Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009 Reading and Challenges Retrospective

2009 was a mixed year for me. It started off well; not only was I reading, I was reviewing as well. But then I had issues with my depression that took over a large part of the year and cut my reading down significantly. I only read three books in June, which is possibly a lifetime low for me since I learned to read.

I had started off in high hopes and joined a series of challenges. Some I finished and some I didn’t, but overall the year went quite well.

I had a bit of trouble defining a “read” as some challenges said a whole book, while others said anything would do, including short stories. If a series I’m reading has a short story in an anthology, I’m quite likely to read only that particular story since I’m not all that keen on shorts, and that continually confused me when working out totals. I’m still not convinced that everything matches.

Anyway, counting those single short stories as a “read”, I think I managed to read 101 things this year. Counting only “real” books, I think my total was 97 as that’s the total I have in my 100+ Challenge list.

Most interesting to me was the proportion of paper books to ebooks I read in 2009. In the past I’d thrown around a 50/50 figure without an data to back myself up, so I made a point of keeping a record this year. The final figure was 45% paper to 55% e, which was pretty close to what I’d guessed and skewed a bit by December when I read 9 ebooks and only 1 paper book.

I read 13 books I rated 10/10 this year and there were 11 I didn’t finish. I read 79 books I hadn’t read before and reread 16. (Like I said, I know my numbers may not add up, but it is much too much work to try to find the discrepancies – and my struggle with the definition of a “read” may be a factor as well. I apologise).

In terms of challenges, I just missed out on the 100+ challenge, falling 3 books short. Considering my year, I’m not worrying about that too much. You can see my list here.

I easily completed the eBook challenge (list here) and Romance challenge (list here) in February, meaning everything else I read for the rest of the year was a bonus in terms of challenges. I finished the first stage of the Library challenge (list here) in March, which was what I had signed up for. All the same I had hoped to make it to the second level of 25 books. I fell one short, reading 24 library books in 2009.

I also read three books my one of my favourite authors, Patricia McKillip, completing that challenge in October (list here).

I didn’t make the YA challenge, reading only 9 books out of 12 (list here) and almost finished the Once Upon a Time Challenge III (list here), only failing because I didn’t manage to watch or read A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

I’m not going to do a “best of” or “worst of” list this year, but here are those 13 books I rated 10/10 (in the order I read them):

  1. The Grey King – Susan Cooper
  2. Lear’s Daughters – Marjorie B. Kellogg
  3. The Ordinary Princess – M. M. Kaye
  4. Born in Ice – Nora Roberts
  5. Shards of Honor – Lois McMaster Bujold
  6. Branded by Fire – Nalini Singh
  7. Angels’ Blood – Nalini Singh
  8. The Invisible Ring – Anne Bishop
  9. Diamond Star – Catherine Asaro
  10. The Shadow Queen – Anne Bishop
  11. Daughter of the Blood – Anne Bishop
  12. Heir to the Shadows – Anne Bishop
  13. Queen of the Darkness – Anne Bishop

While I rated it 9 rather than 10, I’m also going to add Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier to my notable books of 2009 as I thought it was a fantastic book and I’m looking forward to reading more Marillier in 2010.

Of the books on the above list, six were new reads and seven rereads. If you add in Daughter of the Forest it balances out to seven each.

I’m going to continue keeping lists in 2010 as I found it rather a satisfying thing to do. I’ve only joined three challenges as I want to keep the pressure down, and I’m looking forward to a new reading year.

December 2009 Reading

I don’t think I’m quite going to make it to 100 books this year, but given how much I struggled to read during the year, I’m not unhappy about that.

I’m rereading Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan series with the Beyond Reality group on Goodreads and really enjoying it. I have so many books I remember fondly that I’d like to reread and I’m feeling pretty burnt out of a lot of the genre new releases that I’m thinking of doing some serious rereading in 2010. It helps that a lot of old favourites are starting to come out as ebooks which I find much easier to read, so that’s an added incentive.

