always reading

I always have my nose in a book. It’s been a slow arduous process to get back into the habit of writing about what I read. I like the concept of a short post for each book as I did over twenty years ago, but that hasn’t happened yet. Perhaps it’s because social media has changed my relationship with what I write online and how I envision this space1.

Today I shared a few brief words about The Tainted Cup by Robert Jackson Bennett to Netgalley and Goodreads. It’s an intriguing start to a new series. I finished the book back in November and it will be released on February 6th. Perhaps the highest compliment I can give this title is that I’m still thinking about the story and looking forward to rereading it. I enjoyed its look into neurodiversive thought and that it was an intriguing mystery full of twists and turns.

I’ve started sharing my reading to Goodreads again in the hope that I’ll write more about each title2.

In January I read 13 books3. Three were rereads. Two were nonfiction audiobooks, a biography and a memoir, both were fascinating in different ways. The rest were a mix of mystery and fantasy in different urban settings and times. This group of finished reading comes to about 4,690 pages. If you see something you’d like me to write more about, please let me know!

collage of book covers
  • The city & the city by China Miéville (2009), 312 pages, Urban Fantasy Mystery.
  • Blood Price by Tanya Huff (1991), 336 pages, Urban Fantasy Mystery.
  • Blood Trail by Tanya Huff (1992), 352 pages, Urban Fantasy Mystery.
  • Blood Pact by Tanya Huff (1993), 384 pages, Urban Fantasy
  • Blood Lines by Tanya Huff (1992), 368 pages, Urban Fantasy Mystery.
  • Elon Musk by Walter Isaacson (2023), 688 pages, Biography.
  • The Librarian of Crooked Lane by C J Archer (2022), 284 pages, Historical Urban Fantasy Mystery.
  • The Medici Manuscript by C J Archer (2023), 280 pages, Historical Urban Fantasy Mystery.
  • Making It So: A Memoir by Patrick Steward (2023), 469 pages, Memoir.
  • The Untitled Books by C J Archer (2023), 282 pages, Historical Urban Fantasy Mystery.
  • The Watchmaker’s Daughter by C J Archer (2016), 302 pages, Historical Urban Fantasy Mystery, reread.
  • The Mapmaker’s Apprentice by C J Archer (2016), 313 pages, Historical Urban Fantasy Mystery, reread.
  • The Apothecary’s Poison by C J Archer (2017), 320 pages, Historical Urban Fantasy Mystery, reread.
  1. This site is — as always — a work in progress. I’m unsure how my writing here will change in the coming weeks and months. For several years I’ve said I’ll merge it with my primary domain. But I’ve written here most of my adult life. I feel a bizarre obligation of loyalty↩︎
  2. I maintained a spreadsheet of what I’ve read for the past few years, even if I didn’t share it with the internet. ↩︎
  3. I don’t think I’ll finish anything later tonight. ↩︎

Thoughts on My June 2022 Reading

I feel that I mostly misplaced the month of June. This is for the same reasons as every other month for the past few years. Yet, somehow, I managed to read 17 books, most as text and several as audiobooks. A quick reminder, if I list hours that means I actually listened to the audiobook in whole or part as I try to switch between audio and text.

If you want to jump to a specific subject, I can now generate a nifty little table of contents:

Urban Fantasy

Iron Druid Chronicles: Shattered (#7, 2014, 352 pages), Staked (#8, 2016, 310 pages), Scourged (#9, 2018, 268 pages) by Kevin Hearne. I finished my first reread of the series in several yeras. It started to drag with books 7 and 8, and the final book I enjoy for the grown of Owen and Granuaile. As for Atticus? I could skip those parts and come away just as content, as long as I got my Oberon slobbery fix. I think the arc grew bigger than most of the myths it relies on and it’s not the best of endings, but it is a conclusion. It’s held up ok over the years, and I love Hearne’s wordplay.

Rivers of London Series: Amongst Our Weapons (#9, 2022, 304 pages / 11 hours audiobook) by Ben Aaronvitch. It’s a fun series. Unfortunately, I forgot many details of the prior book and it felt like it was dragging a bit. It’s still a good read and a way to pretend I’m traveling right now; I miss London.

Science Fiction/Space Opera

Crudrat: The Tinkered Stars (2022, 274 pages / 7 hours audiobook) by Gail Carriger. This was originally published in 2014 and was just rereleased. The audio book was AMAZING to listen to. The entire story grabbed me, and I want to reread it again right this moment.

The Final Architecture Series: Shards of Earth (#1, 2021, 561 pages / 19 hours audiobook) by Adrian Tchaikovsky. I hadn’t realized this was a new series. It took a bit to get into and understand relationships and the worlds, but I’m already wanting to read more.

Science Fiction/Parallel Worlds

The Space Between Worlds (2022, 336 pages) by Micaiah Johnson. I don’t remember how I found this ebook title at the library, but I’m =happy I did. It’s a very fascinating multiverse story with twists and turns I really enjoyed.

Poetry

Call Us What We Carry (2021, 228 pages / 4 hours audiobook) by Amanda Gorman. I’m not in love with every poem, the entire collection is one to savor. Gorman’s voice both as audiobook narrator and as poet is very enjoyable.

