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The Bibliophile is Behind in Her Reading

Yes, I’m a bad, bad blogger and I’ve neglected this site for a long time. Okay, a very, long time. No need to rub it in. But I write about the Minnesota Vikings over at the Daily Norseman and that has really divided my time. It’s a funny thing, but a really lousy season (and the continuing Vikings stadium drama) is surprisingly demanding. Turns out bad football seasons are an endless source of material–emotionally draining, soul-sucking material, but material nonetheless. And all that terribly good source material has distracted me from telling you about how I’ve already fallen horribly behind in a New Year’s Suggestion–I don’t like resolutions, they’re something passed by the United Nations that countries promptly ignore.

While looking at my overflowing bookcase it occurred to me that my affection for Hulu has been seriously detrimental to my reading. The books kept piling up, but I wasn’t flipping through them nearly as quickly. Seeing the backlog, I had to…stop getting books. Well, okay, it was more like I seriously slowed up on buying books. Mostly.

Something had to be done. All those books stacked up on and around and next to my bookshelf seemed to be shaming me. So, as a New Year’s Suggestion, I decided to try to read a book a week.

Right now February is nearly over and that New Year’s Suggestion has atrophied and is close to death. Something has to be done.

While my affection for Hulu is definitely part of the problem, another reason for my snail pace was that I just didn’t like the book I was reading. I felt like I should like the book because the setting was interesting and (it was a historical novel) well-researched with vivid period details. However, I’ve been in enough doomed relationships to know that arguing for the way things should be when it comes to preference, is a waste of time. Sometimes you just don’t like a book despite everything in its favor. Sometimes you’re just not that into a book.

This is a difficult thing for me because I get hooked on a premise and, if it isn’t grabbing me, I feel dumb for giving up on it. But I’m reading novels for entertainment, not studying for a test or pouring over them looking for the cure for cancer–I just want to be entertained by a good story. So, if the book isn’t entertaining, why am I wasting my time on it?

I don’t know if this has ever happened to you, maybe I’m the only one. But here’s how I’m trying to get back on track with my reading.

  • Put the boring book down. Yeah, it’s pretty elementary, but I thought I’d mention it just the same because it’s something I have to remind myself to do. There’s a whole world of books out there and only so much time to read, there’s no reason to waste it on dull reading material. With the rise of self-publishing and the increased competition for the fewer and fewer literate members of the general public, there are a lot of books being published and a lot of them really shouldn’t have been published. Sometimes it has very little to do with the book itself, I’ll find I’m just not in the mood for a particular book at that time and will come back to it later. Other times, well, sometimes the book just isn’t that good. Give it a rest and try it again later, read something else in the meantime.
  • Go with a tried and true author. I really enjoy finding new authors to read, but sometimes you just want to read a book by an author you trust. This is especially true when it’s an author who has an ongoing series with characters you like, then it feels like reconnecting with good friends. Here are some of my go-to authors: Will Thomas, Victoria Thompson, Colin Cotterill, Elizabeth Peters, and, a new favorite, C.S. Graham. Oh, and I can’t forget Mary Stewart, one of the pioneers of romantic suspense. She practically created the genre.
  • Look forward to new books. It’s good to have something to look forward to and it can help me clear through some reading material. Normally, with authors I really like, I try not to stay current with the series so I know I have one of their books on hand. This method doesn’t always work. I’ve been waiting for more than a year for another installment of Will Thomas‘ excellent Barker and Llewelyn series. I held that book in reserve for much longer than that. Fortunately, according a post from Thomas on Facebook, there’s a new novel coming soon and I can’t wait. And then there was the problem of Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris’ Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences series. I blundered into their highly entertaining series as soon as it came out and I’m getting cranky with them for making me wait a year for another book–sometimes I just need to hear about the adventures of a heavily armed woman and her librarian archivist partner. All my grudges against the Ministry will be forgotten when The Janus Affair, second book in the series, is in my hands. Also, congratulations to Ballantine and Morris because Phoenix Rising, the first book in their series, was Finalist for Best Science Fiction of 2011 on Goodreads.com and winner of the 2011 Airship Award for best written steampunk.
  • Read paperbacks instead of hardcover novels. Even if I don’t have the time to just sit and read for hours on end, I tend to read more if I bring books with me and can read even a few pages at a time throughout the day when I’m waiting. For that, I prefer paperbacks because they don’t make my purse as heavy. Now, that point is moot if you have a nice, light e-reader, but if not, having a light paperback instead of a hefty hardcover can make a difference in whether or not you feel like bringing your book with you.

And there you have my plan (at least for the moment) for getting back on track in my reading. I may not make my goal of a book-a-week in 2012, I may not even be remotely close, but I’ll be doing better than I’m doing right now. But what do you think? What are your tips for finding time to read in your busy life? Oh, and if you have a good book recommendation, do tell! I can quit any time this book addiction lets me.

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Posted by on February 22, 2012 in Books, Uncategorized

 

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The Bibliophile Presents: Reading New (To Me) Authors Part 1

Sometimes it isn’t easy to buckle down and read a book by an author I haven’t read before. A lot of times I want to read something by an author I know and like, something that has a better than 50% chance of not being a dud. However, that method has not helped me clear through my bookshelf very well—reading more books by authors I haven’t read before is my New Year’s resolution.

