- Arthur C Clarke (I want Rendezvous with Rama!  there must be something we can do to get these classics back in print)
- Robert Heinlein (Stranger in a Strange Land is a possibility, though I want The Moon is A Harsh Mistress, I think)

By the way, I'm under the challenge on the site as bookgirl if you want to look at how I'm doing on the challenge.  I was still on painkillers for my knee and thus couldn't think  of a name when I signed up.  I think I  like it anyway!  I will keep you posted through here too, as we have to write 6 posts through the year on 6 of the 12 books we are reading. I'm feeling excited and a little challenged, since I haven't read most of the authors, and it's a feeling of discovery all over again.   So I'm eager to find what's new - and old and good - in science fiction again.

Even though it's counted as fantasy in my book section at Chapters bookstore here, I'm counting Among Others as science fiction because so much of the books it covers is science fiction literature up to 1979.  So this is my first book for Carl's Sci fi experience.

Among Others showed me, reminded me, that science fiction is about ideas.  People need connection and emotion to make that journey into the future possible.  How can we create the best possible future for future generations, if we can't imagine what it would be like? what kind of future do we want?  Where will we go?  Where could we go?  I loved Star Trek for that possibility, and I love Among Others for reminding me that science fiction literature is the home of the future for us.   This genre is a way we have of exploring what the human race is capable of, what we imagine we could do if we were freed to explore, and what we bring along with us everywhere in the galaxy we go.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Surgery and home again, and Babylon 5

Hello, everyone!  I have been home recuperating since early Monday evening, from my surgery on Monday afternoon.  Everything went very well.  My knee hasn't swollen up too badly, and most importantly, it can bear my weight, so I don't have to use my crutches around the house. The surgery went as well as it could, and the torn cartilage was removed without any problem.  Already I can feel a difference in my knee, in spite of the pain from the stitches and bone and flesh healing.

I had planned to write every day here, but I'm on morphine as that is one of the few painkillers I am allowed to take (kidney weakness). This makes me unable to be coherent for an extended period of time - I feel great, whee! however constructing careful deep thoughts about anything just doesn't happen while under this medication.

I am able to read sometimes, near the end of each dose, and have managed to read half of Among Others, although much of this was at the hospital in the waiting room before my surgery.  I was lucky, I got to keep my book with me and read right up until they wheeled me to outside the operating room.

I haven't been able to read since,  until late yesterday evening, and I'm finding the same thing already this morning.

So, I have been watching tv.  I have been in the mood for Babylon 5 every since Becky reviewed this book last week on her blog.  I watched Babylon 5 religiously when it was on in the 1990's.  My eldest son Duncan and I (I was a single parent at the time) would watch this every week.  He was 5 when the show began, and we watched all 5 seasons together.  There was a spin-off in 1999 when the show ended, but at the time I was going through many changes in my life, and I didn't follow the spin-off in the same way as I followed the original series. The book Becky reviewed is about the shadows, and Z'ha'dum, which is one of my favourite parts of the series.  I only own Season 1 at this time (something I realized to my horror yesterday when looking for it to watch), though luckily this included one of the best Babylon 5 episodes, "Signs and Portents". So, for my first official Sci-fi experience this year, I watched "Signs and Portents" yesterday afternoon.

In this epidode, we are treated the the mysterious arrival of Mr Morden, who goes around asking the various ambassadors 'what they want'.  This question really intrigued me when I first heard it 19 years ago (oh my, it can't be 19 years ago that this aired, can it????) and ended up helping me with my own writing.  I thought it was a powerful question in general, one that people in real life have problems answering, and here on this tv episode, the reactions of the various ambassadors lay the ground-work for the following 4 seasons and the eventual war with the Shadows to come.  Now, the shadows are slowly revealed to the viewer over the next season, as many-legged dark creatures that resemble huge spiders, minus the eyes. They are creepy and sinister and horrifying, just as they are to the peoples of Babylon 5's world. In this episode, though, they are only referred to by the seer and by Delenn as "the shadows are come".

The seer also fortells the fall of Babylon 5, although she cannot say when, just that it is in the future.  She  tells Commander Sinclair (commander of the station) that it is not written in stone, that the future is always changing depending on the actions today.  It is a possible future, she says. And that's how the episode ends.

There is also the ongoing rivalry between two of the ambassadors (which eventually becomes key to the series), the revelation that the Minbari chose Sinclair to be commander of the station, and that Delenn herself is more than she seems.

Babylon 5 is about power, and hope, about life in space, the ordinary people who work on it as well as the heroes and villains who come through.  I've always thought it was well-written, well-directed, and even though a few of the sets seem a bit sparse in comparison to what we can do now visually on sets, the story holds up as well as it did then. 

Because of Babylon 5, I have always wanted to write my own space station story, and the show introduced me to space opera, the kind of science fiction story I most enjoy - people exploring space.

