Reading Room

I have always loved reading. When I was growing up, my mom was always fussing at me to put the book down and go outside and play instead (or come to the dinner table or go do chores). I was one of those kids who would "go to bed" only to read away half the night. When I was about 12 or so I read Madeleine L'Engle's "Wrinkle in Time" and then Anne McCaffrey's "Dragonsong" (the first book in her Harper Hall series) and those books ignited a love of fantasy and science fiction.

I do a lot of my reading these days on a Kindle - I have a Kindle Keyboard and a Kindle DX. I love my Keyboard - the small size, the physical page buttons. The only thing it's lacking is a light. I have looked at some more current e-reader options but for now the Keyboard works and I'm not inclined to spend money to upgrade. I could be spending that money on books! I really like the DX, too, but he's a chonky boi and not as portable as the Keyboard.

I own actual books, too. I used to be like a miser hoarding his gold when it came to books. I kept everything! I usually read fairly quickly so that meant I had a LOT of books. Now I've pruned through my collection and I try to only keep books that are really special. Maybe it's a series I enjoy rereading, or a set of books that would be hard to replace. Or it's special because someone gave it to me.

I started keeping reading logs a couple years ago, just for fun. I recently found out that there are cross-stitch trackers to track your reading and now I want to do that! This is the tracker I bought. It's for 100 books but in 2023 I read 67 so I'll have to adust the pattern a bit.

2024 Reading Log

January

  • The Adventures of Wil Calder (John Wilker) - I found this book when I was looking for something else on Smashwords. I had just read some space opera and was in the mood for some more so I gave this a chance. I believe this might have even been free. It's .... ok. I would give it 2.5/5 stars. I thought it was going to give off Farscape vibes because it's about a Nasa astronaut who ends up getting thrown in amongst aliens, unable to go back home. Interesting premise and the story should have been exciting because there was a heist involved but it all read rather flat. There are a whole host of alien races but all I can tell you is that one of them has blue skin. There just didn't seem to be a whole lot of attention paid to world building. This is part of a series and, while I don't regret the time I spent with this book, I won't be reading the rest of the series.

  • The School for German Brides (Aimie K. Runyan) - I'm not sure where I read about this book but it interested me because a show I had been watching on PBS, World on Fire, had a bride school in it. Set in Germany during the late 1930s, this novel is about 3 women and their experiences during this time. One is the daughter of a family intent on rising in the new German hierarchy, one is the daughter of a lawyer who abandoned his first family because his wife is Jewish and one is a Jewish seamstress, trying her best to keep her head down and live her life. Interesting look at the times, especially into the concept of bride schools.

  • Queen Anne's Lace (Susan Wittig Albert) - Book 26 in the long-running China Bayles mystery series. This one involves ghosts and a little bit of switching between the present and the past. As always, there are interesting recipes related to the herb featured in the story.

  • A Plain Vanilla Murder (Susan Wittig Albert) - Book 27 in the long-running China Bayles mystery series. Cozy mystery featuring China, her family and the people of Pecan Springs. As always, there is interesting herb lore and recipes. You will learn a lot about orchids in general and vanilla in particular.

  • Dragonesque (ed by S.C. Butler/Joshula Palmatier) - One of the annual anthologies published by Zombies Need Brains. This one features stories about dragons from their point of view. Great selection! Favorites were The Princess Network about how dragons got their maidens and how the relationship isn't what is popularly thought and The Breeding Habits of Dragons featuring a very lifelike tattoo.

  • Artifice and Craft (ed by S.C. Butler/Joshula Palmatier) - Another great anthology from the small press Zombies Need Brains. The theme of this collection is art. Favorite stories were Rings for Their Fingers, all about fairies and cursed jewelry and His Cup of Tea, about a boy who paints teacups that give a girl fantastical dreams.

  • DNF

  • Eyeliner (Zahra Hankir) - I thought this book was going to be about the history of eyeliner through the ages. It does discuss historical usage of eyeliner but mainly it seems to be essays on individual people who wear eyeliner, what it means to them and how it makes them feel. I found it to be repetitive and only made it about 40% through before I decided to put it down for good.

