2011 in review

Late as usual, thanks to the holidays plus a bout post-Christmas stomach fun (note: there was no actual fun had).  I’m still considering doing a belated “best of 2011”  (with the obvious caveat being “things I’ve read/listened/played” which is a frighteningly small percentage of actual things released in 2011).  Meanwhile I’m prepping for MAGFest X.  Hopefully this year I’ll get some stuff posted from the show itself.  The fun starts tomorrow and word is there are still tickets at the door; so if you’re a fan of games and are in the DC area you should definitely give it a shot.  Anyway, hit the jump for some statistical fun…

Continue reading “2011 in review”

Thanksgiving Break!

I’ve things to bake, turkeys to eat, and dragons to slay so I’ll be back on Monday!  I’ll be kicking next week off with some thoughts on Skyrim and catching up on my last couple of horror-centric reviews (American Vampire, Predatory Instinct, and Borealis).  I polished off Wintertide in just about 2 days so keep an eye out for that one as well!  In the meantime  have a Happy Thanksgiving peoples and enjoy a little bit of Turkey day fun courtesy of The Oatmeal.

October Summary

Early October with the sudden and unexpected hacking of my gmail account (then used to send out email for a modified 419 scam) scared me away from the internet for a bit which slowed both my reading and my posting here. I’m slowly coming back now and managed to kick out quite a few reviews last week. Unfortunately a previously scheduled four-day weekend worked against me since it was rather full of plans including w00tstock NY (awesome!), a Halloween party (awesome!), copious amounts of Fallout: New Vegas (also awesome!), and a pretty wicked cold (not so awesome). I am still just over halfway finished with both The House of Lost Souls and The Terror. Unfortunately, both those reads will be put on a slight hiatus as I plow through today’s big new release: The Towers of Midnight.  Also this month my little rant on the difficulty of finding new horror novels was republished over at io9, a fact I considered to add at least a +2 to my geek cred.  I do have another Comic Thoughts post I’m working on, but I find talking about comics a lot harder than fiction (I don’t know why) this one on the fantastic Superman: Earth One.  I’m also just about done with the audio version of Bujold’s Cryoburn, her return to Miles Vorkosigan and wish there were more just around the corner; if you haven’t read anything by Bujold you really ought to!  The full list of my October reviews is below.

Powerglove: Saturday Morning Apocalypse

Out of the Dark by David Weber

Chasing the Dragon by Nicholas Kauffman

Handling the Undead by John Adjvide Linqvist

Solomon’s Grave by Daniel G Keohane

The Lucid Dreaming by Lisa Morton

The Caretaker of Lorne Field by Dave Zeltserman

On Reviews and Being a Librarian

I caught the tail end of the twitter back and forth that prompted Mark C. Newton’s recent post on review blogs, but then disappeared for four days only to return and find a lively discussion on the nature of blogging and reviews.  In addition to the comments on Mark’s original post there have been a number of response posts on other blogs as well, including Fantasy Book News and Reviews and Neth Space.  If you’re interested in reviewing and reviews (and well books and reading) I highly recommend you check out Mark’s original post, the comments there, and the above linked response posts for some fascinating reading.

I’m not going to get into specifics here on each of Mark’s points but offer kind of a third perspective on Mark’s sixth point: “You can’t love every novel” as it pertains to me.  Mark’s post, and the subsequent responses deal very much the relationship between author and reader and, in this specific case, the reader is also the reviewer.   It is a point that Ken over at Neth Space and Jeff C. of Fantasy Book News a Reviews agree and one that I struggle with.  I honestly don’t think I’ve ever given a completely negative review.  Does that mean I haven’t reviewed books I didn’t particularly like?  No.  I mean, I reviewed both Twilight and New Moon without dissolving into vitriolic fits of apoplectic rage.  I’m going to say something, and feel free to blast away in the comments, but there is no so such thing as a bad book.

That isn’t to say a book can’t be written poorly, or suffer from bad editing, or any number of other things that might scream bad book, but I honestly and truly believe that there are no bad books.  Maybe it’s because I’m a librarian.  When I’m reading a book I don’t particularly like I can never really stop myself from trying to envision the type of reader who would enjoy that book.  I suppose that’s because if someone walks up to the reference desk and asks for a book recommendation I would be extremely limited if the books I could recommend were only the books I liked or didn’t like.  Sure I can use my own personal experience as the starting point for a reader’s advisory (as it’s known in the library world) question but I will inevitably run across a reader whose personal reading style is completely at odds with my own (you should have seen the deer in headlights look a gave a recent preteen looking for vampire fiction that a.) was actually available to check out, and b.) not something she had already read, which was most of what we had).

In 1931 one of the “fathers” of library and information science, S. R. Ranganathan, proposed a theory  known as the “5 Laws of Library Science.”  Of those 5 laws it is the first three that tend to inform my review process:

  1. Books are for use.
  2. Every reader his [or her] book.
  3. Every book its reader.

Can I not like a particular book? Most certainly. But as a professional whose job it is to connect a user with information I struggle, especially when writing reviews , to wholly dismiss a book based on my own personal experience.  Sometimes I think this sets me apart from other reviewers, but maybe I’m wrong.  Sometimes I think that as a librarian I’m this nebulous third party that hovers on fringes of the book/reader relationship.  Even when I’m reading for my own pleasure I can never wholly shirk that perspective.

Some Post-Holiday Updates

I’m back from Christmas “Vacation” which, really, was almost as exhausting as the work preceding it.  I expect that over the next few weeks things will settle back down at home/work to something resembling normalcy and I’ll get back to a more consistent posting schedule.  Over my brief break I got an e-mail from Robin Sullivan, wife of fantasy author Michael Sullivan, pointing me towards this blog post in which Michael gives everyone the wonderful news that the first print run of The Crown Conspiracy has sold out.  Good news is accompanied by bad since there won’t be a second print run until March.  All is not lost however as the Sullivans still have a number of author copies available for sale on their website via this page.  If you haven’t given the Riyria Revelations a try you should definitely jump at the chance to grab a copy while you can especially since the books (including Avempartha and Nyphon Rising) are being offered at a ridiculously low price point for signed copies!  If you’re still not sure you’re interested check out my reviews of The Crown Conspiracy and Avempartha for some more information and some unapologetic gushing.

I should be up with a review tomorrow though it is looking likely that it’ll be my last before 2010 since I’ve barely scratched the surface of my impromptu read of Alistair Reynolds’ Redemption Ark. I’m still waiting on a copy The God Engines and just picked up a copy of First Lord’s Fury so I have a couple of titles to get through before I move on to January’s hard-boiled detective reading.

Vacation Week!

For the next week I’ll be vacationing with friends in Maine so, obviously, there will be no new posts.  I plan on getting through several books from my backlog including Zafon’s The Angel’s Game and Lev Grossman’s The Magicians; that is of course assuming the distractions of booze, outdoor fun, and gaming of polyhedral variety don’t distract me from my intense reading schedule.  In the mean time you might check out some of the blogs over in my blogroll to assuage your sense of loss over my abscense.  See y’all when I get back.

-Mike