WWW Wednesdays 3-6-13

This weekly event from Should Be Reading gives us a chance to share what’s we’re reading and often find new treasures we might have otherwise missed. Join in the fun!

To play along, just answer the following three (3) questions…

• What are you currently reading?
• What did you recently finish reading?
• What do you think you’ll read next?

I’m still working on the same books I had open last weekVampires in the Lemon Grove, by Karen Russell and Dreamland: Adventures in the Strange Science of Sleep, by David K. Randall. I’ve also started Grimspace, by Ann Aguirre.

 In between continuing those titles I picked up and finished Hounded (The Iron Druid Chronicles #1) by Kevin Hearne. I have to say, I nearly put this one down before I was halfway through. I loathe being unable to finish a book, but I didn’t feel like this was very well written. The dialogue seemed a bit clunky, too forced at times. The characters though, are intriguing. I’m also a huge fan of mythology and it’s well represented here. The book is a pretty quick read, so I finished it and you know what? I’m going to give the next in the series a shot. Hearne has something here to build upon and I’m hoping I enjoy the other “Chronicles.”

 Kevin’s titular druid, Atticus, reminded me a lot of a character I’ve met before and really loved, which may be why I’m giving that series a chance. The Alchemyst (The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel, #1) by Michael Scott is one of my favorites, the first installment in one of my favorite series ever. If you’ve not found Scott’s books yet, I highly recommend them. I may read this again next.

 Hexed (The Iron Druid Chronicles #2) by Kevin Hearne will be coming up soon too.

 

 

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WWW Wednesday, February 27, 2013

This is a weekly prompt, thanks to Should Be Reading.

To play along, just answer the following three (3) questions…

• What are you currently reading?
• What did you recently finish reading?
• What do you think you’ll read next?

Currently I’ve got two titles open:

 Vampires in the Lemon Grove, by Karen Russell. It’s a book of short stories, and while I’m not usually a fan of reading shorts this collection is very enjoyable so far. The vampires are far from the popular versions you might be familiar with today.

 

Dreamland: Adventures in the Strange Science of Sleep, by David K. Randall, is a non-fiction look into our heads and nocturnal tendencies. No, it’s not all what that might sound like, keep it clean people. Apparently, humans naturally tend more toward “segmented sleep” than the “solid 8 hours” we so often talk about missing. Intriguing stuff.

I recently finished reading:

 In Milton Lumky Territory, by Philip K. Dick. Dick is well-known and respected for his writing, which I’d say typically falls into the “sci-fi” category, though he wrote professionally for 30 years in multiple genres. To be honest, I only finished this out of respect for the author, wanting to give it a chance to wow me until the end, and while the characters were somewhat interesting, it was more like a train-wreck you can’t look away from than something I enjoyed. Maybe it was the 1950’s setting, but it was boring to me. Plenty of underlying themes to dig out if you’re a fan of Phillip K. Dick.

Next up in the queue:

 Grimspace, by Ann Aguirre. I’m going to give the Sirantha Jax series a try. I’ve never been a big sci-fi reader, but I love a good series, gives me more time with the characters. I heard about this one through my Goodreads friends.

 

 

What are YOU reading?

Thanks to Should be Reading for the fun prompt. It’s always cool to see all the different kinds of things being consumed out there by readers!

To play along, just answer the following three (3) questions…

• What are you currently reading?
• What did you recently finish reading?
• What do you think you’ll read next?

 Currently reading In Milton Lumky Territory, by Philip K. Dick. Not very far in but it’s intriguing. Dick’s characters seem flat, but more alive than they should be, which is pulling me in but also disconcerting at the same time.

 Also reading Last Argument of Kings, by Joe Abercrombie, book three of his The First Law trilogy. This has proven to be a wonderful ride in a sort of “real-fantasy” setting. Rich characters and a complicated world as backdrop for multiple story lines. Highly recommend.

 And also reading Heir to the Empire, by Timothy Zahn. It was suggested as a jumping off point for someone getting a first taste of the Star Wars extended universe. Zahn has written a number of Star Wars novels.

