What I’m Reading: Science Fiction and Lady Comic Books

I’m still working my slow, deliberate way through Ursula LeGuin’s The Dispossessed. I still think it’s a good novel, but it gets so dense, and there are such long parts of the novel without breaks, that I have a hard time reading it for long stretches. Plus, I keep falling asleep on the couch while I’m reading the book…

I also started reading Great North Road by Peter F. Hamilton. I bought the mass market at Barnes and Noble after reading the back and realizing it was a futuristic science fiction story, AND a detective murder mystery story. I really love it so far. Hamilton’s writing is accessible, and the super technological bits don’t make me go cross-eyed. I did almost roll my eyes right out of my head when he spent an entire paragraph describing how hot the main character’s wife is: “slimmer than anyone who’d had two children should reasonably expect”; “she was enticingly fit”; “the dark hair…still as lush”. Blarg. But I powered through it! And I still like the book.

Comic Book Run: Patsy Walker A.K.A. Hellcat and Zodiac Starforce

A trip to the comic store got me…some comics! I picked up the first four issues of Patsy Walker A.K.A. Hellcat by Kate Leth, because I love Kate Leth and I’ve heard good things about it. I’ve read the first issue so far, and it’s super, super cute. I do wish that super hero comics had looked like this when I was a kid.

On top of that I grabbed some issues of Zodiac Starforce, which is colored like Steven Universe and sounds like Sailor Moon. So, really, probably for me, I figured! I read issue #2 (they didn’t have #1 at the store), and it turns out yes, I was right, this comic is my kind of deal. I’ll have to find the missing issues next time I’m in a comic shop.

What are you all reading? Anything nerdy? Anything smart?

Also, I think I’m going to frequent my comic shop more often (it is right next to the grocery store, after all). Any suggestions of what I should get?



Recent To-Read Pile Additions: SciFi, Roller Derby, Serious, and Fun

I add books to my To-Read list faster than I can actually read books. I know at least half of what I want to read will go unread forever — but here are some that I’ve recently become interested in that I really, really hope I can get to someday.

Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson. I don’t know too much about this book, except it’s about humans colonizing Mars. Recently I’ve wanted to read more science fiction, and I’ve heard good things about this series from multiple sources. Plus, there’s apparently going to be a TV series of it in a couple of years, because everything is a TV series now (thanks, Game of Thrones, you started a trend!) so I better leap on that bandwagon before it gets too overloaded.

Mr. Lemoncello’s Library Olympics by Chris Grabenstein. I just read the first book, Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library, and I thought it was a fun book with good characters and really fun puzzles. (Probably helped that the puzzles made me think of Gravity Falls…sigh.) I want to stay on top of what’s pretty popular for kids books, too, and this is a quick read, so I hope to get through this one soon.

Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson. A kid’s graphic novel about a girl who joins roller derby to get over losing touch with her best friend. This has been out for MONTHS, I have no excuse, I should have read this long ago.

The Memory of Light by Francisco X. Stork. This is a contemporary young adult novel about a girl who survives trying to commit suicide. I’ve read Stork’s other young adult book, Marcelo in the Real World, and I was floored by his complex characterization of Marcelo and the way that character grows by the end of the book. I’m so positive I’ll love this book, I’ll probably fall into a fit of rage if I don’t.

Will I get to these books? Probably, maybe, someday, we’ll see!

What’s on your list?

Middle Grade Novels: The Fourteenth Goldfish, The Greenglass House

I got back into reading children’s books again! As a should, since that’s what I’m trying to write. Here is a pair I recently read, and loved.

The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm

Ellie has a hard time starting 6th grade. Her best friend, Brianna, has “found her passion” with the volleyball team and no longer seems to have time for her old buddy, and Ellie has trouble finding her own passion, something that she truly loves. Then her grandfather comes to live with her and her mother — except her grandfather is now 13 years old, having found a way to reverse age.