  1. Cetaganda – Gail Lois McMaster Bujold
    Vorkosigan, Book 5; Science Fiction; eBook; Reread; 8/10
  2. Ethan of Athos – Lois McMaster Bujold
    Vorkosigan, Book 6; Science Fiction; eBook; Reread; 7/10
  3. Missing in Death – J. D. Robb (in the anthology The Lost)
    Eve Dallas, Book 36; Futuristic Mystery; eBook; 6/10
  4. Boneshaker – Cherie Priest
    Steampunk; Library Book; DNF
  5. Heart Change – Robin D. Owens
    Celta, Book 8; Fantasy; Romance; eBook; 7/10
  6. Brothers in Arms – Lois McMaster Bujold
    Vorkosigan, Book 7; Science Fiction; eBook; Reread; 9/10
  7. The Devil in Winter – Lisa Kleypas
    Wallflowers, Book 3; Romance; eBook; 8/10
  8. Tanner’s Scheme – Lora Leigh
    Breeds, Book 9; Paranormal; eBook; 7/10
  9. Daughter of the Blood – Anne Bishop
    Black Jewels, Book 1; Fantasy; eBook; Reread; 10/10
  10. Heir to the Shadows – Anne Bishop
    Black Jewels, Book 2; Fantasy; eBook; Reread; 10/10
  11. Queen of the Darkness – Anne Bishop
    Black Jewels, Book 3; Fantasy; eBook; Reread: 10/10

Best book of the month = Queen of the Darkness
Biggest disappointment of the month = Missing in Death

December Reading:
Books read this month = 10
DNFs this month = 1
10/10 reads this month = 3
New reads this month = 4
Rereads this month = 6
paper books : eBooks = 1 : 9 = 10% : 90%

December Challenges Progress:
100+ Reading Challenge = 10
Support Your Local Library Challenge = 0 (Stage 1 Completed 3-04-09)
Romance Reading Challenge = 3 (Challenge Completed 25-02-09)
YA Reading Challenge = 0
eBook Reading Challenge = 9 (Challenge Completed 24-02-09)

December Non-Challenges Progress:
SF/Fantasy books read = 7
Audiobooks listened to = 0

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Challenges for 2010

I signed up to my first reading challenges in 2009. Some I did well in and finish, some I didn’t manage to complete for various reasons. I’ll do a wrap up post for those challenges soon, most probably tomorrow (New Year’s Eve) or the next day (New Year’s Day).

Although I know I made sensible choices in my challenges, it was still hard work, mostly for health reasons which is the usual cause of problems for me.

So I have been even more picky this year and chosen just three challenges to try for the year.

FlashbackChallenge 2010 Flashback Reading Challenge

I’ve already posted about this one here, and that’s where you’ll find my list. I had already decided I wanted to do some serious rereading next year, so this was perfect for me.

I’ve already started well, getting caught up with the Beyond Reality group’s reading of Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan series. I’ve finished Brothers in Arms and I’m looking forward to Mirror Dance in January. I started to reread Anne Bishop’s Daughter of the Blood in December and got so caught up in the story and I had to keep right on reading to the end of the original trilogy. She has a new book coming out in March, so I’m hoping to reread the others before I read that. Of course, none of these ones will make the list as 2010 hasn’t started yet, but I hope to carry on with this as I have begun.

My list of books read for this challenge is here.

Howltext The Big Book Challenge 2010

Orannia over at Walkabout has set up The Big Book Challenge. It’s a nice, low stress one where the idea is to get one big book (over 500 pages) that’s been languishing on the TBR onto the night table and finally read. I admit that I have big-book-fear, especially big-fat-fantasy-book-fear. So I have a bunch of things I know are really good but the size scares me too much to take them off the shelf. Books currently on the TBR that qualify are:

  1. Ship of Destiny – Robin Hobb (816 pages)
  2. Prophecy – Elizabeth Haydon (736 pages)
  3. The Summer Queen – Joan D. Vinge (688 pages)
  4. This Alien Shore – C. S. Friedman (576 pages)
  5. Son of the Shadows – Juliet Marillier (608 pages)
  6. The Last Dancer – Daniel Keys Moran (594 pages)
  7. Dragon Prince – Melanie Rawn (576 pages)

Wonderfully, Orannia doesn’t require us to set a list (the one above is a guideline), doesn’t require reviews and will consider us a great success if we finish just one book that qualifies. This is the nice, kind of no-pressure challenge I want, where it encourages me but doesn’t beat me over the head if I stumble.