 I just finished the second book of that trilogy, Before They Are Hanged. It was better than the first book (The Blade Itself) and each of the characters in it are endeared to you further and further as you read on. Good stuff.

 I also recently finished The Long Earth, by Terry Pratchett & Stephen Baxter. Really fun, had a bit of Pratchett’s Discworld feel, but different enough to stand alone as a fine piece of sci-fi-ish fiction.

 I *also* just finished Star Wars: Scoundrels, also by Timothy Zahn. I had picked it up and intended to read if after Heir but the draw of Han Solo and Lando Calrissian was too strong 😉 I enjoyed it, but honestly I’m more of a swords & dragons kind of geek than a sci-fi reader, despite my love of all things Star Wars.

The next thing I read (after finishing all of the above) may be Gun Machine, by Warren Ellis. With guns a hot topic these days this new novel stuck out enough for me to want to check it out. Gun is his second novel.

It’s the questions

Inspired by my friend Kat over at Kat O’ Nine Tales, here is a song and some answers to questions you didn’t know you wanted to know but I just know you’ll be glad you now know. Proceed with caution.

1-Did you ever wonder how they get the “M”s on M&Ms?

Yeah, no. Sometimes I wonder why there aren’t more green ones in each bag, but then I’ve been M&Ms free for a while now, so I don’t even wonder that much anymore. Actually sort of rude for you to taunt me with the memory, thanks.
2-If you could only read one book for the rest of you life, what would you have for a snack?

Smoked almonds, definitely smoked almonds.
3-What was the first CD that you ever bought? (Not record or tape, but CD.)

So hard to remember. Using my Call a Friend lifeline on this one and he says it was probably Depeche Mode, possibly The Smiths-Meat is Murder.

4-Are you stealing your Internet? If so where are you located because I’m tired of paying for mine.

Not even. My 50Mbps cost me an arm and a leg, but it’s fast and I’m thrilled.
5-Do you think that I’m joking?

Yeah, no. I can tell by your unsettling stare you are dead serious.
6-Should I keep asking questions?

Do you honestly think we’ll keep answering them?
7-If you answered “no” to number 6, why did you read this? If you answered “yes”, are you mental?

If you have to ask ~sob~ ~choke~ I guess you don”t really know me at all!
8-If you answered number 7 yet said “no” to number 6, are you a Cthuhlu? If you answered “yes” to both number 6 and 7, then you are probably me 

That is highly improbable, and would likely result in some sort of tear in the fabric of Space and Time.

9-I talk to myself.

Orange.

10-Number 9 wasn’t a question unless you are me, then you know what I was asking.

Zombies.

11-Are you sleeping okay, dear?

Much better lately, actually. Sometimes the dreams wake me. And the screams. Maybe it’s the screams in my dreams? Just kidding, I don’t sleep.

WWW Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2013

Once again, via Should Be Reading, it’s time for WWW Wednesday!

To play along, just answer the following three (3) questions…

• What are you currently reading?
• What did you recently finish reading?
• What do you think you’ll read next?

 

I am currently finishing up The Twelve, by Justin Cronin. It’s almost “horror” fiction, but somehow more intellectual than traditional hack & slash or monster-movie scary. This is #2 in a trilogy, the third book not yet published. It’s one of those stories that will be tough to wait for.

I recently finished Cold Days, the latest Dresden Files episode, by Jim Butcher. If you don’t know Harry Dresden then you need to meet him, and fast, there’s no telling how much longer he’ll be around. Harry gets himself into hair-raising situations in every novel, and you don’t always know he’ll come out alive. Sometimes though, being dead or alive isn’t really an obstacle to a wizard.

The next book I read will likely be The Renaissance Soul, by Margaret Lobenstine. This was on a list of “books that can change your life,” and looked interesting enough for me to pick up. The subtitle is Life Design for People with too many Passions to Pick Just One.

WWW Wednesday 12/19/12

WWW Wednesdays is a weekly meme held over on Should be Reading.

To play along, just answer the following three (3) questions…

• What are you currently reading?
• What did you recently finish reading?
• What do you think you’ll read next?

