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Posts Tagged ‘reading’

My current thesis research is somewhat tedious and boring. I have to identify the minerals and rock fragments in a bunch of sandstones and while I DO have to pay attention to what I’m doing, I’ve been doing this so long now that it’s somewhat mechanical. I also have to do this quickly.

So I HAVE to listen to things to keep me occupied. Music doesn’t quite cut it – it’s too easy to let myself get distracted. Podcasts are great, too, though I prefer audio dramas, of which there are very few quality productions – all of which I am now caught up on – and I haven’t been given any recommendations that I’ve liked.

Enter audiobooks – my new favorite thing. But in my new dalliance into audiobook listening, I have also found that there are good books, and there are good audiobook readers. But finding where these two spheres cross is a difficult task.

The first audiobook I listened to was Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files book, Storm Front, read by James Marsters – the platinum-blonde vampire from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. He did an excellent job, and I’ll be starting his reading of the second Dresden Files book in a few days.

I was in the middle of the second Sirantha Jax book by Ann Aguirre, and I was so wrapped up in the story I managed to get my hands on the audiobook so I could continue it while I worked. Unfortunately, the reader of that series grated on my nerves. Her attempt at using different voices for different characters went too far to be taken seriously and entered the realm of cheesiness, and she was a bit nasal-y to begin with. Needless to say, it was difficult to listen to, because it went wildly against what I would have imagined on my own.

Another problem with audiobooks is that they’re expensive. I’m limited by whatever my public library has available (Audible costs more than I’m willing to pay every month). So, I’ve taken to Twitter to beg my audiobook-fiend friends for recommendations.

One of my friends recommended Elizabeth Peter’s Amelia Peabody series, which begins with Crocodile on the Sandbank. The library gave me the version read by Susan O’Mally, though the internet tells me there’s another version read by Barbara Rosenblat, which has good reviews. I’ve also checked out the second book, The Curse of the Pharaohs, which is also read by Susan O’Mally. I’ll say right now – I absolutely loved it. So much that I just finished it today, and I’m devoting this week’s blog post to it.

crocodile-on-the-sandbank

Amelia Peabody is a Victorian era spinster, but she owns it in a similar manner to Miss Fisher, of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries. It also helps that she’s fabulously wealthy, intelligent, and curious about the world, especially ancient Egypt. In this, her first adventure into the mysterious, she travels to Egypt and meets young Evelyn Barton-Forbes. Evelyn is running from a scandal, as well as two potential suitors, and Amelia takes her under her wing. The two women get along splendidly, and Amelia didn’t want to travel on her own.

They spend days wandering down (up?) the Nile in search of ancient Egyptian ruins, and stumble upon their acquaintances, Radcliffe and Walter Emerson, at their own archeological dig. Radcliffe, the elder, has become seriously ill, and the curious Miss Peabody makes herself at home bringing him back to health and helping with his research.

Suddenly, the group finds themselves haunted by what appears to be the new mummy they uncover in a tomb. Not long after, one of Evelyn’s suitors appears, and they all begin to unravel the mystery of the wandering mummy, because it can’t possibly be a real mummy, can it?

There is plenty of mystery, romantic love triangles, witty banter, and snark from all of the characters. Each one has a unique and lively personality, and I love every single one of them. I will admit I found the mystery itself somewhat predictable, but there were enough twists to throw me off plenty of times. Honestly, though, it was the characters and their interactions that kept me interested in the story.

Amelia is a feisty feminist of the Victorian era. She needs no man to make her happy, and appears resigned to die a spinster, though it doesn’t seem to bother her. She wants to explore the world and learn, and she’s starting with Egypt. She has a particular interest in archaeology, and wants to dig in the sand like any man. If I was a rich heiress, I’d probably end up just like her.

Evelyn is a sweetheart, and loyal to a fault to those she loves. She also happens to be a fantastic artist, and demonstrates intelligence that lets her follow in the footsteps of Amelia. She’s not the flimsy damsel in distress of many Victorian era novels (though of course, this was written in the 70s). I could almost see her as a younger, more artistic version of Amelia. Their characters interact much the way that sisters would, and it works well in the story.

Radcliffe Emerson is a more modern man of the Victorian era, though he tries to disguise it with sexist jokes. These soon stop, as he slowly realizes that Amelia is not like most women. He’s witty and snarky, but has an intelligence to match Amelia’s, and an admirable devotion to his archeological work. He’s the best kind of nerd, and sexy to boot.

Evelyen’s various suitors are less interesting. Walter Emerson is adorable and the most likeable. Lucas is a jerk and a character I enjoyed hating for most of the novel. Then there’s the other foreign guy who is just plain annoying, but in a way that is not frustrating to read. They’re good for the story though.

