September TBR & Reading Goals!

It’s that time again. I’ve let my reading fall to the wayside. I’m going to read 200 pages every day between now (13 September) and 13 October. I don’t have a reward at the end. I just want to be able to say I did it. And maybe instead of doing a personal challenge like this for two weeks, doing it for a full month will get me in the habit of finding time to read. In addition to reading 200 pages a day, I want to get in the habit of writing a little bit about what I’ve read each day.

My sub-goals for this challenge are to finish my Netgalley books, to read my next Blogging for Books choice, and to read at least ten books I’ve had forever and haven’t gotten around to reading yet. So, my tentative TBR is as follows:

  1. A Whole New World – Liz Braswell
  2. Uprooted– Naomi Novik
  3. Lair of Dreams – Libba Bray
  4. The Swans of Fifth Avenue – Melanie Benjamin
  5. The Gap of Time – Jeanette Winterson
  6. J – Howard Jacobson (gotta read those Man Booker nominations!)
  7. The Portrait of a Lady – Henry James
  8. Queen of Shadows – Sarah J. Maas
  9. Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert (I actually started this last year!)
  10. The Night Manager – John Le Carré (started this in March; need to finish it)
  11. The Buried Life – Carrie Patel
  12. Life After Life – Kate Atkinson
  13. The Glass Sentence – S.E. Grove
  14. The Paris Wife – Paula McLain
  15. So We Read On: How The Great Gatsby Came to Be and Why It Endures – Maureen Corrigan

It’s a hefty list, but these are books I’ve been meaning to read, meaning to get around to finishing, and have been interested in for quite a while. I think it’s manageable, though, and that’s what really matters. I also tried to mix it up by incorporating different genres and styles of writing so that I don’t feel overwhelmed or bored by once genre or one author. It’s a definite mix, and I’m excited for it! I need something personal to work for, and I think reading through my ever-growing stack of unread books is a good way to start.

REVIEW: Armada, by Ernest Cline

 

fbmreview

REVIEW: Armada, by Ernest ClineTitle: Armada by Ernest Cline
Published by Crown Publishing
Published: July 14th 2015
Genres: Science Fiction
Pages: 349
Format: Hardcover
Source: Blogging for Books
Goodreads

“Kill or be killed. Conquer or be conquered. Survive or go extinct.”

Armada is an anomaly. On the surface, the book seems to be a good follow-up to Ready Player One. When I think about it more, though, the more I realize I didn’t care about any of the characters in the book itself. I like having something and someone to care about. The pacing, the style, and the references are all great fun and incredibly engaging, but I felt as if there was a significant lack of depth in character development among all of the characters. Reading Armada was like reading a mashup of all of the great 80s video games and science fiction movies without having any substance or heft, like Cline’s saying oh hey, look at all of these cool and sometimes obscure references I can throw in~~~ One can certainly write a novel with all of those cool references and still reveal some character development.

While I was reading it (and weirdly unable to put it down), all I could think about was: of course Zack Lightman is a video game wiz at this new/old-fangled Starfighter/Starcraft game, of course his dad’s not dead, of course his parents hook up again before the big battle scene, of course his dad dies at the end, of course his mom has another kid. I would have liked to see more of a reaction from the characters, especially Zack, about the alien invasion and how it affected each of them, but it was all surface level revelations. And there was so much deus ex machina that could have been avoided by avoiding writing oneself into otherwise inescapable plot lines. The more I think about it, the more I would have liked to see things from the perspective of Zack’s “manic pixie dream girl,” a trope I am tired of seeing in fiction generally geared toward and advertised toward young male readership.

Reading it was like eating awesome candy. It’s going to be gone in a moment, and you aren’t going to get any value from it. Already, I feel as if Cline is writing himself into a very narrow niche. There is only so much one can do with 80s references before it becomes too repetitive and too trite. There is only so much one can do with these mashups before it becomes disengaging.

Cline, however, has a great writing style. I couldn’t put Armada down. It was only after the fact that I was left feeling super disappointed. I want to see Cline’s style and voice exploring other galaxies – original galaxies – and developing more rounded and believable characters in the future. I know he’s capable of it. Ready Player One certainly showed it. I’ll certainly read whatever Cline writes next. I just hope it has more depth.

I’d still recommend Armada to people, though, even if I came away from Ready Player One with high expectations. It’s fun. It’s accessible. It’s a great summery, beachy science fiction read. I just wanted more.

new blog!

I finally caved and bought a very specific book-related domain name! My old one was just a catch-all for everything, and I didn’t feel it felt the theme I wanted to convey – books! One of my friends calls me the fairy bookmother because I always have something to recommend or say about books, and he thinks it’s a bit magical that I have that ability, so I decided to move forward with it!

