June 2014

Books read in June:

  1. The Princess and the Goblin. George MacDonald.
  2. The Ocean at the End of the Lane. Neil Gaiman.
  3. The Princess and Curdie. George MacDonald.
  4. The Eye of the Heron. Ursula K. Le Guin.
  5. The Lowland. Jhumpa Lahiri.

Like last month, June has featured lots of time in airports and train stations. As ever, I overestimate how long a book will last me and find myself needing to buy a book in the airport. That is how I ended up acquiring both The Ocean at the End of the Lane and The Lowland. My supervisor gave me the gift of Orkney by Amy Sackville, which I have already started… except, I have a week here in Vienna before taking another transatlantic flight back to the U.S. I feel I ought to make use of Elena’s library and save Orkney for the flight home, though I do hate setting aside a good book, even if it will be only temporary.

The Eye of the Heron by Le Guin was a book I bought from Half Price Books thanks to a gift-card Kelly gave me for my birthday. I was surprised to find it as used-bookstores tend to only carry books by Le Guin that I already own. Naturally, I snapped it up and read it in one sitting (on a plane). If you have read and enjoyed The Dispossessed, you will find that The Eye of the Heron treats some of the same themes, and, though shorter than the other novel, in a slightly more sophisticated way. Le Guin rarely disappoints.

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May 2014

photo-8Today is my birthday. I am twenty-nine (29) now, a prime number. I prefer prime numbers and prime numbers tend to be years of transition for me. For instance,  when I was twenty-three, I moved across an ocean to start my postgraduate degrees. Six years later with a PhD in hand, I’ve moved back across that ocean, wondering ‘What now? What next?’

I saw out the end of my twenty-eighth year by travelling to Asia and the Southern Hemisphere and I have celebrated my birthday with my dear friends, the Williamses, who I am so thankful to have in my life. We went to two museums today to see the space shuttle Endeavour and dinosaurs (among other things). Isaac was an enthusiastic guide.

My travels over the last month featured lots of time spent in airports and on planes; naturally, I read quite a few books. It became soon apparent that the three big books I brought with me would barely carry me through our sojourn in Thailand, let alone the rest of our journey, so I had to buy a couple along the way. Since I was in an Australian airport and then in New Zealand when I did so, I bought books by Australian and New Zealand authors respectively.

Books read in May:

  1. Dragon Slippers. Jessica Day George.
  2. Kraken. China Miéville.
  3. Flight Behavior. Barbara Kingsolver.
  4. The Golem and the Jinni. Helene Wecker.
  5. The Light Between Oceans. M. L. Stedman.
  6. The Whale Rider. Witi Ihimaera.

I would be hard pressed to choose a favourite book out of the books read this month, as I enjoyed all of them. They were all new books to me, and all but two were new authors to me as well. Now I am reading The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald, in a beautiful illustrated edition, which I must finish before I leave Los Angeles for San Antonio…

April 2014

Oops, I’m a day late.

Books read in April:

  1. Sum: Forty tales from the Afterlives. David Eagleman.
  2. Seraphina. Rachel Hartman.
  3. Tropic of Serpents: A Memoir by Lady Trent. Marie Brennan.
  4. The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two. Catherynne M. Valente.
  5. Blood of Tyrants. Naomi Novik.
  6. Tooth and Claw. Jo Walton.
  7. Dragon Keeper. Robin Hobb. (50%)

This month’s theme of choice was dragons. All but the first book on the list feature dragons in some form or fashion, ranging from a half-dragon, half-library ‘wyverary’ in The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland, to having the entire cast of characters be dragons in Tooth and Claw. I’ve always loved dragons and I enjoyed exploring new books and discovering new authors. Some were duds (like Dragon Keeper, I just couldn’t stand the prose), and others were simply fantastic. Seraphina was my favourite by far, followed by Tooth and Claw and Dragon Slippers (which was finished today, so will be included in May’s list).

Of course, now I have to decide what I’m going to read over the weekend and then what to bring with me when traveling. Some massive tome that will last a few weeks? Or several smaller books? Books I want to read but don’t mind leaving behind in an airport or hotel? (Though, that might prove difficult, for I am very like a dragon when it comes to my hoard.) Decisions, decisions…

Feb-March 2014

Books read in February and March:

  1. The Dead and the Gone. Susan Pfeffer.
  2. The Encyclopedia of the Dog. Bruce Fogle.
  3. A Natural History of Dragons: A Memoir by Lady Trent. Marie Brennan.
  4. Critters of Texas: Pocket Guide. Anne E. McCarthy.

I feel like this list is incomplete. Maybe because I still have two chapters left out of Kalpa Imperial: The Greatest Empire that Never Was by Angélica Gorodischer, maybe because I’m half way through Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives by David Eagleman. Maybe the list is shorter than expected because I had my PhD defense in mid-February, I moved from one continent to another in early March, and have been settling in since then. Maybe because I watched all five seasons of Fringe while knitting a throw blanket. Maybe because of a lot of different things.

But I have a library card for the public library here in San Antonio and I have a number of books checked out already. With a bit of patience and persistence, maybe my appetite for reading will grow again.