My current read is still Wheat Belly. It’s slow going, dense with chemistry so far, but makes an extremely compelling argument for eliminating wheat gluten from your diet. I’m going to try, we’ll see how it goes.

I never finished Cloud Atlas, came up <100 pages short, but had to return it to the library. Someone else had it reserved and I felt bad about keeping it. It’s definitely worth a read and I’ll finish it before seeing the movie.

I’m SO excited about my next read: Jim Butcher’s Cold Days, the latest Dresden Files installment! If you’re into mysteries, cop stories, fantasy, wizards, or even vampires, you’ll like the Dresden Files novels.

WWW Wednesday 12/12/12

WWW Wednesdays is a weekly meme held over on Should be Reading. To play along just answer the following questions.

 

WWW_Wednesdays4

 

To play along, just answer the following three (3) questions…

• What are you currently reading?
• What did you recently finish reading?
• What do you think you’ll read next?

Right now I’m trying to finish Cloud Atlas, by David Mitchell. It started off slowly and I nearly put it down but now I’m thankful I kept at it. It bogged down a bit near the middle but now I’m on the home-stretch and it’s been a wonderful ride. I highly recommend it.

I’m also reading Wheat Belly, by William Davis, MD. It’s basically a condemnation of what science and agriculture has done to wheat in the name of convenience and profit. I’m barely into it, but I have to say some of the arguments for eliminating wheat gluten (in nearly everything we eat) from your diet are compelling.

The last book I read was the very funny eBook, 101 Things to do Before the Apocalypse, by Jon Hanson. You should click on the image and go buy it today, it’s only $1.99 and would make a great Christmas gift for yourself or anyone you know who enjoys a good laugh. You can also read my review of it here on my blog.

 

The next thing I’ll read will likely be The Blade Itself, by Joe Abercrombie. It was recommended by a friend (thanks, Jeffery, if you’re reading this) and is a sort of dark-humor, fantasy offering, the first of three in a trilogy. I’m a sucker for trilogies.

Review – 101 Things to do Before the Apocalypse

If someone tells a joke but no one’s left alive to hear it, is it still funny? In the case of Jon Hanson’s 101 Things to do Before the Apocalypse the answer is a resounding, “Yes!”

Hanson has put together a bucket-list folks from all walks of life can occupy their time with as we near the Mayan Doomsday date of 12/21/12. As it’s the month of Christmas I think I’ll start by checking off #6: “Have Christmas Early.” December 25th comes days after the scheduled ruination of mankind, so why miss out?! One of the best things about the book is that similar things are grouped together so you can knock out two in a row. (#7 is “Buy Yourself Christmas Presents!”)

Whether you’re a student, parent, work a white-collar job, or you’re a ne’er-do-well slacker, this book has easy to accomplish tasks, all laid out  in a convenient format. They range from sound advice, to suggestions of questionable morality, to outright law-breaking, but not every suggestion is selfish or illegal. There are plenty of things on this list to make your neighbors’ last days a little brighter. One of my favorites is #18: “Give up Your Restaurant Pager:”

“If you find yourself waiting for a restaurant table among older people, keep an eye on them. If you get buzzed first, offer to swap with them. They have done enough waiting. You could also apply the same efforts to active duty members of the military and veterans. It’s the right thing to do and you’ll feel good in the process!”

Again, 101 Things to do Before the Apocalypse provides a wide variety of entertaining ways to spend your final hours, and though there are a few points of repetition along the way, those moments don’t detract from the overall enjoyment of the book. 101 is a big number, and I suspect the author managed to get them all in while dodging the authorities a few times. No small feat. I had fun reading this lighthearted take on our impending doom. It’s a fine reminder that sometimes we take ourselves too seriously. Go to Amazon and buy this book, you won’t regret it!

I Believe, Do You?

This post is in response to the weekly writing prompt over at Studio30Plus, don’t hesitate to go there and see all the wonderful writing being shared.

“I can believe anything provided it is incredible.” ~Oscar Wilde

Look how small I was, of course it seemed big!

