Reading Challenge #72: Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne

Whoops. I read this book for my challenge back in August, but never wrote up my review. Better late than never! Let’s talk about Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne, first published in 1864.

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October Daye

I’m taking a break from my reading challenge list to do some comfort reading. Specifically, I’m starting up my approximately annual re-read of the October Day series by Seanan McGuire. I discovered McGuire a few years back, by way of one of her other series under the name Mira Grant. That meant I was slightly late to the party on the Toby Daye books, but I’m a voracious reader and they are short, easy reads.

The biggest problem is that McGuire has obviously made some sort of dark pact or is secretly some sort of actual fae who doesn’t need sleep, because she is a hugely prolific writer. I often try to re-read all the Toby books every time a new one comes out, but it’s difficult. She’s now up to twelve books in 9 years. I anticipate at some point I’ll just have to keep endlessly cycling through them because there will be more than I can read in a year. Honestly I’d almost be okay with that – I find them hugely enjoyable. The main downside to that is I wouldn’t have the time to read all the other novels, short stories, poems, etc. that she publishes in a given year, much less anything by other authors.

The last time a new Toby book came out I only read the last 4 or 5 books, so this is the first time I’ve re-read the whole series in a while. I find the early books keep getting better in the context of the full series. They stand find on their own, but some of the characters and storylines they introduce get fleshed out later. McGuire has a long story in mind and it’s quite fun to go back and see how things were set up to pay off years down the road. The biggest of these payoffs happens in book 8, and it is a revelation going back to the beginning and re-reading in light of what happens there.

If you like urban fantasy that can be fun and not permanently grimdark, and that also doesn’t always focus on the main character’s sexual escapades like some other similar series (a pet peeve), I highly recommend giving these a read.

Here’s all the books in the series so far:

  • Book 1: Rosemary and Rue
  • Book 2: A Local Habitation
  • Book 3: An Artificial Night (Note: This might be my favorite book of the series).
  • Book 4: Late Eclipses
  • Book 5: One Salt Sea (My other potential favorite)
  • Book 6: Ashes of Honor
  • Book 7: Chimes at Midnight
  • Book 8: The Winter Long
  • Book 9: A Red Rose Chain
  • Book 10: Once Broken Faith
  • Book 11: The Brightest Fell
  • Book 12: Night and Silence

 

Reading Challenge #73: The Legend of Drizzt Series by R. A. Salvatore

Time for yet another reading challenge post. For this episode we take a time machine way back to 1990. A young Gracie was in middle school, a time usually best left unmentioned. In this particular year, though, a much older cousin handed Gracie two books he thought she might like. And so, without realizing it, Gracie partook of a nerddom cultural phenomenon: The Dark Elf Trilogy, part of the larger body of work that is now known as The Legend of Drizzt.

Wikipedia informs me that there are a completely ridiculous number of books in this series. There’s a new one coming out in September and it is apparently book number 34. Obviously for my reading challenge I’m not going to read 34 Drizzt novels. I’m also not going to start in order of publication, back with the Icewind Dale trilogy. No, I’m going to start with the first prequel, and the book that started it all for me: Homeland, first published in 1990.

Come along with me as I re-read the book that I thought was the coolest thing I’d ever seen, back when I was in middle school.

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Reading Challenge #74: Old Man’s War by John Scalzi

It’s reading challenge time again. After the months it took me to get through The Diamond Age, this one only took a couple evenings. This time I’m reading John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War, published in 2005. I enjoy Scalzi’s work, which is often fairly light and humorous. I read this novel a few years back, and was curious how I’d feel about it on this re-read. Spoilers Ahead!

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Reading Challenge #75: The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson

It’s been a while since my previous reading challenge post. There’s two reasons for that. First, there were a bunch of great books that came out in the past couple months that I couldn’t wait to read. Seriously, if you might be interested in the Cthulhu mythos told from the perspective of a Deep One, check out Ruthanna Emrys’ Innsmouth Legacy series. Or if ghost stories from the perspective of a ghost are more your speed, try the Ghost Roads books by Seanan McGuire.

Anyway the second reason it’s been a while between these reading challenge reviews is that this next book is another by Neal Stephenson. You may remember that my reading ground to a halt during the previous book of his that was on the list. I was so dreading going through that again that I kept putting it off. The book is The Diamond Age: Or, A Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer, first published in 1995.

So, was my fear validated? Read on to find out!

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The New New Mouse

DSC_0401I’m a gaming mouse user. I’ve been a convert to the Razer Naga since back in my “hardcore” WoW raiding days (circa 2009). The side buttons take some getting used to, but once you do there is no going back.

Sadly, although the design and functionality of the Naga is fantastic, the actual craftsmanship doesn’t hold up to my use. I end up needing a new one every 1-2 years. At $70 – $100 a pop, that adds up. My current Naga had been doing a little bit better than the average. It was over 3 years old and just starting to get a little flaky on me. I thought I might get 4 years of use out of it, right up until my cat decided it would be a fun time to chew completely through the cable.

I decided to use this cat-astrophe to try something new. Since I can’t imagine gaming without my beloved thumb buttons there were only a few options. I know from trying them out in the store that the Logitech version is a bit big for my hands, further narrowing my choices.

DSC_0413My final pick was the UtechSmart Venus. It has a ton of bells and whistles that I probably don’t need, for less than half the price of my beloved Naga. One bonus that I do like is the adjustable weight. I’ll probably be playing with that over the next couple days until I find the right fit. It also has the requisite number of buttons, and the ability to tune the color to match my keyboard. Fashion is always important, people.

The default settings were overly sensitive, but configuration was pretty fast and painless. As a bonus, I don’t have to register for an online account like with the Naga software. So far I like it quite a bit. Even though it is wider than the Naga, it isn’t much longer, so it is still very comfortable in my small hand. Much of the extra size is simply giving me more comfortable places to rest my fingers. I especially like the thumb rest. It’s the sort of thing you don’t realize you need until you try it.

So far no regrets with this purchase. I look forward to putting it through its paces!

Reading Challenge Interlude: The First 25 Books

I started working my way through NPR’s list of the top 100 sci-fi and fantasy novels almost two years ago, in August 2016. Rendezvous with Rama represents the 25th book on the list, so I’m officially averaging a little bit faster than one book per month. I wanted to use this milestone to look back at what I’ve read so far and see how my personal rankings match up with the list.

I’ve been updating my spreadsheet every time I finish a book, and adjusting my rankings as I go. Goodreads also has a version of this list, with a different ranking order based on their users. I’ve included all three (NPR, Goodreads, my personal rank) because I think it is useful to see how they compare. I have some suspicions about how the demographic differences between Goodreads users and NPR survey respondents play out in the different rankings.

NPR_first25

Since I’ve been updating my order as I go, it’s been interesting to see how things have shifted. For example, The Space Trilogy and The Xanth Series started at the bottom of the list and haven’t budged. Nothing since has been quite as bad as those two. Likewise, the Doomsday Book was my first 5-star review, and it has stayed at the top of my list until getting dethroned by Rendezvous with Rama, 20 books later. The amazing books and the truly awful books are all pretty easy to place. What is really difficult is sorting all the 3- and 4-star books. It is getting even harder as I finish more books and the less-memorable ones start getting fuzzier in my mind.

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