Archive for category Books

Trying to Swallow a Desert

I’m in the process of slogging through Frank Herbert’s Dune. Slogging’s not really the right word. With other things going on at the moment, I’m a little more distracted, and Dune (the early sections, so far) requires quite a bit of engagement to get into. Part of my frustration stems from the medium in which I’ve been attempting to read.

When I was shopping around for the books over the summer, I was frugal. I checked prices on several sites (for new copies… no I didn’t go the discount route) and the local library. The library’s offering was limited (1 copy, I think, in their entire system…). Unable to guarantee it would be available when I would need it, I opted to purchase. In my browsing, I found a better pricing on an ebook copy. All fine and good.

Then I started reading. I’ve encountered simple issues in other books: commas transposed into apostrophes, lack of separating spaces after some punctuation marks…annoyances, but they don’t affect the gist of the text. The copy of Dune, however… there were sections where what should be a phrase is displayed as a handful of unintelligible characters. Not quite like an OCR string, but not far from it, either. Other times, there wouldn’t even be the funky characters, the phrase would just be missing from the middle of a sentence, but without any hint (beyond the contextual “Hungh?”) that something should be there. I gave up on the ebook version when I hit a page where a sentence was cut after about five words, and the rest of the screen was whitespace. The next screen? The start of a new sequence, not just a hiccupped page break. I might have continued, if that had been the case.

In my frustration, I sought out the local B&N, because the timing wasn’t ideal for waiting for an Amazon delivery. Of the three options available (mass-market, publisher’s hardcover, or a “special” B&N edition), I went for the B&N one. The motivating thought? “If it’s something that’s going to be on the shelf, let’s make it something worth having on the shelf”…and it was the cheaper of the two hardbacks.

One thing I’ve noticed between the two versions (bound vs electronic) is the paginated structure. The core material of the novel is broken into three specific parts. Each part is composed of numerous segments. I would consider them chapters, but they are not labeled as such. Specific delineations become obvious based on the use of whitespace on the printed page, but because of how the electronic version is parsed, those demarkations are more muddled.

Highly disappointing.

The upside? Even with the issues, while I am still far from finishing the book, I think I have read enough to generate a few hundred words about the structural elements and POV.

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Reading Lists, Fall 2013 edition

As mentioned before, one aspect of how the Seton Hill MFA program is structured is the “Readings in Genre” courses. Students in the program complete a minimum of three (the courses themselves are offered in cycle, the focus repeating every third semester). Entering my third semester, and presumably final Readings course, here’s what’s on tap for the term ahead.

Horror: Monsters
Novels
I am Legend (novella) – Richard Matheson
Snow – Ronald Malfi
Books of Blood (Vol. 1-3) – Clive Barker
Breeding Ground – Sarah Pinborough
The Wolfman – Jonathan Mayberry
Thirty Days of Night (Graphic Novel) – Steve Niles
Relic – Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child
World War Z – Max BrooksShort Stories
(in Books of Blood & I Am Legend)
The Yattering and Jack – Barker
Rawhead Rex – Barker
Human Remains – Barker
The Funeral – Matheson

Movies
ALIEN – Ridley Scott, Dir.
The Thing – John Carpenter, Dir.

How-To
Writer’s Workshop of Horror – Michael Knost (ed.)

SF/Fantasy: Science Fiction Classics

The Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction – Farah Mendlesohn and Edward James

Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury
The Stars My Destination – Alfred Bester
Ubik – Philip K. Dick
Starship Troopers – Robert Heinlein
The Left Hand of Darkness – Ursula LeGuin
Dune – Frank Herbert
Other books considered, but outvoted, by the members of the class:
Childhood’s End – Arthur C. Clarke
Downbelow Station – C. J. Cherryh
Neuromancer – William Gibson
Ender’s Game – Orson Scott Card
Mystery: Contemporary

Stork Raving Mad – Donna Andrews
Still Life – Louise Penny
A Test of Wills – Charles Todd
Plum Island – Nelson DeMille
Dead Until Dark – Charlene Harris
The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo – Steig Larsson
Gone Baby Gone – Dennis LehaneHandbook of the Mystery Writer’s of America, 2nd ed. – Sue Grafton (ed.)

