bout of books 12

Looking forward to Bout of Books again! Here are the details:

BoB12-200x200
The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, January 5 and runs through Sunday, January 11 in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 12 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog.
++++++++++++++++++++++++++—The Bout of Books team

I usually can’t regularly join the spring and summer BoB’s due to work/school and travel, so I always look forward to this winter one. This year, the hosts are not including a goals link, but there are still challenges, chats, and such. I think for me having no goals will be better and make it more fun, as I typically never meet any goals I list for myself in the beginning. I just want to finish the book I’m currently reading, and maybe get through one more if possible! Depending on timing, I might be able to participate in a Twitter chat or two as well, and I’m sure I’ll hop around to some of the other blogs.

Happy reading!

the explorer

A couple weeks ago during Bout of Books 10, I read The Explorer by James Smythe. From Goodreads:

When journalist Cormac Easton is selected to document the first manned mission into deep space, he dreams of securing his place in history as one of humanity’s great explorers. But in space, nothing goes according to plan. The crew wake from hypersleep to discover their captain dead in his allegedly fail-proof safety pod. They mourn, and Cormac sends a beautifully written eulogy back to Earth. The word from ground control is unequivocal: no matter what happens, the mission must continue. But as the body count begins to rise, Cormac finds himself alone and spiraling towards his own inevitable death… unless he can do something to stop it.

James Smythe landed on my radar through Goodreads giveaways (never won!) and reviews by Michael at Literary Exploration. When I saw The Explorer was on sale through iBooks for only a couple of bucks, I went for it. I’ve since discovered that Smythe is a hard author to find in the United States!

I was very intrigued by The Explorer‘s plot, perhaps because I just read The Martian earlier this year. The basic premise of each is roughly in the same vein, but in many ways completely different. This book is hard to talk about without giving away spoilers! But I can say that I liked the writing style here, kind of reminded me a little bit of Chuck Palahniuk (or maybe that Cormac reminded me of one of Palahniuk’s signature male protagonists). It has some mind-bending elements, and leaves the reader wondering what is real and what is not. Cormac is at times a sympathetic character, and other times really frustrating. I have to say the characterizations of women were sadly underwhelming. They are supposed to be brilliant, kick-ass, adventuresome scientists! Instead we get one-dimensional stereotypes. Meh.

If you’re looking for lots of action-action, you’ll probably be disappointed. Also, I can’t say that the science makes 100% sense all the time—the stopping/starting of the ship and how the gravity works with that confused me, among a few other things. But I’m no expert and not super familiar with this genre, so I was able to suspend my disbelief through most of the story. The Explorer is more of a psychological suspense, delving into the human psyche facing inevitable death, fear, the unknown, regrets, depression. Smythe did a great job conveying the soul-crushing, desolate isolation that Cormac deals with in deep space (which I missed and was looking for in The Martian).

I’d definitely be interested in reading more James Smythe work in the future!

Read from May 13 to 16, 2014.

bout of books 10 wrap-up

I was so happy to participate in Bout of Books 10 this week! I think did pretty well—didn’t accomplish all my goals but I think this has helped snap me out  of my blogging slump, though, and I was really happy to read more than I have in weeks!!

Bout of Books

My goals

  • Catch up on writing/posting reviews of books read in April:
    • Survivor by Chuck Palahniuk 
    • The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan 
    • The Round House by Louise Erdrich
  • Finish reading two books I started recently:
    • The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood
    • The Explorer by James Smythe 
  • Participate in at least one #boutofbooks Twitter chat 
  • Participate in at least two challenges/giveaways 
  • Comment on at least 10 fellow participants’ blogs

Progress

Day 1: Monday, May 12
Too busy today to read much! There was a lot going on at work and then I went straight to a meeting for my PT job after that, and then out with friends for dinner. By the time I got home it was kind of late, and my husband and I were just going over our days together, so I didn’t really get any reading in at all, but I was able to participate in the #boutofbooks Twitter chat at 1pm and participated in one challenge[Totals: 0 pages, 0 books read today, 0 books read total, 0 books finished, 0 reviews posted, 1 Twitter chat, 1 challenge completed]