My list of books read for this challenge is here.

sf3two The Science Fiction Experience 2010

I think this is the third year Carl over at Stainless Steel Droppings has hosted this challenge. Again, it is a low-pressure one. All Carl does is encourage you to read/watch/play in the SF arena in January and February. I have some SF books waiting in the TBR that I haven’t got to in ages, so I’m going to use this as an excuse to try to get some of them read. Books currently on the TBR that qualify are:

  1. Doubleblind – Ann Aguirre
  2. The Empress of Mars – Kage Baker
  3. Mirror Dance – Lois McMaster Bujold (read January)
  4. To Trade the Stars – Julie E. Czerneda
  5. This Alien Shore – C. S. Friedman
  6. Fledgling – Sharon Lee and Steve Miller
  7. Agent of Change – Sharon Lee and Steve Miller
  8. Dragonsdawn – Anne McCaffrey
  9. Seeker – Jack McDevitt
  10. The Last Dancer – Daniel Keys Moran
  11. Valentine Pontifex – Robert Silverberg
  12. Archangel – Sharon Shinn
  13. Alien Taste – Wen Spencer
  14. Endless Blue – Wen Spencer
  15. City of Pearl/Crossing the Line – Karen Traviss
  16. The Summer Queen – Joan D. Vinge

My list of books read for this challenge is here.

I have no idea how many – if any – of these I will read, but I’ve going to try to give it a go. Wish me well.

ETA: List updated 22-2-10

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Out of the mouths of babes…

Marcus is having a bath.

It didn’t start well. I ran the bath and then he decided he wanted a shower. So he sat in the bath and had a little cry. I could hear these pathetic whinging sounds floating down the hall.

However, he’s playing now, so all is well.

Anyway, he just asked me a question, which went something like this…

In the olden days, were there no taps, and if people lived near a river, did they go there and get water and put it a jug and carry it back to their house on their heads and pour it into something else?

That’s a pretty complex thought for a five year old. I am both amused and impressed.

And speaking of Marcus gems, this one came last week.

I picked up Claire from school one day and dropped her home. On the way, she and Marcus were telling each other “jokes”. They do this quite often and their jokes are really more riddles, with answers that make perfect sense to them but no-one else. This is one of their favourites.

Why did the cow jump over the moon?
Because it had springs in its knees!

This is generally followed by gales of laughter.

This particular day, Claire had a new one.

Why did the cow jump over the moon?
Because the farmer was called Hans.

It took me a moment before I realised she must have overhead some adults and, not understanding the joke, misunderstood what they said.

I tried to explain, even knowing they wouldn’t get the details, that the farmer was supposed to have cold hands, but they weren’t having a bar of it. They had a new joke and they thought it was hilarious.

So that’s the current favourite. And if I laugh each time I hear it, it certainly isn’t for the same reason they both laugh.

That’s ridiculous

I ordered a book for my brother in law from the Whitcoulls NZ website. Cool, I thought, get it locally and then it'll arrive in time for Christmas.

It arrived today.
It shipped from the UK.
The address for returns is Australia.

That's just stupid.

I'm now feeling a bit worried about arrival times for the other two books I ordered later.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

How our pasts shape us…

I had the most fascinating interaction with Marcus yesterday.

It was raining cats and dogs, so I picked up not only Marcus from school, but his best friend, Claire, as well. She has a brand new baby brother (about a month old) and naturally, her mother didn’t want to take him and his two-year-old brother out in the rain if she could avoid it.

Since we were there, we let Claire and Marcus play for a while. Perhaps inspired by the baby, they had a wonderful game of “mummies and daddies” with one of Claire’s dolls as the baby.

Later, when we got home, Marcus decided he needed to “have a baby”. It couldn’t be one of his stuffed animals, it had to be a “person”, so his Spider-Man toy ended up stuffed under his shirt, ready to be “born” (and at five, I’m grateful to confirm he remains oblivious to the actual details thereof).

Suddenly, he announces to me, “Oh, I have to go and get the incubator!”

“Does he need an incubator?” I asked.

“Yes,” Marcus said. “He’s coming when he isn’t supposed to.”

“Is he coming early, like you did?” I asked.

“Yes,” Marcus told me and went off to find something to be an incubator.

(You’ll be pleased to know Spider-Man was born safely, even if it was a breech birth, and was soon climbing out of the incubator.)

We’ve never hidden his prematurity from Marcus and he’s seen pictures of himself in the incubator. But all the same, I was surprised by this sudden appearance of how that history has obviously shaped the way he sees thing. I shouldn’t expect that most five year olds playing “babies” would ever think about needing an incubator, if they even know what an incubator is. To Marcus, it’s a part of how babies come into the world.

Nothing amazing or earth-shattering, but a very interesting moment all the same.

Virtual Advent: Family

Large_Advent_1 Family and Christmas have always been linked for me. It’s been that way all my life, so much so that I never really thought about it, it just was.

When I was a child, it was a given that we would spend Christmas with either one or other set of grandparents, or more likely both. Sometimes they came to us, but more often than not, we went to stay with them. This was easier said than done, as my parents had moved away from the area where they were born and lived in New Zealand’s North Island, while their parents all lived in the South Island. We would all pile into the car – my mother, my father, my brother and sister and I – and start driving southwards.