Mystery/Thriller

Kay Scarpetta Series: Postmortem (#1, 1990, 342 pages / 11 hours audiobook), Body of Evidence (#2, 1991, 403 pages), All That Remains (#3, 1992, 373 pages) by Patricia Cornwell. I thought I’d read the first bookof this series ages ago. If I had, I guess I never finished. Why? The ending was completely different from what I had in my head. Why have I kept reading? I’m loving the nostalgia of the 90s, the gritty vibe (smoking everywhere!) and the technology (pagers and pay phones). Will I keep reading? I’ve already finished the fourth book.

The Anomaly (2021, 391 pages / 11 hours audiobook) by Hervé Le Tellier, Adriana Hunter (Translator) Oh my wow, this title deserves all the awards. I read part of the first chapter in French last summer. That was far beyond my current language comprehension, so I switched back to English. I kept checking it out from the library but couldn’t get past the second or third chapter for a while – it was too disjointed, and I wasn’t sure how it all went into one book. I finally borrowed the audiobook and it helped me to push through, slowly it built up and the different parts made a bit of sense. Then, like clouds parting after a violent storm, it all came together. Wow.

In Death Series: Forgotten in Death (#53, 2021, 384 pages), Abandoned in Death (#54, 2022, 368 pages) by J.D. Robb. I saved these for a time when I knew I’d need an easy read. It feels like I checked in with friends. I’ve seen a few complaints in reviews about how certain repetitive details of Eve’s life are described. If you were to read all 54 books at back-to-back, it might be frustrating. I think for anyone with an ACE score over 4, the concern of Roark for Eve to eat and take care of herself as well as others, might bring comfort.

Vanessa Michael Munroe Series: The Innocent (#2, 2012, 331 pages) by Taylor Stevens. I didn’t enjoy it as much as the first book, perhaps because of the explicitness of the childhood abuse. Not as good as her first book, but one that stopped me and had me thinking about plausibility more than once.

Memoir

Crying in H Mart (2021, 256 pages / 7 hours audiobook) by Michelle Zauner. While the spark for Zauner’s memoir isn’t positive — cancer sucks; her writing and experiences make this an enjoyable memoir to read. I expected to find a few similarities with my own experiences, I’m still unsure if it was comforting or not when I realized how much of our lives seemed the same to me.

Still Just a Geek: An Annotated Memoir (2022, 436 pages) by Wil Wheaton. In a complicated manner, I was able to watch the series when it aired in the 90s and related to Wheaton’s character – I was often the only child/teen around adults [Why is for another post]. I enjoy Wheaton’s writing and admire his strong support for mental health awareness as well as for childhood traumas (ACE scores). But again, all that is for another time and post. Why did I read this memoir? I’m a sucker for anything annotated, and this title did not disappoint. It’s a fun trip to the early 2000s as well as seeing Wheaton’s growth both as a writer and a human being.


So far July is shaping up to be very much like June but with extra everything on top, sort of like unrequested sprinkles on an otherwise wonderful cone of ice cream. I’m taking what moments I can to relax amid the chaos. I’m rereading the first two books of Kevin Hearne’s Seven Kenning’s series. It begins with A Plague of Giants, I borrowed the audiobook recording and was surprised to find that for this first volume it is twenty-two hours! Please don’t be daunted, the story is written (and told) in a way that allows for small quick dips or longer passes. I’m finding I relate differently to it in today’s world, especially the ongoing global refugee crisis (please help as you can). The third book of the series is due out later this summer.

Thoughts on my May 2022 Reading

I have no idea what to write for these intros. Does anyone read this part? I assume you want to get straight to my thoughts about the books I read last month. Some interesting (to me) stats are that the average page count was 334 and the total for the month was 5,679.

This month I started tracking the number of hours for audio books, but it’s a bit misleading. I listen to most books on at least 1.5x speed; depending on the book and if I’m using listening through speakers or headphones, I often listen at up to 2.05x. No, it doesn’t sound like a chipmunk on helium! I’m a New Yorker and accustomed to fast speech (and walking). It sounds more normal to me this way. Headphones allow me to isolate the sound and I often bump up the speed. If I listened at the recorded speed, approximately 41 hours of audio passed through my ears last month. Often, I’ll check out both an audio book and the written version from the library and will switch back and forth depending on my environment.

Once again, this month I grouped the books by general subject and sorted by author. If technology works, there should be a nifty list below to jump you to the categories. Please assume unless otherwise specified that I borrowed the title from my local library system. If there are hours listed in addition to a page count, then at least some of the title was read as an audiobook.

Please note that a star (★) preceding the title indicates that I received the book with the hope that I’d write a review, the FTC wants you to know.

Fiction

Inscape by Louise Carey (2021). 416 pages, Science Fiction; Thriller.

Technically this is first in a series, but it’s also the only one published so far. It was a little slow at the start but picks up speed quickly. It’s an all too plausible world and as fantasy pulls in elements from the nonfiction books I read last month – emotional intelligence, disaster planning, and information security. It’s a wonderful debut novel.