I love looking at the stars, and wondering what life is out there.  I like imagining voyaging among the stars, and the many wonders and beauties out there. As well as danger, and the unknown.  Babylon 5 hangs out there in space, close enough to be monitored by earth, but far enough away that it is the last outpost between civilized space and the unknown. To me, any story could be told on a station like that, and Babylon 5 manages to tell many different ones. It was a fascinating show that explored all the ways it is to be human, and how we could recognize ourselves in strangers (aliens) if we let ourselves be open and honest. I love the psi corps, the group of psychics that are harnessed by the government on earth to ferret out secrets and make sure various contracts and meetings and councils are on the up and up. Of course there is a secret agenda behind the psi corps....this is the role that Walter Koenig also became known as, Bester the twisted psi corps cop, who had an agenda all his own. He was great in his role, sinister and bad, though he is revealed to have his own reasons for his darkness.

I can't do justice to the many layers of storytelling on Babylon 5, to the wonder of Michael York guest-starring as a man tortured by his past, who caused the war between the Minbari and Humans (which ended 10 years before Babylon 5 starts), and how he seeks forgiveness. It's haunting, and beautiful, and involves a sword and a lady.

I could go on and on. I think it's the morphine in me too!  I'm going to go put my leg up, and watch some more until I can read again.  If you've ever watched Babylon 5, you will know how good it was.  If you haven't, then I hope one day you give it a try.  It's science fiction, and it's fun, and it's good.

Friday, 13 January 2012

Classics and other reading goals

Nymeth over at things mean alot had a wonderful post on her reading goals back on Dec 29, which I somehow missed.  I caught up on it today, and it has inspired me to think about some of my reading goals for this year.  Care also has a post up today on her blog, Care's Online book Club, about new to her authors that she wants to read this year. This is also something I want to do.  I have, at last count, 32 first books in series that I haven't read yet, on my shelves.  That's an awesome figure of books I've been collecting over the years!  Obviously I am a sucker for series. And while they aren't all new to me authors, many of them are. 

One of my main reading goals is to continue to read whatever I want, when I want to.  I discovered that I had been hoarding new books coming into the house, for a rainy day I guess, and I decided last year to read the new books I was really anticipating.  It worked wonders for me, and even better, I haven't run out!  There are even more new books I want to read!

Another reading goal: read more classics. Period.  I was really ashamed to see I had read only one classic last year! And that was at Christmas - A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (which I loved, by the way.  One of many reviews to come).
1. Ulysses - James Joyce (I bogged down last year after I hurt my knee.  I can blame the pain for only so much, though!)
2. The Diary of Samuel Pepys (I was really enjoying this two years ago, and then I got sidetracked)
3. Bleak House - Charles Dickens - I love, love, love the BBC series and got it for Christmas last year. So let's just read the book now, Susan!!
4. North and South - Elizabeth Gaskell (I love love love the BBC series of this one too.  I watch it every year. So I have got to read the book and compare.  Surely the book is better, it usually is, so more of Margaret and John can only be good, right?)
5. Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons - (my mother loves this book, everyone in the blogging world loves it, what am I waiting for?)
6. Foundation - Isaac Asimov
7. Hrolf Krakis Saga - Poul Anderson
8. The Famished Road - Ben Okri
9. Oh Pioneers - Willa Cather
10. The Gathering - Anne Enright
11. The Mabinogion
12. To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
13. The Mill on the Floss - George Eliot
14.Where Late the Birds Sang - Kate Wilhelm
15 Barchester Towers - Anthony Trollope
16. Montaigne's Essays
17. Sir Thomas Wyatt - poems (am looking for an edition of his work currently)
18. Voltaire - Letters on England
19 Shakespeare - anything

I'd better stop there. Considering I've never read more than 5 classics in any one year willingly, if I complete half of what I've listed, it will be fabulous.  I have a hankering for Thomas Hardy, who I haven't read since my university days. So the above is a tentative list of classics I'd like to read this year.

It's late so I will save the "new to me authors first in a series" list I was planning.  The 32 books I'd pulled out two weeks ago were awesome!!!  and kind of frightening.  Seconds in a series I was expecting, but I didn't have many.  Apparently when I get through book one, if I really like it, I continue to read the series through after.  So I think it's time I looked at those first books in a series! List to come later this weekend.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

two challenges for 2012

Well, Carl's Sci fi Experience doesn't count as a challenge so much as an experience, though it's the same: to read some science fiction sometime between now and the end of February.  I join this challenge every year, and this year I am happy to say I plan on reading at least one of the books I'd like to read in science fiction this year!

The books  and tv shows I am considering are among, and this is by no means final list:
All Clear - Connie Willis
The New Space Opera - edited by Gardner Dozois
Revelation Space - Alistair Reynolds - if I can get my hands on a copy in time!
Boneshaker - Cherie Priest
Charles Stross - something
among Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, Ray Bradbury,
watching some Babylon 5
watching some X-Files - currently going through Season 1 (post to come shortly)

The other challenge I am joining is the Tea and Book's Reading Challenge, hosted by Brigit at The Book Garden.
I am determined to read some chunksters this year!  I did read The Passage by Justin Cronin and Under the Dome by Stephen King last year, so I am not slouching in this department, I want to read more.  Luckily I have more just waiting to be read.  I am going for level Earl Grey Aficianado, six chunksters.
I will be choosing among the following, although this is subject to change:

London, The Biography - Peter Ackroyd
Ship of Magic - Robin Hobb
Bleak House - Charles Dickens
The Brontes - Juliet Barker
Ulysses - James Joyce
Drood - Dan Simmons
Wizards First Rule - Terry Goodkind
Wise Man's Fear - Patrick Rothfuss
War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

New books and year end totals

Yikes!  How did it get to be Jan 10?  I didn't get to wish you, my dearest Gentle Readers, a Happy New Year!  