Day 2: Tuesday, May 13
I don’t know what happened, just got busy with “life” stuff I guess, like errands, chores, and making dinner after work. I was also desperate to work out, since my yoga class was canceled during the day, so I did that after work too. Oh and Nick and I watched Dear Mr. Watterson, a documentary about the Calvin and Hobbes comic strip and its creator. But! I was able to read 20 pages of The Explorer during my lunch break. No challenges, comments, or posts today. [Totals: 20 pages, 1 book read today, 1 book read total, 0 books finished, 0 reviews posted, 1 Twitter chat, 1 challenge completed]

Day 3: Wednesday, May 14
I had a lot of free time after work tonight and was able to read 62 pages of The Blind Assassin! I’m started to get hooked, finally. This one is taking me longer to sink into that other Atwood work, but I still enjoy it immensely. [Totals: 82 pages, 1 book read today, 2 books read total, 0 books finished, 0 reviews posted, 1 Twitter chat, 1 challenge completed]

Day 4: Thursday, May 15
Today was a little better! During my lunch break I wrote/posted my Survivor review, after work I was able to read 63 pages of The Explorer, and found time to squeeze in one challenge. When I went to bed I still wanted to read, but didn’t want to look at my iPad anymore, so I read 12 pages of Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer, which I just picked up from the library for my husband to read (I know, I know—I should have read The Blind Assassin, but I wanted something non-committal at the end of the night). Definitely realizing I won’t reach all my goals, but if I can get those review posts in and finish one book I’ll be happy. [Totals: 157 pages, 2 books read today, 3 books read total, 0 books finished, 1 review posted, 1 Twitter chat, 2 challenges completed]

Day 5: Friday, May 16
It has been a long week so after work my husband and I went out to dinner, but I was able to manage reading 51 pages of The Explorer… and FINISHING it today! [Totals: 208 pages, 1 book read today, 3 books read total, 1 book finished, 1 review posted, 1 Twitter chat, 2 challenges completed]

Day 6: Saturday, May 17
Before going to my husband’s concert in the evening (one of his string quartet compositions was performed at an art gallery downtown), I posted a long-overdue review of The Worst Hard Time, which I read between March and April, and read 50 pages of Annihilation. [Totals: 258 pages, 1 book read today, 3 books read total, 1 book finished, 2 reviews posted, 1 Twitter chat, 2 challenges completed]

Day 7: Sunday, May 18
Today was busier than I expected! I babysat for a friend all afternoon and then stayed for dinner. I was able to read another 50 pages of Annihilation, though! [Totals: 308 pages, 1 book read today, 3 books read total, 1 book finished, 2 reviews posted, 1 Twitter chat, 2 challenges completed]

the worst hard time

More catching up on old reviews for my Bout of Books 10 goals! The March pick for my library book group was The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan, about the Dust Bowl. From Goodreads:

The dust storms that terrorized the High Plains in the darkest years of the Depression were like nothing ever seen before or since. Timothy Egan’s critically acclaimed account rescues this iconic chapter of American history from the shadows in a tour de force of historical reportage. Following a dozen families and their communities through the rise and fall of the region, Egan tells of their desperate attempts to carry on through blinding black dust blizzards, crop failure, and the death of loved ones.

I already had this as an ebook so I was happy to see it picked for our library book group! Unfortunately I was sick and couldn’t attend the meeting at the end of March… which probably worked out for the best since I hadn’t finished reading it by then anyway :-/ I was still interested, though, so I plowed (ha) through to the end, finishing mid-April.