  • February

    • Murder on Astor Place (Victoria Thompson) - This is the first book in the Gaslight Mystery series which is set in late 1800s New York. The main character is a midwife and she joins forces with a police officer to solve the mystery of how a pregnant woman died. I thought this was a meh mystery, somewhat awkwardly written and just not very compelling. I've read reviews that say the books get better - they must because there are 25 others in the series so clearly someone is reading them- but I'm not inclined to follow this series any further.

    • A Psalm for the Wild-Built (Becky Chambers) - This is my first Becky Chambers novel. I found this to be a sweet and gentle tale, just such a lovely read. It's about a tea monk (just that - a monk who travels in a wagon, serving tea to people and listening to their needs) and a robot that was built by other robots in the wild who has decided to check in on what humans are up to these days.

    • Three Bags Full (Leonie Swann) - This was such a fun read! A shepard is killed and his flock of sheep, led by Miss Maple, have to figure out who did it and then try to relay that to the humans. Loved all the sheepy personalities.

    • Magic Casement (Dave Duncan) - First book in the Man of his Word series. A princess and her friend, the stableboy, get caught up in magical happenings.

    • The Reluctant Communist (Charles Jenkins) - This is the autobiography of Charles Jenkins, who crossed the DMZ into North Korea in 1965 in an attempt to avoid being sent to Vietnam. He thought he could get to Russia and be repatriated to the United States but instead he spent the next 40 years living in North Korea. It's an interesting look at what life is like in North Korea and what one has to do to survive.

    • Faery Land Forlorn - (Dave Duncan) Second book in the Man of his Word series. The princess and her stableboy have been separated and are in vastly different parts of their world. Both are trying to get back to their land but face numerous obstacles.

    March

    • By Sound Alone (Mark Torrey) - I read about this book in a Metafilter thread. The author was so passionate about his book! He doesn't even care how people get it, he makes it available for free. He just wants his work to be read. The premise sounded really interesting and the fact that he said he had a professional edit the book is what really made me take a chance on it. I've been burned in the past by self-published books that were so poorly edited it was a chore to read them. This is set in an alternate timeline world and features cargo subs. While the book was well-written, it was thin on character development. But you do learn a *whole lot* about subs. Give it a try if subs are your thing.

    • Perilous Seas (Dave Duncan) - This is the 3rd book in the Man of his Word series. The princess and the stableboy continue on their journeys. This one dragged a little bit for me. There is only one more in the series and I do intend to read it.

    • Demon Daughter (Lois McMaster Bujold) - I love the Penric and Desdemona books so much! This is the newest novella in the series. Kind of interesting because Pen and Des have a difference of opinion on how to handle a situation and, well, Des lives in Pen so that makes things tricky.

    • Hounded (Kevin Hearne) - I thought this would be an interesting book because it's set local to me. A druid has been on the run from the the gods for 2000 years and he's finally been found. This is the start of a series and while it was OK it's not one I'm going to read further. If you like Jim Butcher though, you might want to give this a try because it gives off real strong Dresden vibes.

    April

    • The Kamogawa Food Detectives (Hisashi Kashiwai) - This was such a sweet, comforting read! If you've ever watched Midnight Diner, it gives off those kinds of vibes. A somewhat mysterious restaurant is run by a father and daughter. People seek them out via a mysterious ad in a food magazine and ask them to recreate a meal from their past. This leads to some kind of resolution on behalf of the diners like finding out what happened to someone from their past or a different perspective on something that happened in their childhood.

    • Black River Orchard (Chuck Wendig) - Despite having read a fair amount of Stephen King and Dean Koontz in my teens, I am not usually into horror. I read about this on the Bluesky feed of another author I follow and, what can I say? I'm susceptible to suggestion. Squicky, creepy and you might never look at apples the same way again.

    • Whalefall (Daniel Krause) - This was billed as "like The Martian but under the sea, in a whale." The author took pains to creat a theoretically plausible scenario in which a person could both get swallowed by a whale and then get free. The main character had issues with his father and there was a lot of issue resolving in his mind in between fighting his way out of the whale. Also, some woo whale moments. Not horror but kind of ... gloopy ... due to the circumstances.