Romance (Contemporary/Women’s Fiction)

Where We Belong – Emily Griffin
Fire and Ice – Julie Garwood
Boomerang Bride – Fiona Lowe
Then Came You – Jennifer Weiner
The Witness – Nora Roberts
The Way Back Home – Barbara Freethy
Me, Myself,and Why? – Mary Janice Davidson*
OR
Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn** Members of the class to vote during the semester
YA (Contemporary & Genre)Happy Families – Tanita Davis (realistic)
Grave Mercy – Robin LaFevers (historical fantasy)
Pushing the Limits – Katie McGarry (romance)
Amelia is Dead and Gone – Kat Rosenfield (mystery)
Unwind – Neal Shusterman (futuristic/dystopian)
This is Not a Test – Courtney Summers (zombie)

And EITHER*:

The Farm – Emily McKay (vampire/survivalist)

OR

The Fault in Our Stars – John Green (realistic)

*Members of the class voted during the summer.

In addition to the above, the “common novel” for the next Residency will be Joe Hill’s NOS4ATU. Everyone in the program also has an assigned “Craft” book for the semester… mine is James Scott Bell’s Revision and Self-Editing for Publication, 2nd ed.

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Book Stack 6-20-2011

Book Stack 6-20-2011 by Theril
Book Stack 6-20-2011, a photo by Theril on Flickr.

The picture above is the current crop of the “Books for the Nightstand,” or “Things I want to read next” (Dead Tree Edition). If you zoom in you’ll see a few of the books mentioned here, and quite a few others that weren’t.  An eclectic mix from pulpy titles that are easily older that I am (by at least half), omnibus & compilation editions (the Lovecraft volume & Cleric Quintet especially), to books on technique and contemporary fiction titles.  Add a few scripts for good measure, and it’ll be a fun time…


And since I’m sure I won’t be finishing the entire stack before the end of 2011, guess what I’ll be pulling from in 2012?  Yeap… and that stack doesn’t even include electronic titles that I will be working on.

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Reading List 2010 – Books I’m Looking Forward To

[I started this one back in February, but due to a few glitches in how I was trying to present things, it got delayed… Here’s the update, finally something like I was hoping for…]

I mentioned before that I’ve changed my approach for this year’s reading list. I’ve gotten the “existing” (published before 2011) stack selected (which includes some ebooks), and here’s a few of the highlights, ones that I’m really looking forward to getting to (in no particular order).

The Scalzi Fix (the Old Man’s War series)

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After an awesome Christmas gift from my wife, I’ve got an increased incentive to get into the series.

Cory Doctorow: Little Brother & Overclocked

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I was at his Cary, NC stop of his For the Win book tour last year. My friend Chris suggested I start with Brother, and I’m always interested in a short story collection (Clocked).

Cherie Priest: Boneshaker

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The current queen of Steampunk, which is a genre I’ve recently started exploring and attempted writing in.

Charles Stross: Trade of Queens & Fuller Memorandum 

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Time to finish the last book in the series (Queens), and get caught up on the events in the Laundry (Memorandum). I’ve been sitting on my copy (signed at Readercon last year), waiting for a chance to get done with all of the academic stuff to crack into it.

Ernest Hemingway: The Complete Stories

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Considered to be one of the masters, especially for tightening up (and thinning down) texts.

Flannery O’Conner: The Complete Stories 

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I’ve been told she is one of the writer’s to read for character details, among other things. And it’s a short story collection. Enough said.

Other books that I’ve got on my radar, but not including cover shots for (for sake of screen space and a lack of something pithy to add): Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War; Stross’ Glasshouse, Faith Hunter’s Bloodring, Elaine Cunningham’s Shadows in the Darkness, Seamus Cooper’s Mall of Cthulu, Lovecraft’s collected fiction (B&N Edition), Christopher Paolini’s Brisingr, Robin Cook’s Fever and Coma and Heinlein’s Friday.  Only a glimpse at what’s on the reading stack, all waiting their turn to be devoured and have their styles observed and lives lived.  Go, books.

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Hitchhiking, again…

Okay, everyone, it’s time to grab your well-traveled towels, your bathrobes, and your handy-dandy Hitchhiker’s Guide (in a new, handy, iPhone sized package, most likely)… And Another Thing is out, and as the website indicates, it’s the sixth book in the trilogy (yes, you read that correctly, hence the joke with the web address).