My favorite part of the novel was the way Emerson and Miss Peabody danced around each other. They infuriate one another, but at the same time they both clearly admire each other. Their relationship grows and evolves naturally and it was really fun to listen to.

I cannot wait to see what adventures these characters will run into next. I only hope the snarky, witty banter between Amelia and Radcliffe continues. I normally have to be in the right mood for mystery novels, but these characters are engaging enough that I don’t need to be in the right mood for Amelia Peabody and Radcliffe Emerson.

Happy reading!

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A couple years ago I read the Scarabaeus series by Sara Creasy. It was a mere two books long (Song of Scarabaeus and Children of Scarabaeus), and when it was over I felt bereft. It was the best sci-fi adventure I’d ever read. Full of suspenseful, tightly-written adventurous plot, with just the right amount of romantic subplot to satisfy the hopeless romantic in me. I wanted more of the same, but Goodreads seemed only able to recommend novels where the sci-fi plot/romantic subplot ratio was reversed. I wasn’t feeling it. So I asked Twitter for help, and someone recommended Grimspace by Ann Aguirre.

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For whatever reason, once I got my hands on it, I was afraid to try it. What if it wasn’t as good as Scarabaeus? No, it seemed much safer to revert to my urban fantasy addiction. And so, Grimspace sat untouched on my shelf for a good two years before I picked it up to read again. A couple weeks ago, my roommate mentioned that she was re-reading the series, and I remembered that I actually owned the first book. She and I have an almost identical taste in books, so I figured now was as good a time as any to jump into the Sirantha Jax series.

I haven’t regretted a single moment of it. Granted, I haven’t reached the end of the first book yet, but I didn’t have anything else I really wanted to write about this week, and I can’t stop thinking about this book, so why not write an early review?

Sirantha Jax is a jumper – she has the special gene that allows her to fly a spaceship through “grimspace,” this world’s version of faster-than-light travel. Grimspace is a weird thing. I won’t try to describe it, but when I read the description, it reminded me of the faster-than-light space travel in Farscape. Lots of colors, like we’d imagine a wormhole or something. The weirdest part, I thought, was how every human jumper has a finite number of jumps in them. They tend to “burn out” if they jump too many times (though what exactly this entails remains a mystery), and if they don’t want to burn out they choose to retire instead.

The thing is, there are very few of these people left (that the government knows about, anyway), and Jax was just involved in a crash after her last jump – a crash she has no memory of. The government, and her employers, are holding her prisoner and interrogating her about the crash, and her life is pretty much the most miserable thing ever.

Enter March: a man she’s never met, but breaks into her cell like Luke Skywalker with Han Solo’s attitude. Under the impression that her life with the Corp (the government in the book’s universe) can’t get any worse, she decides to make a run for it with March and his ship’s crew of rag-tag criminals/vigilantes. The ship and crew have a very Firefly-esque vibe going on, but with plans like the Serenity movie.

Forgive all the pop culture references. This book just really reminds me of a bunch of my favorite things.

The plot thickens when Jax and March reach their first destination: a planet on the outskirts. They finally tell Jax their plan: they want to train a new generation of grimspace jumpers who last longer (Jax herself has been jumping far longer than the average human), by somehow incorporating alien DNA into their biology. So the team goes on a mission to recruit alien jumpers, and hijinks ensue.

The universe is a rather dark and twisted place, but our protagonists provide enough heroism, humor, and romance to balance the darker sides of the story. The story itself is tightly written, and the POV is a sort of blend of third and second person. Somehow, it works for Sirantha Jax. The cast is also refreshingly diverse in several different ways, and we need more stories like that.

When I’m at work, I think about Grimspace. When I’m home, I can’t wait to get into bed and get back to reading Grimspace. It’s been a while since I felt this way about a book. Thankfully, I can borrow my roommate’s copies of the rest of the series, but I bet I’ll be buying my own set once I graduate.

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Arcadia's choice

Arcadia’s Choice, the 3rd part of the Arcadia trilogy by Jesi Lea Ryan came out last week, and I was given an advanced review copy! I tried to finish it for last week’s blog post, but school makes reading fast rather difficult. So, here I am finally with my review!

Let me start by saying I absolutely adore Arcadia (Cady) Day. She’s the kind of heroine I wish I saw more often in YA novels. Cady struggles to understand the difference between what she wants, and what she needs, and when it’s ok to put herself before others. Considering she’s a compassionate empath, this is considerably more difficult that it might be for a regular person. Cady also reminds me a lot of myself – she wants to make everyone happy, and that is an impossible task, something she learns throughout the trilogy. I enjoyed watching Cady grow as a character during this series, and every time she made a smart, strong female character-like decision, I felt proud of her. She goes through some really crazy things in this story, and comes out of it all strong. Her characters ends up in a totally different place from where she starts. Not so secretly, I’m hoping we’ll get to visit her world again in the future, but I’m content with the story as it ends.