January 2014

Books read in January:

  1. Bring Up the Bodies. Hilary Mantel.
  2. Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell. Susanna Clarke.
  3. The Count of Monte Cristo. Alexandre Dumas. (150/875pp)
  4. Encyclopedia of the Cat. Bruce Fogle.
  5. Life as we knew it. Susan Pfeffer.
  6. Here, There Be Dragons. James A. Owen.
  7. Champion. Marie Lu.
  8. The Modern Middle East. James L. Gelvin. (25%, in progress)

Some of the books read this month were long, as in running in the 800+ page range. I will probably come back to The Count of Monte Cristo, but it was a bit much after just reading the 1000+ page Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell.

My mom and I are reading The Modern Middle East together, and one thing I’ve noticed is that it focuses heavily on how Early Modern Europe influenced the Ottoman and Safavid empires. What about their neighbours to the east, however? Why so western-centric? And I noticed this to be the case with Here, There Be Dragons, also — the fantastical world, which is supposed to be all the imaginary worlds that have ever existed, is composed entirely of the imaginary worlds of Western European folklore and mythology. What about Asian folklore? Russian? Any of the myriad of African folklores? Australian Aboriginal? Various Latin American? North American Indian?

Time and time again, the motifs drawn on in fantasy literature comes from the Western European tradition. Part of this is due to that is what is taught as the canon for literature in most literature survey courses. Writers write what they know, and so they write about fantasy worlds that are based on Western European mythology. And so this trend is self-perpetuating.

But fiction and fantasy are not solely written by American and British writers. And not all American and British fantasy writers confine themselves to Western motifs (such as N. K. Jemisin or Guy Gavriel Kay). So, my dear readers, who are they? Recommend books to me — fiction or non-fiction — because I don’t want to be confined to only one literary tradition when I go exploring…

Mid-winter Reading

Well, to be more accurate, it should be Autumn-Mid-Winter reading. Here are the books I’ve read since the last time I posted a list (in August). Yes, I did manage to read fiction while finishing up my PhD. I had to. I needed that escape more than anything, sometimes.

Books read September-December:

  1. Shift. Hugh Howey.
  2. The 13 Clocks. James Thurber.
  3. Four Ways to Forgiveness. Ursula K. Le Guin.
  4. The Nature of Blood. Caryl Phillips.
  5. Lacuna. Barbara Kingsolver.
  6. Fortunately, the Milk. Neil Gaiman.
  7. The Book of Lost Things. John Connolly.
  8. The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making. Catherynne M. Valente.
  9. The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There. Catherynne M. Valente.
  10. The Christmas Mystery. Jostein Gaarder.
  11. Pegasus. Robin McKinley.

I had actually stopped reading for a while after reading a frustrating book and personal circumstances, but some friends put The 13 Clocks by James Thurber in my hands. Thurber’s whimsy, storytelling, and play with words whetted my appetite again. So the list would be better labelled, ‘November-December reading’.

Granted, the last four on the list were read in the last two weeks. I thought I would read more after submitting, but I’ve been sleeping. 🙂 Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver was 600 pages or so? But it was a pleasure to read. I loved how it transported me to Mexico — hot, vibrant, colourful, chaotic Mexico, the perfect contrast to cold, grey, depressing Scotland, especially this winter. I remembered how I’ve longed to go to Mexico City and Tenochtitlan. I won’t say any more about the book just now, because I have half a mind to revive book reviews. (Dear Readers, do you want book reviews again? Tell me in the comments.)

And, because it is the end of the year, I give you Books Read in 2013. It is a much shorter list than in years past, for various reasons. But looking over the list there are a few books that jump out at me as ones that have stuck with me, or that I really enjoyed: Legend by Marie Lu, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater, The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey, Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver.

What have been the books that stuck with you this year?

Summer reading

Books read May-August:

  1. Pride and Prejudice. Jane Austen.
  2. Reading Lolita in Tehran. Azar Nafisi.
  3. The Night Circus. Erin Morgenstern.
  4. The Creature in the Case. Garth Nix.
  5. Pigs in Heaven. Barbara Kingsolver.
  6. The Scorpio Races. Maggie Stiefvater.
  7. Sailing to Sarantium. Guy Gavriel Kay.
  8. Lord of Emperors. Guy Gavvriel Kay.
  9. Treasure at the Heart of the Tanglewood. Meredith Pierce.
  10. Crucible of Gold. Naomi Novik.
  11. The Snow Child. Eowyn Ivey.
  12. Wool. Hugh Howey.

Since I haven’t been posting monthly updates on what I’ve been reading, I thought I would save it all for posting a summer reading list. It looks more impressive this way. 😉

By far my favourites are The Night Circus and The Scorpio Races — the former is so… enchanting that you can’t not get entangled in its web; and the latter because it retells Scottish folklore in a semi-modern setting (about a hundred years ago), and it works perfectly. Though I did also enjoy reading The Snow Child, Treasure at the Heart of the Tanglewood, and Wool — and I’m very pleased indeed that Wool is part of a trilogy and that my public library has all three.

I’m going to be working long hours in the office these coming months, so I don’t know how much autumnal fun reading I’ll get to do — just enough to keep my sanity, at least!