Category Archives: Books


Sometime last summer, within a two-week period, I heard or read three different people suggest reading a poem a day.

Since I like poetry, this is not exactly a challenge. It was more a reminder that I like poetry and should read it more often. I have a bunch of anthologies and collections that I rarely crack open. For the past few months, I’ve mostly relied on Every Day Poets, whose rss feed magically dumps a poem into my google reader every morning.

Two recent highlights:

And speaking of rss magically making content appear somewhere, I’ve told If this, then that to take rss entries from various online fiction magazines and send them to Instapaper, making my Instapaper account an automatically updating SFF magazine.

Which I can then neglect to make the time to read. But I did enjoy Seanan McGuire’s “Crystal Halloway and the Forgotten Passage” in Fantasy in December.


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Books of 2011

(Forgot to write this last night, so it’ll be super short.)

I read 29 books last year. Since I didn’t set goals for reading, that’s neither good nor bad. It just is.

For highlights I have to go with The Wise Man’s Fear and A Dance with Dragons. Also The Hunger Games (new to me) and Merrie Haskell’s The Princess Curse, which is my most-recommended book of 2011 (yes, if you ask me what you should read, I will tell you about my friends).

For 2012 I plan to read some books. Some of them will be nonfiction. What are your reading plans? Any suggestions for what I should read?

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Books read

Catching Fire and Mockingjay, Suzanne Collins

After reading the comments on my previous post, I decided to read the second two books in the Hunger Games trilogy. Loved them. And I can see why many people hated the third book–according to the Amazon reviews, for many of the reasons that I liked it (mainly the main characters’ actions and reactions).

It actually ended up a little less dark than I had expected–not to spoil anything, I’ll just say there was one line in Catching Fire that I thought was foreshadowing things turning out very bad.

Anansi Boys, Neil Gaiman

It’s been a long time since I read American Gods, but I have the feeling I liked this one better. It was, at least, a nice change to read something relatively cheerful and humorous.

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Books read, dark and determined edition

The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins – I finally read this–staying up until 2 am to finish it one night. It was exactly what I expected from everything I’ve heard about it. I haven’t actually decided whether to read the other two in the series, though. I’m sure they’re good, and quick reads, so maybe I should. Are they as gripping as the first one?

Prince of Thorns, Mark Lawrence – Another determined young protagonist, this one bent on revenge rather than survival. His voice reminded me of A Clockwork Orange, but Jorg has possibly good reasons, or at least an explanation, for (some of) what he does.

Despite appearances, this is not a pseudomedieval fantasy, Jorg’s attack on Castle Red being the prime example there. And happily, there’s more going on politically than there seems at first (which helps explain why a gang of violent bandits is following a 13-year-old).

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The month in books

A Dance with Dragons, George R. R. Martin – Enjoyed this, though watching [character] digging himself into a deeper and deeper hole was painful, not that he had any good options. And now I wait.

As a side note, I have discovered the best way to read a book in a series after a gap during which I’ve forgotten most of what happened in the last two books: First, I got J watching the HBO miniseries. Then, he read the books. So I waited until he was well into ADwD before starting it. It was like having a voice-activated ASoIaF encyclopedia sitting in my living room. I could just ask, “When’s the last time we saw [character]?” and get a short essay. I plan to try this again sometime.

The Princess Curse, Merrie Haskell – This was fun to read. Not only is it a great book (did I mention you should buy it? you should buy it), but since I critted it, as I read I was thinking, “She changed that, and that…” which was more entertaining than I expected. And I now have a signed copy, which I hope will baffle future lit students.

Doomsday Book, Connie Willis – I hadn’t read this before. I went through it very quickly, so I know I missed things, but I still enjoyed it. (I decided I would skim until they figured out that Kivrin wasn’t in the year she was supposed to be–I didn’t realize this would take most of the book.)

The Golden Cord, Paul Genesse – I plan to pick up the sequel to this soon. I loved the setting of this book, where everyone lives on top of a plateau and dragons and other winged creatures are dangerous, evil, and/or hated. There are hints of a complex history which I’d like to know more about.

And this flowchart for NPR’s top 100 SFF books has been going around. I tried it out and no matter what I chose, got books I’d already read. Which I guess means…not much.

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The Crimson Pact & The Princess Curse

Looking for something to read?

I’ve got two suggestions for you, both books that just came out this week–an awesome middle-grade fantasy or an anthology of 28 devious demon-hunting stories.

First up, The Princess Curse by Merrie Haskell. I’m excited to see this come out because Mer’s a friend, plus I critiqued it a while back and it’s neat to see the final version, but mainly because it’s a great book and I’ve been wanting to make people read it and now I can. *engages psychic powers*

From the description on Amazon:

Twelve princesses suffer from a puzzling (if silly) curse, and anyone who ends it will win a reward. Reveka, a sharp-witted and irreverent apprentice herbalist, wants that reward. But her investigations lead to deeper mysteries and a daunting choice—will she break the curse at the peril of her own soul?

You can read the first several chapters at the publisher’s site.

Next, The Crimson Pact vol. 2 includes my first published story, “The Demon’s Tomb,” in which a history teacher who moonlights as a demon hunter corners his target in a Cleveland cemetery.