I am mentioning this with a couple of points in mind. First, I loved the originals, when I first encountered them some 20 years ago now, and flew through the first four books in a series of trips to the local library. I don’t remember reading the 5th one, that came out about the time I was getting out of high school. I haven’t read them again in years, so I’m interested to see how this one carries on the story.

But I’m nervous, too, becuase it’s not coming from Douglas Adams – it’s coming from Eoin Colfer, and I have not read anything by him (yet). I’m concerned that it might be like trying to watch a reunion special for a favorite show, but the magic that happened when the show was fresh and new just isn’t there. I really hope that won’tbe the case…

But at least I have a new excuse to think about going back to the local library, after I catch-up and reread the first books in the series.
(about the new book)

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Books…

As I was doing some updates to the reading list (“Currently Reading”), I was reminded of something that I didn’t quite register until ia actually typed the numbers… I’ve read twenty books so far this year. Twenty! and I’m within about eighty pages of finishing number twenty-one! The goal of twenty-six is within reach, and will likely be broken long before the end of the year… and at this rate, it will be shattered by the time 31 December rolls around.

In other book news… the one I’m working on… I hit a few hiccups in the process, but I think I’ve managed to figure out a way through/past some of the issues that had been holding me back, so I’m lookingto see a nice jump in word/page count over the next couple of weeks…

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The Great Book Fiasco…

Or “How to Avoid Writing”….

They say that writers make the best procrastinators, and it’s true. There are so so many more things that are interesting and fun to do than sitting down to write. We recently went to Charlotte, where I got a(nother) bookcase for the office closet, from the wonderful store that is Ikea. [The first bookcase has various office paper supplies – notebooks, notepads, paper reams, etc.; this new one shall hold books, too!]

Last night, instead of doing the diligent writerly thing, you know – writing, I assembled said new bookcase. After helping MC with a couple of things outside, I returned to the office, and commenced to rearranging the book collection. I moved my Music books and Gaming stuff into the closet, as well as several of my older reports and academic projects. The key was trying to make a lot of room on the existing shelves so that I could unload the three boxes of paperbacks that I had previously selected from my dad’s collection. Three boxes. Not that bad. should be plenty of room…

Not quite. I managed to fit two boxes worth on the shelf and a half that I had planned on using before running out of space. I gave up on trying to organize them outside of anything more than “really big series stay together”, or notable authors being set aside. Many of the collection could easily fall into the “pulp” category, the kind the Beatles’ referenced in “Paperback Writer”.

I hope to finish shelving the remaining books tonight – definitely by the end of the week, so I will have three more boxes finished from the garage – one thing that will help to make MC happy…

Edit to add: Books are away, after a little bit of juggling. I need to seriously think about some of the items I have had for years, and decide if I want to keep them out, or keep them at all. [21:30, 6-23-09]

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A clarification…

I am adding a new designation to the “Currently Reading” list… (GN). The translation: Graphic Novel. I am retaining this tag only for substantial works/volumes, so I don’t anticipate using it very often, but there are several works that I plan on reading that deserve a little recognition.

Now, what will I consider labeling? Omnibus-style collections for comic series (Watchmen and Absolute Sandman vol. I, at 600+ pages, I’m looking at you). Also, I may consider stand alone Graphic Novels as well (I have NG’s Eternals (256-ish pages) on the shelf to read, but I did not list one of the Sandman titles [Endless Night, at 160 pages]… so I may have to reevaluate some things…) And I don’t plan on listing any Manga style titles that I may read, but that may be a point for debate. I see them as a form of comic book (which, technically, is what a graphic novel is)… but where a Manga would be serialized stories, I see a graphic novel as a contained story or series… Or if the volume is thick enough, I’m going to treat it like a book.

All of this because I have (finally) started reading Watchmen (400+ pages)(I know, late to the party… sue me)… I’ve read what would have been two issues when the comics were first released, and there is a blurb on it being listed as “one of the top 100 books” on a TIME list, I think…

So… in case you get curious about what a (GN) is onthe “reading” list, there you go…

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Catching up….

Whew…. it’s been an interesting week-and-a-few-days…

First off, and most recently, Neil Gaiman news…. he’s won the Newberry for The Graveyard Book. I think it’s cool, even if traditional critcs of “the establishment” think it’s weird. And it’s one that I can attest to its being not just a “kid’s book”, even if that’s where it tends to be put in bookstores.