I knew a little bit about the Dust Bowl already from school, Ken Burns’s documentary, and just living in this region for more than ten years. But I hadn’t really thought much about exactly how these storms effected the country, the economy, and specifically the people who lived in their paths. Egan’s book really laid it all out on the table for you: the residents’ hunger, frustration, fear, desperation, poverty… and also their hopefulness, strength, perseverance, and tenacity. I found his descriptions and portraits of the residents to be full of life and character, really fleshing out these people as actual real people who lived through this devastating time (and some of those who didn’t).

Once in a while I did feel like the writing was a bit dry and certain things repetitious, but I suppose that’s how life was in No Man’s Land for so long. Egan hammered home exactly how the dust and dirt smelled, looked, felt—how it was unstoppable and crept in through every minuscule crack, embedded itself in your clothing, pores, lungs, eyes, everywhere. I can’t even imagine having to live through something like that, and for more than a decade straight. Egan also minces no words blaming humans for this agricultural disaster, which is totally deserved and appropriate. Great, fascinating read on American agricultural history!

Read from March 17 to April 19, 2014.

survivor

Posting this during Bout of Books 10, part of my goals to catch up on neglected reviews! On our road trip to Ohio last month, Nick and I listened to Survivor by Chuck Palahniuk on audiobook. From Goodreads:

Tender Branson—last surviving member of the so-called Creedish Death Cult—is dictating his life story into the flight recorder of Flight 2039, cruising on autopilot at 39,000 feet somewhere over the Pacific Ocean. He is all alone in the airplane, which will crash shortly into the vast Australian outback. But before it does, he will unfold the tale of his journey from an obedient Creedish child and humble domestic servant to an ultra-buffed, steroid-and collagen-packed media messiah.

I have read a few books of Palahniuk’s before several years ago—Fight ClubChoke, and Lullaby. I’m not sure I would have ever classified him as a “favorite” author, but I enjoyed the sort of unconventional shock factor and biting commentary on society in his stories. I always meant to read more, but ya know. School, other random life things, other books. Now my husband has become interested in Palahniuk’s work so I thought this would be a great audiobook for us both on the road trip, and it was!

Survivor definitely has Palahniuk’s signature style, which contributes both to it’s success and flaws, I think. Great, creative premise and attention-grabbing story. However if you’ve read his other books, the protagonist is pretty familiar: a misanthropic anti-hero, fairly bitter about life and the world, disenchanted attitude, nihilist tendencies, signature flat-delivery touch of dark humor. And on top of that, in Survivor, the plot line sort of loosely followed Fight Club, with the quirky, confusing female love interest and the rebellion from the society in which he was raised, dealing with internal (and external) insecurities, an so forth.

But while these elements are familiar, I still enjoyed it. The settings of the cult and the airplane were great and interesting! Maybe Palahniuk is an author best enjoyed in infrequent doses. I read some other reviews and people seemed to be worn out on the similarities between his books a lot. Perhaps I liked this one more because it had been so long since I read anything by him? Anyway. I also thought the narrator (Paul Michael Garcia) did a fantastic job conveying Tender Branson’s personality (or intentional lack thereof!) and diversifying each character. Recommended for fans of dark, satiric speculative fiction!

Listened to audiobook from April 3 to 6, 2014.

bout of books 10 goals

Getting pumped to start Bout of Books 10! Here’s what I’d like to accomplish:

My goals

  • Catch up on writing/posting reviews of books read in April:
    • Survivor by Chuck Palahniuk
    • The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan
    • The Round House by Louise Erdrich
  • Finish reading two books I started recently:
    • The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood (plus review post)
    • The Explorer by James Smythe (plus review post)
  • Continue/get into reading Blue Highways by William Least Heat-Moon
  • Participate in at least one #boutofbooks Twitter chat
  • Participate in at least two challenges/giveaways
  • Comment on at least 10 fellow participants’ blogs
Bout of Books
The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, May 12th and runs through Sunday, May 18th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure, and the only reading competition is between you and your usual number of books read in a week. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 10 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog.
++++++++++++++++++++++++++—The Bout of Books team