The science fiction element of the story is enough of a gimmick to snap up a reader’s attention, but Holm refrains from going whole-haul into the genre and allowing this to remain a story about Ellie, her maturity and growth as she understands that while there may be endings, there are also beginnings. Ellie is a fantastic heroine; her grandfather’s suddenly profound presence in her life ignites an unknown love of science (to her drama-teacher mother’s chagrin and begrudging acceptance) and she is actually the driving force behind the plot’s movement, figuring out how to retrieve her grandfather’s age-defying serum (a security guard mistook him for a trespasser) and deliberating on and bringing up the question: is this right? Should people live forever? I really appreciate the way Holm looks at science; right when I thought she was going to present a squeaky clean version of history, Ellie encounters the darker facts of science, like the effects of the atomic bomb and Marie Curie’s cancer brought on by her own research. It’s a balanced take on the pains and joys of moving on with your life, of dealing with loss, and even of science (Ellie clings to her new love of the subject even after learning of the darker side). And I have to admit, I have a tender spot for tales that involve the pain of growing apart from a very dear friend.

Greenglass HouseGreenglass House by Kate Milford

Milo’s adoptive parents own Greenglass House, an old house at the top of a hill in a smuggler’s town that they operate as an inn. Christmas break is usually a time free of guests, but then suddenly a whole handful of them show up at once. Each of these new comers seems to be seeking something within the house, which once belonged to infamous smuggler and town hero Doc Holyoak and holds more secrets and treasures than Milo or his parents imagined.

Milford’s writing is what drew me in initially, as she evokes clear, beautiful scenes of Milo relaxing in his house before all the trouble starts. Milo and the cook’s daughter (who he meets for the first time that day) Meddy decide to investigate the house and its surprise guests, in a unique way that Milford handles beautifully. Meddy convinces Milo to create an Odd Trails (think Dungeons & Dragons) character, and “play” as that character while he searches for clues. He creates the blackjack Negret, who is bolder, sneakier, and more observant than Milo, and he takes on the character fully as he plays, to the point where the third person narration refers to him as Negret, not Milo. Milo figures out some of the clues a tad too easily, with a few things left to chance (like overhearing a key conversation) but he also pieces things that he’s picked up from his increased observational skills as Negret, as well as the knowledge he holds as a lifetime resident of the house. I enjoyed the other characters as well, and would have gladly read a story about Clem and Georgie, but they never came out as clearly to me as Milo and Meddy, partly because there are so many of them, and they all have their own very involved story that doesn’t get told deeply enough. A pair of big twists at the end really did catch me by surprise; one in particular elevates the story and adds a nice bit of shock. Things get a bit too sappy at the end, and more is revealed to the wider population of the house than I feel was necessary, and there were some big things that are just left hanging, like the significance of the gate. Still despite the bumps and a bit of fizzle at the end this was a book I devoured with a few big bites.

What I’m Reading: Behemoth, Ender’s Game

Have you ever found a book that you physically couldn’t stop reading? Those are the best. Nothing in life matters until you’ve gobbled up every last page. Obviously I read a lot of books, but I don’t always find something that I simply can’t put down. Recently, though, I managed to find two that I utterly devoured.

First up was Behemoth, the second book in Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan trilogy. This is Westerfeld’s steampunk retelling of World War I, and I was already hooked after LeviathanBehemoth just gave me more of what I wanted. More crazy beasts, more machines, more alternate views of history. And, most compelling for me at least, more of a love story. At this point in the series Deryn is still keeping up her facade as a male airshipman, and while it’s starting to crumble around other characters – Count Volger, a girl from Istanbul, and Dr. Barlow’s new critter the perspicacious loris – Alec is still utterly clueless. This makes the love story rather one-sided, but it also has me anxiously flipping through the pages to figure out when the big reveal will come. The setting is great, and the overarching story is fascinating, but even with that what Westerfeld does best is characters. I love all of them, not just Deryn and Alek, is what pulled me through this book, and got me to run out and buy Goliath as soon as I could.