Now, as for this book all by itself (I mean, obviously you should read the first two books before you read this one, but this is a book review, after all) – lots of things happen. It almost feels too busy, but everything happens for a very specific reason, and it all leads to Cady figuring out what she wants to do with her life after this part of her story is over. It’s fast-paced, and it’s exciting, and everything from the first two books gets resolved with plenty of surprises along the way. Some things I predicted, but just as many of them I didn’t see coming. I would happily hang out with these characters for another whole trilogy if given the chance.

I will say there is a bit of a love triangle, but it’s a subplot, and it becomes clear who the decoy really is early on in this book (if you hadn’t figured it out in the second one – which really, you should have, because Cady is NO Bella Swan). Honestly, there’s so much going on it’s a wonder she even has time to deal with it, but she does, and she’s mature about it, and takes care of herself. Cady is an excellent role model for young adult women. I can’t wait for my sister to be old enough to read these books!

As for the empathy – I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I love how unique this story is. The supernatural element is a variety of psychics, which is refreshing in a world full of vampires and werewolves (don’t get me wrong – I love those too, but sometimes I like something a bit different). It actually reminds me a bit of a young adult, less-dark-humor version of Carolyn Crane’s Disillusionist trilogy (I also highly recommend that series).

So, if you’re sick of vampires, love young adult urban fantasy, and want to read about a fantastic, mentally strong female character, I highly recommend the Arcadia series. The finale does not disappoint!

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If you read a lot of books, or if you’re a writer, you are probably at least aware of what’s been going on between Amazon and the publishing company Hachette. Possibly, you are also confused by it, or maybe just conflicted. I fall into this latter category, and I’ve spoken with a couple of my author friends about it, so my goal in writing this post is to facilitate some kind of discussion about what’s going on between Amazon and Hachette.

To start us off, here’s an article (clearly biased in the anti-Amazon direction) that lays out the situation pretty well and should answer any immediate questions you may have. Basically, Amazon is making it really difficult for customers to buy Hachette-published books because the two companies can’t come to an agreement about how to sell these books. Amazon finally spoke out a little bit at the end of last month, and this article sums it up without any bias one way or the other.

As a person who has never actually had a problem obtaining books from Amazon, and as an as-yet-unpublished writer (either traditionally or independently), I personally do not have any qualms with Amazon. I am not going to boycott them until I understand this situation more. But based on what I’ve read so far, I understand why some people are choosing to boycott Amazon. As far as I’m concerned, it’s a personal choice. Author Neil Gaiman pointed out recently in an interview that we don’t REALLY know what’s happening, because all the details are under non-disclosure.

These articles I’ve linked to show the perspective from some of the big authors who are affected by these business proceedings. But what about independent authors? What about writers who can’t get the time of day from these enormous publishing companies? How does this affect them?

Author Frank Schaeffer defends Amazon because he believes he would not have been as successful without Amazon’s help, and he’s not the only independent author who feels this way. My writing partner told me she wouldn’t be a writer today it it weren’t for Amazon, and that for every J.K. Rowling and James Patterson, there are 500 authors like her. The jury is out as to how this affects unpublished authors seeking traditional publication.

My conclusion is this: it’s a business war between two major corporations. Many people seem to be forgetting that Hachette is ALSO a big company, and I think that’s important to keep in mind. I will never understand the ins and outs of it because I don’t have any expertise in business, so I’m going to wait to pass judgement until everything is settled. But maybe some of you reading this have a better grasp on the situation. Is Amazon really the big bad that so many people are quick to claim? What do you think about what’s going down between Amazon and Hachette? If you’re boycotting, why, and if you’re not, why not?

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Well, I appear to have survived my first week in Houston, TX!

This place is not at all what I expected, and I haven’t reached a decision about whether or not I could see myself living here for a couple years. Luckily, I have 2 more months to think about it and get to know the place.

If you’ve never been here before, this is what it’s like. There is green EVERYWHERE. All along the bayou, on the boulevards, the sidewalks, in yards and gardens. The plants here are absolutely amazing. I imagined a desert or industrial type landscape, but it hasn’t been like that at all. Many parts of the city I’ve seen so far are actually very beautiful. The humidity is real, though. I’ve hardly spent any time outside since I’ve been here, because the air is not very comfortable to just sit in. I’m learning that less cloudy days have lower humidity, and one of these days I’ll be brave enough to go lounge by the pool while I read. But then you have random 5-minute rainstorms come through, and you must run for cover. I’m used to bi-polar weather, but this is on a different level. I’m also learning the joys of air conditioning. I’m from Seattle, where we usually must fight against the cold to find a house temperature that doesn’t cost too much on the electricity bill, but still keeps us warm enough to function. Here, it’s the opposite. I’m trying to figure out how much warmth I can stand before I desperately need the air conditioning to keep me at a reasonable temperature. It’s a delicate balance, but it’s also nice to be comfortably warm for a change. A bonus for this climate, though, is the amount of volume it adds to my hair. I keep it short, so a little climate-controlled volume is actually pretty awesome.