When I was small, Mum would pack the footwells in the back of the car and then put a cot mattress on top. This was in the days before car seats, so my siblings and I had harness seatbelts that let us move around, and this meant we could lie down and have a sleep if we wanted or needed to. We usually left before daylight to drive two hours to Wellington where we waited in line to drive onto the ferry and start the three hour sail across Cook Strait.

It must have been hard on my parents, keeping us entertained for both the trip and the wait in the queue. I remember one particular year when I was probably in my early teens. I had borrowed a book of Goon Show scripts from the library and brought it with me. I distinctly remember my father sitting in the driver’s seat with his sleeves rolled up and the window rolled down, the sun shining outside (remember, Christmas is in summer in New Zealand), while he read one of the scripts and did all the silly voices. I’ll always have a soft spot in my heart for The Dreaded Batter Pudding Hurler (of Bexhill-on-Sea) as a result.

It was about a twelve hour trip all up as I recall and we would arrive at my grandparents’ house all tired and cranky and quite possibly woken up from sleep. But we were children; we recovered quickly and soon got on with the serious business of the summer holiday.

hillcrest Christmas Day itself was shared between both sets of grandparents. We would spend Christmas Eve at my mother’s parents, open presents there in the morning and have a full-on Christmas Dinner at lunchtime. This was a full English Christmas Dinner, which makes less sense that you might think when you remember it was the middle of summer. After lunch we all climbed back into the car and drove about an hour and a half to my father’s parents. We would have leftovers and salad for tea and often shared it with our cousins.

On into the next generation, it never occurred to me that things would be any different. Sure, my husband and I live about 600km from our parents (although at least they live in the same town, which my grandparents didn’t) but at Christmas we load ourselves and Marcus into the car and, just as my family did a generation ago, head south. We have a meal with both families (and happily, summery meals like barbeques are much more common these days) and catch up with our siblings and their spouses, while Marcus gets to play with his cousin. Like when I was a child, this is just the way it is.


But our family had a big shock this year. In October, my sister-in-law was in a serious car accident. She was driving home from another town when a car going in the other direction lost control on the wet road and ploughed into her. She was air-lifted to hospital and it was touch and go for the first day or two. Seven weeks later, she is mending slowly, but is still in hospital and likely to be there for a while yet. She has a lot of rehabilitation and readjustment to go through in her future.

But she is still here with us. And that is an enormous blessing.

We have no idea at this point where we will be for Christmas Day, but it won’t be the routine we’re used to. My in-laws have been fantastic and are willing to fit in with my side of the family’s needs and plans – once we know what they are. And we will be together at Christmas, with my husband’s family and – thank God – with my family too. There might be an empty seat at the table, but that will mean we’ll be taking some Christmas dinner up to the hospital, not that my brother has lost his wife and my niece her mother.

So if you get together with your family this Christmas, no matter if there are squabbles, or frustrations, or embarrassments (all of which happen in the best of families) take a moment to be grateful that you’re all there to share the holiday together. I can assure you that my family will be doing exactly that.

My Christmas wishes to you and your family. May you have a wonderful day, together or apart, and remember what a blessing family is.

Follow the Virtual Advent Calendar here.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Magic Under Glass by Jaclyn Dolamore

I don’t remember where I first saw this book mentioned, but it’s been on my “books to remember for 2010” list for a while now. I’ve just discovered that the author is having a promotional contest now the book has an official book trailer. So I thought I’d share it, both because I think it looks like a good book and because hey, who doesn’t like to try to win a prize.

(Sorry the video goes over the edge of the blog template. If you can’t see it all, pop over the You Tube to watch it there.)

Want to win a hardcover of MAGIC UNDER GLASS by Jaclyn Dolamore plus more prizes? See for details!

Nimira is a foreign music-hall girl forced to dance for mere pennies. When wealthy sorcerer Hollin Parry hires her to sing with a piano-playing automaton, Nimira believes it is the start of a new and better life. In Parry's world, however, buried secrets are beginning to stir. Unsettling below-stairs rumors swirl about ghosts, a madwoman roaming the halls, and Parry's involvement with a league of sorcerers who torture fairies for sport. Then Nimira discovers the spirit of a fairy gentleman named Erris is trapped inside the clockwork automaton, waiting for someone to break his curse. The two fall into a love that seems hopeless, and breaking the curse becomes a race against time, as not just their love, but the fate of the entire magical world may be in peril.