For the last month and a half (I’m so terrible at this when I get stressed!) have been busy with some minor changes and some big ones. The big one is me teaching at a college level! I’m teaching an introduction to literature of sorts that’s also combined with learning how to write a literary/research essay, and I’m excited! It’s a lot of work, and I’m doing my best to keep on top of that while managing to still work at my other full-time job.

As a result of that busy-ness, I haven’t done as much reading as I would like, but I’ve got a few reviews coming up! I think I may have an update schedule now that I’ve sort of got a regular schedule in regards to evenings being off, so as of now, I’ll have posts on Sundays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays, maybe with some sprinklings in between! I think those are totally manageable for me. It’ll give me time to work on content and think of content and write those reviews! I miss writing about books, whether or not in an academic sense, as much as I miss reading books as much as I used to.

Anyway, like before, I’ll have reviews mostly of contemporary, literary, sci/fi and fantasy, and young adult! I’m going to be posting my review of Ernest Cline’s Armada here on Thursday! I’ve been putting it off for too long, and it needs to get posted!

On Not Finishing Books, and Other Things

Lately I’ve been really aware of how many books I want to read and the limited amount of time I have in which to read, so I’m getting better about setting aside books if they aren’t grabbing my interest or if something about them annoys me. And to be clear, 95% of these DNFs are ones I’ve borrowed from the library because I was hesitant about purchasing them in the first place so I don’t feel bad about not being able to finish them. There are a few that I’ve bought that I’m like, ugh, I can’t finish this, but thankfully those are few and far in between. I’m already thinking I need to stop using the library and actually read the ARCs, review copies, and unread books I’ve bought that are just sitting here.

The Fold - Peter Clines My most recent DNF is Peter Clines’ The Fold. I remember enjoying Ex-Heroes a few years ago, and when I heard about this recent release, I found the idea intriguing and the cover pretty fabulous. Unfortunately, I’m sort of tired of the adult white male mastermind who can do just about anything, remember just about anything, and have no apparent faults within the first hundred pages sort of trope. So, by the time this perfect Sherlock-esque mastermind, Mike, figures out that the people who made this Door to travel to alternate timelines had no idea what they were doing, I was bored. This wasn’t interesting to me at all. And I was kind of sad, because I love Sherlock-esque characters when done well, and I love time-hopping science fiction. Ultimately, what made me set the book aside was Mike’s ability to rewatch entire movies in his mind before he falls asleep – that movie being Captain America: The Winter Soldier. It’s a dated pop culture reference already. Ugh. Maybe I’ll give it another go in a few months when I’m not all about female representation in sci-fi, because I might’ve been more interested in this one if the characters didn’t come off as trope-y cardboard standees.

Ugh.

In better news, I’m doing really well on my reading challenge. There were a few days I barely made it over a hundred pages of reading, but I’m averaging out to be more than two hundred a day!

Personal Reading Challenge~

For the rest of July (the 10th through the 31st), I’ve given myself a personal reading challenge! I love Urban Decay’s lipsticks, and I really want the UD Naked Smoky palette, so I’m using those things as my motivation. Each day I have to read at least 200 pages with a total of 4,400 pages read by 31 July. If I reach that goal, I can treat myself to a new lipstick color! If I exceed those 4,400 pages by at least 1,600 pages, I can get the new Naked Smoky palette!

The main reason for this little personal challenge of mine is that I’m spending too much time browsing the internet and not reading when I have all of these books on my shelves, from the library, and from NetGalley that I want to read! Time just seems to slip away. I don’t like that.

I’m currently reading four books: Heller’s Catch-22, Le Carré’s The Night Manager, Chu’s Time Salvager, and Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Two of those I’ve been picking at since March and April, one’s an ARC I received from a Goodreads giveaway that I want to read and review in a timely manner, and this summer I’m doing a Harry Potter reread!

It’s been easy to meet the goal today thanks to Harry Potter, because today I’ve read at least a third of Prisoner of Azkaban and more than 200 pages of Goblet of Fire. I’ve even managed to squeeze in about fifty pages of Catch-22 in an effort to get that book done and finally be able to say I’ve read it (there’s something about American fiction in certain decades that doesn’t really resonate with me too much, and Catch-22 is one of them, particularly on the grounds of its military focus). Either way, it’s nice to spend a day off mostly reading and it’s nice to be ahead, especially if I want that makeup!

And! I finally figured out child themes! Pink is one of my least favorite colors and that was the main color of this theme, so I’m glad to have something a bit more to my liking! And it wasn’t difficult at all. Thanks, Google and YouTube! Maybe I’ll be more inclined to post more often now that I don’t have to keep looking at pink all the time.