    • The Adventures of Amina al-Sirafi (Shannon Chakraborty) - I loved the Daevabad Trilogy so I was excited to see another book by this author. Fun, rollicking times! Pirates, supernatural beings, an absolutely useless ship's cat that often has to be saved from herself. I'm hoping there are more books to follow!

    • Sword of Ice (ed. by Mercedes Lackey) - This was gifted to me. When I was a teen I read several of Lackey's Valdemar books but have only the haziest recollection of the setting. I still enjoyed the book and, as I read, I remembered more details of Valdemar.

    • Hemlock (Susan Wittig Albert) - I feel like I've been reading the China Bayles series forever and this is the last book in the series (until the new one comes out later this year). This is another story she has set in dual timelines, involving the creation and subsequent theft of a valuable book. And ghosts. And unsolved murders.

    • The Cat Who Saved Books (Sosuke Natsukawa) - I was expecting the cat to be a bigger part of the story but really he just brings a young man into situations where he can save books. This was OK but I found the writing to be a little stilted. I don't know if that's because this is a translation or if it actually is.

    May

    • The Spear Cuts Through Water (Simon Jimenez) - This was a long but interesting saga. Two warriors help an ancient god escape. There is so much going on in this book. Lovely although at times brutal imagery, with a unique narrative construction where the thoughts of passersby, random townspeople, etc add to the story. It's also told in 2 different frames of reference - that of the warriors but also in another time that of a grandchild listening to stories his grandmother tells about the old country. This is a fairly recent book (2022) and was shortlisted for an award but until it popped up in my library app as a recommedation, I had never heard of it.

    • Prima Facie (Ruth Downie) - The newest entry in the Medicus series of Roman crime novels. This one is a novella but just as good as her full-length books. I love the humanity of the Roman army medic, Gaius and his British wife, Tilla.

    • The Forgotten Beasts of Eld (Patricial McKillip) - This has been on my To Read list in my library app forever and I finally borrowed it. Wow, this was just fantastic! Full of the myth and wonder that draws me to fairy tales.

    • The Sunset Years of Agnes Sharp (Leonie Swann) - A few months ago I read another book by this author, Three Bags Full. This one doesn't involve sheep but rather sketchy old people. By the end of the book I had grown to enjoy the antics of Agnes, her fellow boarders in Sunset Hall, and the tortoise, Hettie. I believe this is the first in a series.

    • Alphabet of Thorn (Patricia McKillip) - I liked the The Forgotten Beasts of Eld so much that I looked for more books by McKillip. This one was also delightfully fairy tale-ish in nature.

    • DNF

    • The Witches of Moonshyne (Bianca Marais) - This is a book about a group of elderly witches who face attempts to force them from their home and are joined in their fight by a young TikToker who is eager to fight the patriarchy. I was really not feeling this book. One thing that turned me off was a scene where they use their powers to float their wineglasses through the air. It just seemed so childish. I don't know - maybe if I had those powers I would also float cocktail glasses through the air. I was already feeling meh about the book but what pushed me over the edge from "meh" to "I can't even" was when a character used "prosperity" when the word should have been "posterity". It just kills me when there is a correctly spelled but wrongly used word in a story and I see it quite often! Does no one use human editors anymore? Maybe that's a silly thing to be the deciding factor in dropping a book but, like I said, I wasn't really feeling it even before that.


2023 Reading Log

Clearly this year, so far, my reading has been sporadic. Sometimes I'll find a series that I just love and dive into it (the Penric series by Lois McMaster Bujold, the Bob McGough books, the Kate Elliot series) and sometimes I get in book slumps where nothing really appeals. I'm always reading - just not always a book! I subscribe to my local newspaper and read that daily, and I read a lot of stuff online.