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Being from Seattle, I’m used to everyone ignoring each other when they pass in the street. When I moved to Montana, the opposite was true. I got used to politely nodding and/or smiling at people as I passed them in the street (though less so on the college campus). Houston is a massive city. Once again, everyone goes back to ignoring each other. I ran into someone at the gate to get into the apartment complex, he was struggling to open the gate. He finally opened it just as I made it to the gate to try to help, and as we passed each other, I tried to smile at him, because hey, he’s probably my neighbor. No response. So, it’s weird going back to that after being in Montana for so long.

As for my job, I’m an intern for an energy company. So far, my job has essentially consisted of looking at squiggly lines all day and trying to interpret them. I’m not even kidding. Squiggly lines. Theoretically they mean something, but sometimes it’s hard to tell.

This internship has so far been an interesting experience, and not so much for the job itself, but for the… setting. For one, I’ve got a swanky office all to myself. My name is even on the door! I have two computer monitors and a huge desk! I’ve never experienced an office job like this – the Google office I worked in was all open plan, no cubicles or anything, and tiny desks. Not that that was bad or anything (it was much easier to talk to my friends that way, or lean over to my neighbor to ask for help on a difficult task, etc.), just different.

I’m also used to jobs that keep you to the clock. You clock in when you arrive, you clock out for lunch, you clock back in after, and you clock out when you leave. No cell phones or personal calls or fun internet breaks while you work (those were the rules, anyway). This internship, though? Totally different. As long as you get the work done, and can show you’re making progress, there’s actually a lot of freedom. It’s taking some adjusting to get used to. I mean, I made a phone call to set up my internet installation at my home during business hours and NOT on my lunch break! I was allowed to leave a few minutes early to go to happy hour with the office mates! I’m not going to lie, I could get used to a job like that. Plus, I’m actually using my geology knowledge and skills, which is more than I can say pre-graduate school.

The one weird thing about this job that bothers me is the lack of women in science-related positions. Maybe it’s just this company, but I’m the ONLY woman on my team. Most of the men are much older than me, too. Almost all the women I’ve met are in administrative or assistant-type positions. It’s really strange to be sitting in a big meeting, and be the only woman in the room. Every other job I’ve held, and all through school, the gender divisions have been pretty well split down the middle for all positions. I suppose the fact that I’m a woman in an internship position should be encouraging for the future of the company, but it’s still a little hard to get used to.

I’ve also had the pleasure of trying to sleep on an air mattress. A friend of mine was successful with this for his entire 3-month internship. But my air mattress? Somehow magically developed a pin-hole puncture after two nights. Pro-tip: Three layers of rubber cement plus tens of layers of duct tape won’t work.

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Rather than fight with the mattress for the rest of the summer, or straight up buying a new one, I decided I didn’t want to wake up feeling like I was in a water bed for any more mornings/middles of the night. So I went to IKEA and bought the cheapest roll-out foam mattress I could find, and I have slept well the past few nights. I do not regret the expense.

On the major plus side of doing this internship over the summer, I have no school work to deal with. Sure, I should probably type up my field notes (which I will, I promise), but other than that – I’m basically on vacation when I’m not at work. So, I’ve started working on my novel again! Typed up 3 pages of edited outline material. It’s a lot of work, but I’m getting through it. 11 more pages to go! I forgot how much fun I have while working on it, and how excited I am to begin re-writes. If I’m really lucky, I’ll get through these outline edits, send them to my writing partner, and get started writing some scenes before the summer is out.

I’ve also got time to cook delicious things like butter chicken with broccoli and mushrooms.

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AND I’ve had time to have a bath. With a candle, a glass of rosé, and my kindle.

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I am, of course, also taking this time to catch up on some TV shows and fiction reading (The Immortal Crown by Richelle Mead just arrived and it is SO good and I’m only 50 pages in!). Which brings me to the next thing I want to share with you all…

I know I already wrote a post about book-shaming, and how it infuriates me when someone tries to tell me (or anyone else, for that matter) that I should be embarrassed about the books I like to read, an article recently came out from Slate that has me swearing at my computer screen as I read. Don’t read it unless you want to get angry about something. I firmly believe that you should read whatever you want to read, regardless of other people’s opinions. What you read literally has zero effect on them, and if they’re going to judge you for it, you probably don’t need them in your life. Since I’ve already articulated how I feel about this, I suggest taking a look at these two responses to the Slate article that made me really happy.

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