As a child, I can remember being able to entertain myself for hours on end well before there was an Internet to surf, or video game consols, or really anything resembling the electronic devices kids are inundated with today. I was lucky enough to have a fairly expansive wood behind the house I grew up in, complete with a great spring fed creek, rocks to climb over, and even some smallish cave-like areas, if memory serves. I spent much of my time playing there, pretending to be an army man, or one of Robin Hood’s Merry Men, or a jungle explorer, or a treasure hunter. In the beginning, I didn’t even need toys to complete the scenarios invented in my head. The right stick or branch, and I had my rifle, sword, shovel, bow, and adventuring staff.

This is not to say that my parents deprived me of material playthings, books, or a fair share of television, just that my earliest pleasures could be created solely through my imagination. I believe it’s part of what ultimately led me to so deeply enjoy reading, writing, and languages both real and fabricated. I loved being able to get lost in a book or short story and often upon finishing a new chapter be outside re-enacting my favorite scenes, or inspired to create new characters in my head who might be an unwritten part of those tales, ones the original author just hadn’t discovered yet. I wrote some of those stories down, others I shared out loud with my closest friends. We hoarded some of those ideas, because they were SO magical, held such reverence for us, we didn’t want to lose them.

I owe make-believe for much of the enjoyment of my childhood, and yet, as we grow older, it seems society finds more and more ways to discourage us from it:

“Get real.”

“Come back to reality.”

“Welcome to the Real World.”

Thankfully though, no one has yet stopped writing books, making movies, or creating fictional television, and so make-believe lives on. I can be glad for make-believe perhaps giving me a little comfort in the face of real, adult inconveniences and troubles.

There came a time when my friends and I spent a bit less time romping through the woods and more of it seated around the kitchen table hunched over hand draw maps, dice, miniature figurines and role-playing booklets. We brought to life many of the characters we once created in our heads with pencil and paper playing games like Dungeons & Dragons.  Aside from the obvious lack of physical activity and exposure to sunlight, those games were the same as our trips to fantasy worlds in the woods. Whether it was swords and sorcerers, or spies, snipers, hit-men, and souped up Cadillacs (pretty sure we played an RPG based around those things, Top Secret maybe?)  Those worlds brought us make-believe in some of its finest forms at a time in our lives when we probably thought we were much too cool for make-believe. It’s been decades since I rolled any dice and traversed any paper dungeons, but I’m not too proud to say I played in those worlds.

Books and movies have always fueled the fires of make-believe burning inside me. I was 5ish when Star Wars first hit theaters. I think I’ve seen that movie now some 80+ times, and I’d watch it again today. My mother’s paperback copy of The Hobbit became dog-eared and ragged from all of my thumbing through it, over and over. Yes, I commandeered that tome and it’s here on my shelf now, though I have a feeling she still has my copy of The Silmarillion. I wondered where that went, lol. I feel like once I hit High School I lost a little of my faith in make-believe. There was no time for it when we had to have secret beer drinking parties, go to football games, and just generally try (and fail!) to look cool to the girls. I fear I would’ve stopped reading altogether then, had it not been for class requirements. Thank God for my English teachers from 6th through 12th grades who continually rekindled my love for books with such passion that now for a good part of my adult life I’ve wanted to become a teacher and a writer.

Even  today, as an almost 40-year-old, divorced dad, make-believe maintains a foothold in my life. My daughter has been a reader for years, and my heart swells with pride each time I hear about her writing skills in school, and most recently the award she won for being The Most Creative Author in her 3rd Grade class! Through school, she’s been writing and self-publishing her work since she was in 1st Grade and it prompted me to dig out (yes, I still have them) the “books” we made in 3rd Grade. I don’t think she was very impressed! While mine was cardboard and hand stitched, hers are done digitally, printed on the school’s computers, and bound with plastic combs. My fantasy games and RPGs were originally all done by hand as well, and now her’s are on the computer or some handheld device via WiFi.

Time marches on. Technology improves by leaps and bounds, almost daily. Despite the World’s best efforts, or perhaps because of them, depending on your perspective,  make-believe is still churning away, roiling and foaming like the great blue seas. Eroding the shores of worry at times, carrying us away to friendlier ones when we need to escape.