And have I mentioned how intensely detailed the art is? I have to keep myself from flipping ahead to each picture lest I spoil myself:

Another book I read over the weekend is Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card. We can add this onto a list of books I probably should have read a long time ago. I picked this up on a combination of a passing recommendation from my mentor, and also because I’m reading Orson Scott Card’s craft book on character, so I thought it might be nice to actually read a story he’d written. This book is wordy and a little intense at times, but I managed to pack it away in about three days. As with Westerfeld, I’m going to lay the reasoning for this with the characters. Though there are some (violent) fights, and there is some action going on with the war games in the battle school, a lot of the story really takes place within Ender’s head as he deals with a load of crap: being a Third (families normally have only two children due to overpopulation); his jealous, psychotic brother; being forced into isolation; his jealous, psychotic classmates; and finally, knowing that he’s the best, and that all of humanity is depending on him to defeat the alien “buggers” before they come back and destroy Earth. One of the things that I find most touching about Ender is that he has a complete lack of desire to hurt people, but he is constantly and purposely put in situations where he must harm others, and sometimes even kill, all because his teachers know that this will turn him into the person who can save them. This is what made me love Ender, that he has to keep winning, fighting, and hurting to stay alive and get better, but he hates himself for it because he thinks he can’t help being a killer, even when everyone else knows that he’s just a gentle soul.

I’ve already gotten the sequel to both of these books. Now the big question is: which do I read first?

What I’m Reading: Electric Sheep, and Kevin Henkes

This week I finally finished my slow, plodding trip through Phillip K. Dick’s science fiction novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? I don’t know why it took me so long to read; for whatever reasons, I only really felt like delving into this book a chapter or two at a time while on lunch breaks. It’s a very interesting book, though the religion, Mercerism, confused me at first. I also had to dwell on the ending a bit, and still catch myself thinking about it, trying to figure out exactly what it means. A very interesting book, even if it left me feeling a little melancholy afterward.

I’ve also continued reading a pile of picture books. In particular, I find myself reading the mouse books by Kevin Henkes. This week I even took Sheila Rae, the Brave and Wemberly Worried out from the library. I’ve begun to notice that all of these books follow a similar pattern, where he spends almost half the book introducing the character before we get to the real big problem she’s going to face. In most cases that’s a no-no for a modern picture book, but Henkes comes up with such awesome characters that I think it works out really well in the end.

I’ve begun reading The Handmaid’s Tale (See all Literary Books) for my MFA, and also plan on starting the Book Girl light novel series. I also found a nice looking copy of Lirael at the used bookstore, and it is just staring at me…

What books are you delving into?

What I’m Reading: Gunslingers, Androids and Other Borrowed Things

I’ve been a little ADD with my reading recently; I keep starting new books, even when I’ve only made it a couple dozen pages into another one. Part of this comes from the fact that I keep borrowing books from the library, and other people.

The GunslingerMy brother had been trying to get me to read The Gunslinger, the first novel in Steven King’s The Dark Tower series, for a while now, and last time I visited I finally took the book back with me. I had tried to read it before, but I had trouble getting into and wound up setting it back down. I had an easier time of it this go around, but it’s still frustrating how little King lets you know about what’s going on. I’m not sure why the gunslinger is chasing the man, or what the importance of the tower is. I’m near the end, and I still don’t know if I’ll be let in on the secret. Still, that I’m interested enough to keep reading is a sign of how good of a job King did with the gunslinger’s character; despite my frustrations, I’m still more interested in learning about him. I’m just under 50 pages away from the end, so I should finish the book today if I don’t get distracted…

Which I just might. Another book I’m borrowing is Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Phillip K. Dick. A co-worker handed it off to me a couple weeks ago, but I’m still only a few chapters in. I’m having my usual issue with science fiction stories where I blank out during some of the more technical descriptions, but I’m enjoying the futuristic world set up here, like how owning a real animal versus an electric one is a sign of higher social status, but it’s also something embarrassing that people just don’t ask about.

Other books I’ve been picking at:

OtomenI finished volumes 2 and 3 of Eyeshield 21, a football manga about a scrawny kid who’s really, really fast. It’s been a great bunch of goofy fun about a kid learning he can be good about something. I’ll probably request the next couple of volumes soon.

I also started Otomen, also from the library. This is a shojo manga bout the toughest guy in school…who loves girl manga, sewing, cooking, and cute things.

I’ve also started Speak, a young adult novel about a girl who has been abandoned by her friends after ratting out a party. She feels she can’t talk about why she did it, even in narration to the reader, so she’s left to suffer alone. It’s making me very anxious.

I’ll probably still work on my unfinished books this week, though I’ll be reading a couple other manga and comics for reviews. What have you been reading?