January

  • Tiamat's Wrath (James S. A. Corey)
  • Leviathan Falls (James S. A. Corey)
  • Under the Whispering Door (T.J. Klune)
  • Remnant Population (Elizabeth Moon)
  • The Rain Heron (Robbie Arnott)
  • The Facemaker (Lindsey Fitzharris)
  • Wildwood Dancing (Juliet Marillier)
  • How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents (Julia Alvarez)
  • Penric's Demon (Lois McMaster Bujold)

February

  • Kismet (Watts Martin)
  • The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea (Axie Oh)

March

  • Tress of the Emerald Sea (Brandon Sanderson)
  • Cookie Calamity (Cindy Stark)
  • Bringing Home the Rain (Bob McGough)
  • The Depth of the Water (Bob McGough)
  • Feet in the Fire (Bob McGough)
  • Praying the Day's Not Poison (Bob McGough)
  • Walking the Darkness Down (Bob McGough)
  • Penric and the Shaman (Lois McMaster Bujold)

April

  • Masquerade in Lodi (Lois McMaster Bujold)
  • Raven Unveiled (Grace Draven)
  • Penric's Mission (Lois McMaster Bujold)
  • Mira's Last Dance (Lois McMaster Bujold)
  • The Orphans of Raspay (Lois McMaster Bujold)
  • The Prisoner of Limnos (Lois McMaster Bujold)
  • Penric's Fox (Lois McMaster Bujold)
  • The Physicians of Vilnoc (Lois McMaster Bujold)
  • The Assassins of Thassalon (Lois McMaster Bujold)
  • Knot of Shadows (Lois McMaster Bujold)
  • Dead Station (Aaron Beardsell)

May

  • Sourdough and Other Stories (Angela Slatter)
  • Beguilement (Lois McMaster Bujold)

June

  • The Witch and the Tsar (Olesya Salnikova Gilmore)
  • The Sisters of the Winter Wood (Rena Rossner)
  • Desperate Undertaking (Lindsey Davis)

July

  • King's Dragon (Kate Elliot)
  • Prince of Dogs (Kate Elliot)
  • The Burning Stone (Kate Elliot)

August

  • Child of Flame (Kate Elliot)
  • Along Harrowed Trails (anthology - various authors)
  • A House With Good Bones (T. Kingfisher)
  • Thornhedge (T. Kingfisher)
  • The Widow (Mary Kingswood)
  • Calling the Devil Partner (Bob McGough)
  • Twice a QuinceaƱera (Yamile Said Mendez)

September

  • Harbinger of the Storm (Aliette de Bodard)
  • The Thread Collectors (Shaunna Edwards, Alyson Richmond)
  • Fairy Tale (Stephen King)
  • The Time of the Dark (Barbara Hambly)
  • Vita Brevis (Ruth Downie)

October

  • Memento Mori (Ruth Downie)
  • Dragonsbane (Barbara Hambly)
  • Dragonshadow (Barbara Hambly)
  • Knight of the Demon Queen (Barbara Hambly)
  • Dragonstar (Barbara Hambly)

November

  • Plague Land (SD Sykes)
  • Pride of Chanur (CJ Cherryh)
  • Chanur's Venture (CJ Cherryh)
  • The Kif Strike Back (CJ Cherryh)
  • Chanur's Homecoming (CJ Cherryh)
  • Chanur's Legacy (CJ Cherryh)
  • Bear and the Wolf (SJA Turney)

December

  • A Dead Ship in the Deep Black (Rene Astle)
  • Sister Light, Sister Dark (Jane Yolen)
  • White Jenna (Jane Yolen)
  • The One-Armed Queen (Jane Yolen)
  • Chilling Effect (Valeri Valdes)

I read a total of 67 books (that doesn't count several that I DNF'd - did not finish). The category breakdown is:

  • Fantasy - 42
  • Science Fiction - 12
  • Biography - 1
  • Bildungsroman - 1 (definition: a literary genre that focuses on the psychological and moral growth of the protagonist from childhood to adulthood)
  • Mystery - 5
  • Horror - 2
  • Romance - 2
  • Historical Fiction - 2


You can find all sorts of interesting reading on the web. There are lots of publications (Lightspeed, Clarkesworld, Uncanny Magazine to name just a few) that publish stories online, for free, with no need to sign up or in to anything. Here are some stories I enjoyed. I hope you do, too!

If your appetite has been whetted for finding more short form science fiction/fantasy then take a look at this list of online magazines/publishing sites that some enterprising netizen has created.



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