Tag Archives: memoir

Eclectic Reader Challenge Update

It’s been a while, a long while. Well, I’m sorry. Next week, I’ll explain where I was but for now, here’s an update of of my progress in the ERC.

The House of Silk: A Sherlock Holmes Novel

Links: Author Page, Goodreads.com, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

Having never read a Sherklock Holmes novel makes my adventure into House of Silk strange because I am well acquainted with his many, many popular incarnations throughout the media today (and my childhood). That said, I probably will check out the originals after this because it was quite fun and has been said to stay in the same vein (albeit 2x longer for current audiences).

I found Watson and Holmes interesting characters to read and tried very hard to separate them from the BBC’s Watson and Holmes and Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law’s interpretation, though I think the BBC’s modernized men would fit quite well into Horowitz’s world. The story line shocked me but overall the book was really enjoyable. I’d definitely recommend it and would love to hear what Holmes’s fans have to say about it!

Extremes: Surviving the World's Harshest Environments

Links: Author Page, Goodreads.com, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

Middleton’s book is a telling of how some indigenous peoples live in extreme environments. I read this to research survival to help my boss write a survival unit. Middleton is a geographer so he has a great perspective on the actual environments but he’s also entertaining to read. He has the knowledge but knows he’s a Brit that couldn’t survive a day on his own. If you want to learn a little about the world, specifically Greenland (arctic wasteland), the Congo (jungle), the Tenere Desert (part of the Sahara), and Papua (swamp). I kept a great many notes to help me with my book so this is a great piece for research when world-building.

The Maze Runner (Maze Runner, #1)

Links: Author Page, Goodreads.com, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

I’d heard good things about this book, it even has a 3.99/5 on Goodreads.com! You know what though? That was all phooey. It is a bad book. The “mystery” is melodramatic and a bad play at a crazy dystopian-style experiment. The main character is horrible and unrelatable. I have one word to explain this book and that word is “stupid” if I’m going to expend a few more, those would be “a waste of time.” If you’re curious, read the Wikipedia page for it.

Surviving the Extremes: What Happens to the Human Body at the Limits of Human Endurance

Links: Author Page, Goodreads.com, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

This is another book I did on survival research and it’s amazing. Written this time from the point of view of an adventure-seeking medical doctor, Kamler explains quite a few things about surviving in extreme cold, extreme heat, and many other (including space). It’s another book that is not only entertaining but educational. Another one to keep an eye on for world-building research!

Daughter of Smoke & Bone (Daughter of Smoke & Bone, #1)

Links: Author Page, Goodreads.com, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

I’m a bit on the fence about this book. I may read the sequel in the future, if I get through a bunch of other books and I remember to come back to it. The thing is that the main character has blue hair. Now, I recognize that it’s explained and yada yada yada but there is just something about characters having blue hair that bothers me. I don’t know what it is, it’s a me thing. Anyway, this is a decent story. It’s got a lot of interesting plot points but I feel like it’s only touches the surface of the story. If I had the sequel on my night stand, I’d read it. But I don’t and I’m not rushing out to buy it any time soon.

Me Talk Pretty One Day

Links: Author Page, Goodreads.com, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

Sedaris’s memoir is entertaining. I wouldn’t call it a comedy because I didn’t laugh out loud at it at all and definitely not as much as other books. That said, it’s a good read. Sedaris is a good story teller with great moments to talk about in his life. I find his honesty enjoyable and the truth behind his experiences is really cool, for lack of a better word. He has some really unique experiences but he moves through them as a lazy human that makes the stories real and relatable.

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Eclectic Reader Challenge Update

I have made even more progress reading! I really want to make my 100 books this year, so I have to keep plugging away!

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

Links: Author Page, Goodreads.com, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

So, I picked this up because my friend Rachel recommended it to help me write my thesis. I loved King’s sense of humor, his honesty that wasn’t honesty for shock value, just honesty because life is what it is. I found quite a few lines in On Writing that floored me, particularly when he spoke on writing groups/workshops:

It seems to occur to few of the attendees that if you have a feeling you just can’t describe, you might just be, I don’t know, kind of like, my sense of it is, maybe in the wrong fucking class.

