Monday, March 25, 2013

Ruth's Adventures in Wonderland

One of the things on my "101 Things To Do List" (the Day Zero Project) is read 100 books, and as part of my "Year of Doing Big, Fun, Scary Things Together" (over at the NaNo forums), I've resolved to read them all this year.

Now, to be honest, reading one hundred books in a single year is neither a big goal nor a scary one for me. I probably have done that most years since I left school. (School really slowed down my reading speed, mostly by taking up the time I'd be reading with classes and actual socializing with people and stuff...) The big, scary part of the goal (it's definitely fun, though) is actually keeping track of the books I've read.

So I thought today I'd put down a list of what I've read so far in 2013, and my thoughts on a few of the books.

First off, the complete set of "Little House" books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. All nine of them. A couple of these were re-reads, but to be honest, I didn't even know the rest of them existed, so when I spied a boxed set in a used bookstore, I didn't hesitate, despite the fact that buying them blew my (non-existant) book budget for the year. I've noticed that I really enjoy books where the protagonists start out with nothing and build from the ground up. I enjoy computer games that have that feature, too. So much so that I get bored when my Sims or Civilizations or whatever I'm building become so advanced that life is easy and boring. Maybe that's why I'm still in the beginning stages of building my own wealth and comfort--I can't even contemplate being rich and comfortable!

Along similar lines are the trio of books by Anne McCaffery: Dragonsong, Dragonsinger, and Dragondrums. Menolly is perhaps my favourite Anne McCaffery heorine, though Killashandra and Lessa are close runners-up. Also re-read The White Dragon, and have more of her books on the "to re-read" list.

On a different theme, I absolutely love Mary Balogh's books, and have been delighted this year to read (so far) three of her novels that are new to me. The Proposal is a brand new book in a brand new series, written about a minor character who's appeared in a few of Balogh's past novels--one for whom I've felt great sympathy. I'm delighted that Gwen has finally gotten her "happily ever after." A Matter of Class is a novel that was apparently written to satisfy a contract, but for all that, it's quite a satisfying story. She could have left out the "Book Club Question" part at the end, but I have a feeling that this section was part of the contract. Finally, a reissue of two previous stories: A Christmas Bride/Christmas Beau (one book). Christmas Beau is one of her weaker stories--I don't quite find the "love at first sight" theme believable, in part because the man in the story was so young at the first meeting, and the "love of his life" jilted him for another man. That he's still so "in love" with her years later doesn't jive even remotely with what I know about people in general. However, the first story, A Christmas Bride, more than makes up for it. The heroine is a world-weary widow who is only briefly mentioned in a past novel, and she's the "wicked stepmother," at that. Wicked Stepmothers are so much more interesting than virginal heroines, and Helena is a complex and fascinating creature.

I'm also in the midst of my annual re-read of Lord of the Rings. It's going slower as the years go by, mostly because I can now put it down and take up the story where I left off without forgetting where I started. But then, I'm on re-read number 35 or perhaps more. I spent some time considering whether or not I should count the books as one book, three books, or six, and settled for the traditional three, so I've finished Fellowship so far, and right now Sam and Frodo are crawling through the Dead Marshes. Why I re-read these books every year would take a post all it's own--coming soon to a blog near you!

Finally, to round out the fiction, I read Veiled Threat by Alice Loweecy. I spend a weekend with some of the folks who frequent the Absolute Write Water Cooler a couple of years back, and meeting Alice was one of the highlights. I beta-read part of her second book (Veiled Threat is the third), and I couldn't wait to buy the books. Guila, the heorine, is an ex-nun who plays the flute, with a boss/suitor who plays the cello. The first book involved some crazed on-line gamers, a stalker who mis-quotes scripture, and a number of insane plot twists. Also featured is a vegetarian health food nut. Let's just say that I can relate to the characters and the plots of the novels, because they closeley echo who I am or who my friends are, and what we do in our lives. It's actually a bit freaky, and it makes it special that the books are written by someone I've met and like.

Of course, fiction is not my only reading. On the non-fiction side, I read Driven, by Robert Herjavec, and The Behavior Gap by Carl Richards. I particularly enjoy books about why we behave the way we do and habit formation, and these books were right up my alley. Also read were The 4-Hour Work Week and The 4-Hour Chef by Timothy Ferriss. I tried The 4-Hour Body, but its philosophy is so diametrically opposed to what I believe about eating and health that I didn't finish it. The 4-Hour Work Week was okay, but it got to be overly complicated and technical, and his ethical framework leaves something to be desired (another whole post there, so I won't get into that). There are better books out there about starting up a business, one of which I'll talk about in the next paragraph. The 4-Hour Chef was the best of the three, and I do recommend it. It's a huge book that covers a lot of material, but it was a truly fun and interesting read. If you want to read my full review, it's in my last post.

Finally, I read The $100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau. It's along the same lines as The 4-Hour Work Week, but much more readable, and the path is much more clearly laid out. Highly recommended if you're considering starting up a business.

So that makes 23 books so far in the first quarter of 2013, with just over a week to go in the quarter. Considering I didn't actually start recording before the end of January (which means I missed a few books on the list), you can see that indeed my reading pace is quite consistent with my goals. More reports to come!


  1. I haven't read that much in a while. I've only read LoTR twice...every year? Sorry, as much as I love that story, the writing is too much to trudge through more than that. It's good writing; it's just a little archaic (exaggeration! :D ). I *will* reread The Hobbit over and over, there and back again....

    Hope you're enjoying it on your side of the looking glass!

  2. Maybe it's about time to write that post on why I re-read that book every year that I promised.

    Not that I don't realize that the writing isn't perfect, mind you. It *is* archaic, and with the Victorina penchant for excessive description thrown in. But there is so much depth to the book that just isn't to be found in any other work of fantasy that I've read so far. I don't find The Hobbit nearly as satisfying to read (though I've finished LotR and am now, of course, on The Hobbit) because it doesn't have those twenty years that Tolkien spent in world development to flesh it out. *sigh*