Plus a bunch of other stories about the Crimson Pact–a group who vowed to destroy the demons of the Rusted Vale…but the demons had their own secret plan and escaped, invading dozens of worlds. The stories in the anthology follow members of the Pact as they track the demons across all those worlds.

It’s available in the usual ebook formats from Amazon,, and B&N.

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Where are my books?

Because I’ve culled books pretty seriously each time we’ve moved, I don’t actually have that many. They’re shelved by genre and there are only a few places in the house where disorganized piles start to sprout. So when I’m looking for a particular physical book, it doesn’t take too long to find. I check the appropriate shelf, the end table, and the small bookcase in the guest room. Done.

Ebooks are a different story. I’m pretty sure I bought a particular ebook a few months ago. I don’t see the file in the Readings folder on my computer. Does that mean it’s on my Sony? Or did I leave the file in Downloads and copy it into Stanza on my iPod? Or maybe I got the Kindle version for some reason. Or the Nook version. I don’t think this one was available through iBooks…

Finding an ebook is not just a quick walk through the house. I have to scroll through several different catalogs to find it. (This one was in Stanza.)

So I’m thinking I need a single catalog. I have an account at LibraryThing that I haven’t really updated since before I got my Sony. I’m not sure it was ever up to date–I think I got it in Columbus, and didn’t get everything entered before we packed up and moved to Illinois. It’s time to start poking at it again, though I suspect it’s always going to be the sort of thing that’s only mostly up to date. I’ve gotten as far as making a list of the different locations (both physical and virtual) to catalog, one at a time.

Recent reads:

The Third Sign, Gregory A. Wilson – I met Greg at Gen Con so I read his book (this is going to be a trend over the next couple book posts). It was a quick read, but with far prettier prose than the average action-packed fantasy. And I am very intrigued by the world’s history, since one thing I really enjoy in a book is a sense of history and a sense of hidden secrets within that history.

The Dip, Seth Godin (business/productivity) – What I got from this is his idea of giving up the things you’ll never be the best at to focus on the thing you can be the best at. Which, since I don’t really want to be “the best” at anything, is just a way of saying spend time on what’s important to you, not on what isn’t important. And don’t give up when it’s tough (during “the dip”) if it’s something you really want.

I don’t think I needed to read the book to figure that out. Anyway, I picked it up because I had recently run across some articles on the value of focus (vs maintaining broad interests/hobbies) and then someone mentioned this book. It didn’t actually tie in as well as I had expected it to.

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Books: White Cat and The Black Prism

Do you belong to book clubs at Goodreads?

I joined the Fantasy Book Club ages ago and have never participated. I decided to change that, and also joined the SciFi and Fantasy Book Club. These fit my schedule much better than the group at the library.

While I was sick last weekend I read the August reads for both of these clubs.

* White Cat, Holly Black (SFF book club)

A fun read that looks at the underside of society with Mafia-style curse workers. 

The people who can alter memories are creepy, and the magic in this world has a real cost. It’s a high enough cost that I wouldn’t want to be a memory worker or a death worker. You risk losing yourself, either by forgetting too much or by actually dying. Not good.

* The Black Prism, Brent Weeks (F book club)

Another well-designed magic system.  It’s complicated without requiring too much explanation, and it looks like the later books will be examining it more.

These books are both the beginnings of series, and this one leaves some mysteries to be resolved later (I’m trying to figure out if spoiler can be spoiler’s spoiler given that spoiler). 

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Some recent reads

* Trickster’s Choice, Tamora Pierce
* Circle of Magic: Sandry’s Book, Tamora Pierce

Tamora Pierce was speaking at our local library a few weeks ago, so I thought it would be a good time to refresh my memory on her work. The first Alanna book was checked out, so I picked these at random.

Both were enjoyable–the Circle of Magic book felt much younger, so I enjoyed the Trickster book more. It’s books like this that make me wish my brother had had at least one girl for me to share books with.

If you’re a fan and you ever get a chance to hear her speak, go. She was entertaining, and only spoke for about 5 minutes–the rest of the time was Q&A, and she’ll answer just about anything.

And I would kind of like to talk to some crows now.

* I’m trying to step up my reading of business books, so I searched out the Personal MBA group on Goodreads. We’ll be reading The Personal MBA:Master the Art of Business by Josh Kauffman. for a July 24 discussion. Seemed like an appropriate place to start, since the group is based on Kauffman’s concept of a do-it-yourself MBA education. If you’re interested, come join us.

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Books read, in brief

Switched, by Amanda Hocking: this is from the “lots of people think she’s great, let’s see what she’s doing right” to-read list.

I can see why it would appeal to the Twilight crowd. Girl finds out she’s special and has romantic angst with a hot supernatural guy. At least in this book she’s special because she’s an elf troll Trylle not just because some vampire thinks she smells good.

The Wise Man’s Fear, by Patrick Rothfuss: this is from the “yay, long epic fantasy” to-read list.

Enjoyed this a lot. Kvothe is one of those rare characters who is good at nearly everything and yet somehow not annoying.

Also really enjoying Jo Walton’s reread of The Name of the Wind (the previous book) on

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