I had to send a text out to my friends with that quote because, well, that’s my attitude. I was floored. I am wondering if I’m related to Stephen King at this point.

Anyway, that said, I’m really interested in checking out some of his stories despite the fact that I’ve shied away from his work my whole life. I haven’t figured out where to start with his work yet, but when I have some time, I’ll sift through and dig in.

Also, bonus, this fits into the “memoir” category for the ERC! Progress!

Divergent (Divergent, #1)

Links: Author Page, Goodreads.com, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

There is a reason I avoid bandwagon books (like Stephen King), and I feel that reason seems shallow but really it’s brought on by really, really shitty books like those by Cassandra Clare riding the coattails of Harry Potter and Twilight or by Stephanie Meyers riding the coattails of Harry Potter and Sookie Stackhouse. Sometimes, I give into the bandwagon and am happily surprised. This, like my tryst with Stephen King, was a happy surprise. While I’d place Divergent as a mix of Hunger Games, Harry Potter, and Uglies, it’s great.

Divergent features a society divided into 5 virtues(honesty, bravery, selflessness, knowledge, and peace) and technically a conglomeration of vices (those who couldn’t decide or who couldn’t cut it). We hone in on Tris who is from the selfless faction but she decides to mix it up. I liked Tris, I liked Four better (and I like the name Four, his “real” name is just not right). I would’ve liked to care more about her friends, would’ve liked to understand the disparities in technology a little more (maybe Insurgent will hook me up). But the bottom line is this is a great first novel for a young writer. It’s got a lot of great pieces and I intend to watch Roth as she develops, hopefully she moves forward.

Insurgent (Divergent, #2)

Links: Author Page, Goodreads.com, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

I wanted to put this book off because the third book isn’t out and I hate waiting but I got bored and curious so I read it. In one day. Anyway, now that you can see what my schedule is like, let’s talk about this sequel. I’m not sure how many books are left in this series but I hope it doesn’t drag on and on. This book picks up hours, maybe, after Divergent and surprisingly, has a really good storyline to accompany it. Surprising because it could’ve gone downhill but Roth shook up the character arcs well enough to make it worth reading. I think she could use some development of the side characters, but I’m really in love with what she’s doing especially at such a young age. The main characters, Tris and Four, continue to grow and act so well, I’m in love with both of these characters.

I was curious as to what was going on in this isolated world but Roth’s reveal left me feeling disappointed and confused. The hard thing about dystopias is the reveal of what has happened to the world to get here and Roth, maybe mistakenly, made it too focal in this story without enough umph. We’ll see how she plays it out in the third book because despite the minor let down, I’m still excited to read it!

Why I Write

Links: Author Page, Goodreads.com, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

I picked this up again for my thesis and though it had a few pages dedicated to writing that had some really great lines–the majority of it was an essay on politics in Britain. I love Orwell but Penguin chose to label this book, “Why I Write” though it barely touched on writing pushing it to a solid 3/5 for me. Would I recommend it? No, it wasn’t really that insightful into Orwell’s writing process so wasn’t really interesting. In fact, when the cat spilled water on it, I said to my husband, “Oh that’s okay,” with a shrug.

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

Links: Author Page, Goodreads.com, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

I chose this memoir on writing (and running) by Murakami because I fell in love with Norwegian Wood in high school and thought that I’d check out his thoughts on writing. The book is an interesting adventure into the mind of a professional novelist who had no formal training, has no writer friends, and runs so that he can write more. I love Murakami’s style, he writes with a genuine, calm honesty. I’m planning on picking up some more of his novels in the future. Also, this is an in translation book so cross that genre off the list (though I still have more books to check out in that genre!).