And I already have my copies of the Neil Gaiman Batman issues reserved through my local comics shop.

Now, last week we here in the South East had something we don’t get very often… snow! Lots of it. There was enough that two days of classes were cancelled. Fortunately, it happened to be the two days that my classes are, so there was a reprieve on some readings/projects for another week.

Last night was the first “real” session (thanks to the snow day) for my Research class. Since it’s Resaerch from the Writer’s Perspective, the big final project will be some form of creative work, “strongly influenced” by research. As the instructor went around the room, asking each person if they had anything in mind (just an idea, nothing that would be set in stone), and I was one of the few people that already had a form and subject in mind…

My tentative revelation: I will be writing a script or short story about the 1904 World Series. Or, more to the point, about how and why it didn’t happen. It’s something that’s been bubbling around for a couple of years, and seems to be one that will lend itself quite well to the requirements of that assignment.

The “teaching” class, which meets tonight may be something else. The reading has been tough… the first two chapters “read like stereo instructions” as the author goes into some of the background and theory (or, “This is how I got to my ideas.”). Really… fifty-four pages of build-up, and “this is what is going on behind what I think”, before actually getting to “here is what I think about teaching, and ways you can encourage writing in a classroom”?

It’s an academic text, I know, but the first two chapters just seemed to drag on. There were several moments that I found myself rereading the same lines, my eyes crossed trying to finish a paragraph or a page – anything to get to a point where I could do a “clean break” from the text. Right now, I couldn’t tell you much about the first two chapters, other than, “a lot of theory, and somebody that had the epiphany to come up with assignments that get the students involved in the material. Something to get them interested.” Duh.

*sigh* At least some of my pleasure reading is taking me back to the edge, and to an interesting future, by reading some William Gibson (his short stories). Over the long weekend, last week, I picked up two Harry Turtledove books… Opening Atlantis, and the Gladiator. I also found a copy of The Family Trade by Charles Stross – first book in a series that Chris had suggested to me back around the wedding. Two of the three have already been added to my book stack for the year. (Seriously, I already have most of my “pleasure” reading picked out. Since I have so many books on the shelves to choose from, I had to do something to streamline the process.)

Back to the grindstone… I have a class I need to try and finish prepping for, and only a little bitof time left at work for the day…

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2008 Review – The last update…

As I mentioned, I have some notes regarding the cruise, and how it impacted by Reading and Viewing lists…

Books first…
I finished Gaiman’s Fragile Things, and it was a very good collection. There are a couple of notes that I made (while reading) that sparked some possible story ideas for me… based on a line, or image, and not a other support documents. (Right, you follow that?) Technically, I did not finish until after the 1st, but all things considered, I credited it towards 2008. (Last year’s holdovers actually had other books read at the same time, instead of being read straight through)…

Despite my hopes and plans for my travel reading (LOTS of airport time!), I only got through the one book while I was gone.

So, that brings the 2008 books read to: 23 (new), and 2 carry-overs.

Movies….

They were plentiful on the ship, with some being shown at night on a huge jumbotron-type screen, and others being shown on rotation onthe television channels. We watched several snippets of a lot of movies, and managed to add about a half-dozen to the “watched” list…

Journey to the Center of the Earth (2008) – was handled better than I was expecting… an interesting twist on what has now become an almost cliche movie idea…

Kung Fu Panda (2008) – Also very good, with several subtle story points and ideas that can appeal across generations.

The Dark Knight (2008) – No, I did not see it during its (original) theatrical run (I hear there’s plans to bring it back out for a possible Oscar run for Heath Ledger)… But there was something really cool about watching it in the middle of the ocean, under a clear night sky… Very good movie, that lived up to most of the hype.

Hancock (2008) – Mixed reviews prompted me to avoid the theatrical run, but I thought the idea was very good. I thought the “really big plot twist” worked, but it also felt a little off by the end of the movie… that it went from being about “Hancock” to “Hancock and the others”… Not a bad movie, but I am kinda glad I didn’t try to take in the theatrical run…

There were snippets of other movies that were watched, but not the complete films, to mention some of them, and the fact that several will probably show up on the Netflix list at some point in the future: Baby Mama, Across the Universe, Sex and the City, Golden Compass, Juno, Devil Wears Prada, Alvin and the Chipmunks, Wall-E…

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