I do know that one reason I wasn't posting was that I was trying to pick my book of the year.  I am finding that I don't have just one.....and the other reason is I am distracted by my upcoming surgery next Monday. In trying not to worry think about it, I end up not being able to do much else in the way of focusing my attention!

2011 book totals
I read many very good books last year. I read 97 books in all, my best year ever for reading. And I was so close to my goal of 100, that it's now my annual goal until I get there!  I'm going to try for 10 books a month, to see if this will help me get to my goal this year.

I also had the goal of reading 50 mystery books last year.  I didn't make it - I read 38 only.  I was  a bit mystified at what  I had read instead, until I realized that I had read an astonishing 15 horror books last year!  Here is the breakdown:
mystery: 38
horror: 15
graphic novels: 7
non-fiction: 6
poetry: 4
fiction: 3
classics: 1 *hangs head in shame at this total!*
children's/YA: 2/4

Looking at these totals, the biggest jump is horror.  I can only explain this by saying it was one of the most difficult years of my life so far, and it looks like at the worst of it, I turned to my old standby, horror.  Possibly because the terror of the characters and thrilling of the horror makes my life not seem quite so bad?  Or, possibly I found some new horror that was very good, after a long stretch of the awful slasher books in the genre.  There is good horror, and ghost stories, and I'm happy to be reading them again.  I do still want to read more of everything, though.  Especially mystery and fantasy.  So I'm going to try again for 50 mysteries this year, and 25 fantasy novels. Classics:  at a minimum, 5. I'd prefer 10, but considering the year ahead of me, which I have to take in small leaps ahead: surgery next week, more surgery possibly late in the year, and at some point a final decision on what to do about the state of my separation from husband.   I can see a few horror books creeping in again!

So that was the year that was, 2011.  I don't know about you, but I am so happy to see the end of 2011, that I think if I could have touched the year, I would have kicked it into the back of beyond. Goodbye, 2011! *wipes hands off*

Another round of binge buying

Yes, you read that right!  I went to Nicholas Hoare (I can't link  to them, their site is down tonight) on Saturday, looking for a hard to find first book in a new mystery series set in 1950's Scotland:  A Small Death in the Great Glen by A.D. Scott. They had it!  I was so delighted.  I also found in my hands a copy of:
Mind's Eye - Hakan Nesser (Swedish mystery series, book one)
How to Live - A Life of Montaigne in One Questions and Many attempts to answer - Sarah Blakely (biography of Montaigne, using his twenty questions in his essays to attempt to show his life, and the influences on him, and how Montaigne influenced so many others.  I'm making this sound boring, when it's a fascinating book on how ideas, and thoughts, in essay form, came to influence Western thinking all the way down to the form of personal essays we use on blogs, here.)
The Country Diaries - edited by Alan Taylor - (journal entries from the past several hundred years, in the British countryside, for almost every day of the year.  Fascinating)
(I'm sorry, but Amazon isn't letting me in right now.  I can't query any titles with them.)
Lots to dip into with these books, while I recover next week.

Gift Cards are the next best thing to books
I also used two gift cards to pick up books that I badly wanted, so now I feel able to cope with the surgery next week.  I'm not sure if I will read all of these while I'm home next week, though these books do make me feel like I won't mind being housebound for a few days.   I have the week to recover, so unless the pain is very bad, I plan on reading every day!
Among Others - Jo Walton (yes! finally! I'm so excited....)
The House at Sea End - Elly Griffiths - ditto.  (Not sure which one I will read first.  I think I will read The House at Sea End this weekend, though I do have The Snow Leopard (Harry Hole!!!!) also vying for my attention.)
Snow Angels - James Thompson (set in Finland, getting rave reviews)
The Spellman Files - Lisa Lutz (special mention to raidergirl3, who mentioned them to me on a post somewhere that I can't find now.  The character is like Bridget Jones Diary as a detective, only a tiny bit more together.  It looks hilarious.  I will need to laugh next week to help me in my healing, so I look forward to this one! )
A Florentine Death - Michele Giuttari (one of the things I want to do is read more mysteries set - and translated from - other countries.  This is another new series, set in Italy, and getting very good reviews.)
Bellfield Hall - Anna Dean (described as if Jane Austen wrote mysteries....this would be it. Set in 1805 England,  spinster Dido Kent must solve a mystery or two....billed as a regency mystery, it looks delightful and fun. )

So now that we are in to week 2 of 2012, how are you finding it, Gentle Reader?  Are you happy that 2011 is over with now?  have you found anything good to read yet in this new year?

I am also hoping to catch up on some of my reviews from last year, so that I can name my best of the year books.  Before we are too far gone into 2012....Happy belated New year, everyone.