Zen in the Art of Writing: Essays on Creativity

Links: Author Page, Goodreads.com, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

I’m a huge fan of Bradbury’s work and have been since high school so when searing for books on writers by writers, I immediately gravitated towards Bradbury. His essays are different than the work I’ve read in terms of the voice. His joking, excited style in his memoir doesn’t match that of Fahrenheit 451 or The Martian Chronicles which is probably a good thing. It’s kind of awesome to see the excitement with which he talks about his writing which is so similar to that of myself and the writers I surround myself with.

This is a window into Bradbury’s process which provides yet another option for the emerging writer to explore. I find it interesting how he uses his life to spawn stories, and the honesty with which he must have to write to do his wild imaginings justice. Definitely a book worth checking out!

2013 Eclectic Reader Challenge Update

In December, I reblogged a friend’s article on the Eclectic Reader Challenge.

Afterwards, I decided to start doing some research to find the PERFECT books to fit this challenge. I decided to share that progress with you and ask for suggestions from around the web! While the challenge is just for 12 books, my goal every year is 100 so recommendations are always welcome!

Translated Fiction. This isn’t a stretch for me, Murakami’s “Norweigan Wood” and Marquez’s “100 Years in Solitude” are two of my favorite novels. However, if I’m not pushed to read in this genre, I don’t! How lazy. So I looked through a list of translated books on Wikipedia, not just translated but award winning. These two from 2012 were enticing to me: Lightning: A Novel by Jean Echenoz and Never Any End to Paris by Enrique Vila-Matas. Lightning is about Nikola Tesla and as he’s kind of a huge deal in the world of steampunk I really SHOULD read it. Never Any End to Paris is about writing and literature which is just my kind of book. I think I’ll check both out.

Historical Mystery. One of the series I discussed last month, the Parasol Protectorate series by Gail Carriger, fits into this genre. So this is nothing new but I am going to purposely avoid speculative fiction this time and be very strict with the genre. I just went to the “Historical Mystery” genre page on Goodreads.com. My two for now are: The House of Silk: A Sherlock Holmes Novel by Anthony Horowitz and A Spy in the House (The Agency #1) by Y.S. Lee. I picked House of Silk because I love Horowitz’s Alex Rider series and Sherlock can sometimes have a tie into steampunk. A Spy in the House is a Victorian novel so that may help out a bit with my atmosphere.

Romantic Suspense. The first few books on Goodread.com’s most read list were 50 Shades of Gray and the like. I won’t be reading those. I picked First Grave on the Right (Charley Davidson #1) by Darynda Jones and Something About You (FBI / US Attorney #1) by Julie JamesFirst Grave on the Right was picked because I love the idea of grim reapers thanks to “Dead Like Me.” I’m pretty excited to check it out. And Something About You I picked because I love cop shows like CSI, NCIS, Blue Collar, Bones, etc.  Speaking of, I’m going to check out Déjà Dead (Temperance Brennan #1) by Kathy Reichs this year too.

Made into a Movie. PERFECT, I’ve been needing to read Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy and Les Miserables by Victor Hugo. I also want to re-read the Hunger Games series.

New Adult. I started my search for this genre on Goodreads and found the New Adult genre page. Despite the fact that this genre is supposed to focus in on the coming-of-age stories that occur after high school in that 18-25 years old range, all of the books on the Goodreads page are romance novels. That makes me very sad. I found three books so far that are not romance: I Am Everyone I Meet: Random Encounters On The Streets Of Los Angeles by James P. WhiteMove: YA Contemporary by Brina Courtney, and For the Win by Cory Doctorow. I Am Everyone I Meet is a short book of encounters, simple enough, that seem really intriguing and really fall along the ideas of New Adult as I see them. Move is a story of a very abused, very unhappy ballerina that finds peace in her dancing. For the Win is a dystopia about video games. So that just sounds fantastic. I found four other books that associate heavily with the romance part of New Adult that I think I’ll check out: Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor, Collateral by Ellen Hopkins, Tiger’s Curse by Colleen Houckand, Miss Me Not by Tiffany King.  Daughter of Smoke & Bone is an angels/demons/urban fantasy that has an awesome book cover. Collateral is a free-verse poetry story from Crank’s Ellen Hopkins about a girl in an MFA program that falls in love with a Marine. Tiger’s Curse is the beginning of an epic fantasy-romance with magic, mythology, and tigers. Miss Me Not is the story of a young girl who commits to suicide but someone beats her, and her friend, to the punch and makes her rethink her decision.