As of now, this year I have read 8 books by authors I had not previously read. It would have been more, but I bailed on a couple books. Life is too short to spend your recreational reading with an author who irritates you. I can go a long way with a boring or predictable plot so long as I have likable, interesting cast of characters along for the ride. But when I find myself wanting to throw things at the protagonist and boot him/her from a moving car, it doesn’t matter how original or skilled the writing may be, I won’t read it.

Every day for the next several days, I’ll share a quick review on books I’ve read this year by authors who are new to me. I’m starting with a double-shot because I’ve previously reviewed the first book.

A Conspiracy of Paper by David Liss. I wrote a much longer review on this book back in January or February that you can look up if you really want to, but if you don’t, then suffice it to say the book was okay. Occasionally the period details and the explanations about the rise of securities trading bogged down the story and felt indulgent, but the time period was interesting, as were the characters and I would read David Liss again.

The Water Room by Christopher Fowler. I hate it when publishers don’t make it readily apparent on a book where it appears in the series. That’s how I ended up reading The Water Room, the second book in the Bryant and May mystery series, first. Detectives Bryant and May head up the Peculiar Crimes Unit, a department devoted to crimes that are odd and unusual and defy solving via ordinary police methods. Cranky, old police legends, Bryant and May seem like polar opposites who somehow manage to work together in a way that is part intuitive genius and part monkey with a dart board. The Water Room opens with a victim, dressed and dry, who has somehow managed to drown in her basement. As intriguing as the detectives and their team were, I had my doubts that the mystery would come to a plausible conclusion considering the far-flung investigation. But Fowler managed to pull all the threads of this peculiar crime together for a conclusion that actually made sense. Now I have to go back and read the first book in the Bryant and May series, Full Dark House. The only drawback to reading this series, for me, is that Bryant and May, as grumpy old men, can get a little depressing so I didn’t feel like diving straight into another of their mysteries after finishing The Water Room.

*The next Bibliophile installment will be on a book by Charlaine Harris.

 
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Posted by on June 11, 2010 in Books, Lifestyle

 

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Bibliophile New (To Me) Author Review: David Liss

This year my New Year’s resolution was to buckle down and read more of the books I have piling up by authors I haven’t read before. My first book in this year’s resolution mission was A Conspiracy of Paper by David Liss.

A Conspiracy of Paper (winner of an Edgar Award) actually should have been included in the list of books read in 2009, but December was kind of a busy month for me and I never quite got around to finishing the book before New Year’s. Oh, who am I kidding, I wasn’t even half-way done with the book at New Year’s. But I did, finally, finish the book.

In A Conspiracy of Paper, our protagonist Benjamin Weaver is a thief-taker and former pugilist living in London in 1719. He’s busy building his business when he’s drawn into a murder investigation. This wouldn’t be so odd, but it isn’t every day that Weaver is hired to look into his own father’s death. At first Weaver doesn’t think there’s anything to look into because his father’s death (run down by a cab) was ruled an accident, but the more time he spends looking into the matter, the more his own life is put at risk. As he continues his investigation Benjamin Weaver finds his father’s death is connected to shady dealings in Exchange Alley and stock fraud, hence the conspiracy of paper. And it’s a conspiracy that Weaver is going to have to blow wide open if he hopes to survive his investigation.

In the notes at the back of the book, David Liss explains that he got the idea for this book when he was doing research at Columbia University for his doctoral thesis, and that explained a lot to me. I sometimes cringe when I find out that a book was written by a person who was inspired to write a novel while working on graduate and doctoral research in some incredibly dry topic because there’s this tendency to include every dry historical tidbit in the book, whether or not it moves the story forward. That said, I thought that Liss showed some admirable restraint. Even when he did succumb to sharing more of his research than was necessary or interesting, I could, eventually, see how it related to the story’s plot. Most of the time.

Overall, I liked A Conspiracy of Paper. For a book of some length, Liss managed to keep things moving steadily. His descriptions of 18th century London are interesting and grimy, you really get a feel for why the average life expectancy was so short when people spent their days trudging through feces, whoring, and swilling gin. The sheer lawlessness of London was something of a surprise too.

As for the plot of the book, it was reasonably complicated and intricate but, and this was a nice surprise, in the end it seemed plausible. Weaver hardly knows if he is coming or going through most of his investigation because there are so many people involved and he doesn’t know whether or not he can trust the information he’s given. Fortunately, Liss gives his protagonist a good friend to help him weed through the information. As a plus, Weaver’s friend Elias is also great for some much needed comic relief, constantly offering him the sound medical advice that he needs to be bled.

A Conspiracy of Paper is a good book for people who like historical mysteries and can appreciate the research that goes into them. The action is good but slightly more graphic than those who favor a nice, clean cozy-style mystery will probably like. Oh, and it is a bit on the bawdy side too with more whoring than even Tiger Woods could manage. But its a pretty good mystery and worth a read. I’m looking forward to reading more about the adventures of Benjamin Weaver.

Books by David Liss:

  • A Conspiracy of Paper (2001)
  • The Coffee Trader (2003)
  • A Spectacle of Corruption (2004)
  • The Ethical Assassin (2006)
  • The Whiskey Rebels (2008)
  • The Devil’s Company (2009)
 
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Posted by on February 4, 2010 in Books, Lifestyle, Uncategorized

 

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