Urban Fantasy. So I tried the urban fantasy “City of Bones” and I discussed in December why I just hated it. So, I’m weary of this genre. I know Jim Butcher is the king of urban fantasy with his Dresden Files series but because of his Furies of Calderon series, I’m worried about that. I’ll try the first book of the series, Storm Front by Jim Butcher. I picked three others to read as well: Elemental by Antony John, Divergent by Veronica Roth, Cinder by Marissa Meyer, and Neverwhere by Neil GaimanElemental seems like an epic fantasy filled with elemental magic and pirates. Divergent is another dystopia in which Beatrice comes-of-age and must decide between her family and herself. Cinder is a steampunk fairytale set in a dystopian future. Gaiman is an amazing writer and Neverwhere is the story of a man that gets pulled into an alternative reality.

Dystopian. I’ve already put a few dystopias on here so I’m going to go the classics route: Player Piano by Kurt Vonnegut, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick, A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess, and The Road by Cormac McCarthyPlayer Piano is Vonneguts first novel featuring a world dominated by a super computer. In Do Androids… the world has been irrevocably changed by war, so many have died that all life is venerated and held up on a pedestal. A Clockwork Orange is the story of a young man who is punished for a vicious crime through medical experimentation. In The Road, a father and son journey through a post-apocalyptic world because that’s all there is left to do.

Memoir. Finally, a genre I haven’t spent a lot of time in. So, I kind of just went by the seat of my pants searching for books that seemed worth reading. I picked: Running With Scissors by Augusten Burroughs, Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris, and Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar NafisiRunning with Scissors is the story of a young man raised by a kooky psychiatrist that looks like Santa Clause. Me Talk Pretty One Day is the story of Sedaris’s move to Paris and his toying with the language. Reading Lolita is the story of a teacher bringing banned books to his female students in the Middle East.

GLBT. I’ve never read anything in this genre. I know a lot of straight women enjoy the M/M stuff so the romance of this genre can be pretty heavy. I decided to try to find books more about the journey instead of the smut. I picked: Sing You Home by Jodi Picoult, The World of Normal Boys by K.M. Soehnlein, and Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You by Peter CameronSing You Home is the story of a young woman whose miscarriage leads her to therapy and ultimately a romantic love of her female counselor. I have heard good things about Jodi Picoult so that’s what lead me to this story. The World of Normal Boys is the story of a young man growing up int he 1970s that finds himself increasingly dissimilar to “normal” boys. Someday is the story of a young man who should be starting at Brown but would rather find a house in the country on his own.

Action Adventure. Speculative fiction is full of action and adventure so this is an easy genre to fill! I decided to go with the cool covers route to picking books: The Maze Runner by James Dashner, The Marbury Lens by Andrew Smith, and If We Survive by Andrew KlavanMaze Runner is the story of Thomas who wakes up in the Glade without any knowledge of who he is or how he got there. The Marbury Lens is a steampunk novel about Jack as he struggles to survive in this world and the one he can view through the Marbury Lens. In If We Survive, a group of missionaries get trapped in the middle of a revolution in Costa Verde.

Humor. I have read a few books on the humor list over at Goodreads like Soulless and Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I like to laugh, so this will be great fun! I picked Fifty Shades of Mr Darcy: A Parody by William Codpiece Thwackery and Bossypants by Tina Fey. I picked the Fifty Shades parody because well it just seemed kind of funny. As for Bossypants, I’ve liked a lot of the little things I’ve read from Fey so I figured it was time to just go ahead and read her book.

2013. Well, 2013 has just arrived so this one will need some time before it can be completed!

Okay, this has been a long, long post. Has anyone read any of these books? What are your thoughts?