Hounded (2011) 320 pages, Hexed (2011) 320 pages, Hammered (2011) 312 pages, Trapped (2012) 290 pages, Tricked (2012) 341 pages, Hunted (2013) 384 pages. Iron Druid Chronicles (#1-6) by Kevin Hearne. Urban Fantasy. Reread.

I’ve not read this series for many years, my memory of the story line is definitely fuzzy so it’s a reread full of surprises! If you love geeky puns, snark, and mythology this series is for you. I picked it up because the tenth anniversary rerelease of the series includes some bonus stories I’d not read before. The new covers, by artist Sarah J. Coleman and designer Ella Laytham are stunning and bring a consistent look to the series.

Spelunking Through Hell: A Visitor’s Guide to the Underworld (2022) 352 pages. Incryptid Series (#11) by Seanan McGuire. Urban Fantasy.

It was amazing to finally get to read Alice’s story. I don’t want to spoil it. If you enjoy the Incryptid series and find Alice Price a fascinating ass-kicking wonder, this will be an enjoyable read for you. If you’ve not yet started this series, pick up Discount Armageddon today.

The Informationist (2011) 12 hours; 336 pages. Vanessa Michael Munroe Series (#1) by Taylor Stevens. Thriller.

This title has caught my eye for years as I scrolled through the library catalog – I have a degree in Information (and Archive) Management. What was it about? Technology? Paper? However, I go in and out of reading thrillers, and for some reason I didn’t make it past the title until this month. I needed an audiobook while I knit, and this was available. Michael is a very interesting character. The second book, The Innocent, is on my device and so far, just as fascinating.

Dead Lies Dreaming (2020) 384 pages. The New Management Series (#1) by Charlie Stross. Urban Fantasy.

Escape from Yokai Land (2022) 96 pages. The Laundry Files (#12) by Charlie Stross. Urban Fantasy

It might behoove me to reread the entire Laundry Files series as it leads to The New Management. I tore through it the first time and some details are not well anchored in my brain. This first book under The New Management took me over a year to get into, I reread the first few chapters many times. Once I did it was a path that crossed betwixt different story lines and times and completely captured my attention. I look forward to the next book Quantum of Nightmares. Well, in an intellectual way I look forward to reading it, it’s sure to be filled with Stross’ trademark ability to make me twitch at shadows. The novella Escape from Yokai Land will give me Sanrio nightmares for the near future. With that in mind, it was a good read within the comfort of the Laundry Files.

Disaster Planning

The Devil Never Sleeps: Learning to Live in an Age of Disasters by Juliette Kayyem (2022) 240 pages.

In a world besieged by crisis and befuddled by the paradox of preparation, how can we learn to move past the traditional manner of disaster planning? This is a new world where The Devil Never Sleeps, and Juliette Kayyem takes the reader on a guided tour through classic principles and shows how we can adapt for our new reality of reoccurring disasters.

My complete review can be found at PSG Studio where I also write about and assist solo and small businesses with disaster and disruption preparedness.

Linguistics & Psychology

What the F: What Swearing Reveals About Our Language, Our Brains, and Ourselves by Benjamin K. Bergen (2016), 288 pages.

It felt very good to finally read and review this NetGalley title, I also am now at a 50% review ratio.

Why are curse words so appealing and certain word taboo? Bergen wrote with psycholinguistic detail how the brain processes language in general and swear words specifically. My complete review of this book is at NetGalley.

Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ by Daniel Goleman (2006), 4 hours; 384 pages.

I’m pretty sure I read this back when it came out, this was the type of book I devoured when in high school, along with the books Howard Garner published. EI is no longer an earth-shattering concept and that’s positive. It came up in some of the business reading I did back in April, so I listened to the audiobook to refresh my memory.

Kingdom of Characters: The Language Revolution That Made China Modern by Jing Tsu (2022), 11 hours; 336 pages.

I’m not sure which review I saw first, perhaps in The Guardian. Over the years I’ve experienced the struggle enough to write languages other than English on websites. Encoding has changed significantly over the years (for the better). While my experience with Asian languages can mostly be found in my 25 year slog to learn the hiragana, before reading Tsu’s book I had little understanding of how these languages manage digital input much less how they might essentially alphabetize an index. I highly recommend it.

Technology

A New History of Modern Computing by Thomas Haigh and Paul Cerruzi (2021), 544 pages.

I’m pretty sure I flipped through The History of Modern Computing by Cerruzi during my undergrad years. I don’t think I read it cover-to-cover back then, but I did for this new edition written with Haigh. Ambitious in scope and sensible in approach, this book attempts to guide the reader through the highlights of modern computing. While comprehensive, it does not bog the reader down with minute details. For those who want more, there are liberal footnotes offering direction to additional sources. The first section was the most polished and interesting to me. I’d covered some of this in my undergraduate education most specifically when we had to program in assembly but never sat and formally studied it all at once. I appreciated the use of parallel story telling in order to show how computing evolved and the past informs the present. This is not a sociological exploration of computing, nor does it really look deeply into software. By-and-large it looks at the hardware behind today’s technologies. The later chapters covering recent history (aka since my CS degree) feel more fleeting but that could be this reader – I’ve spent my adult life living it. A New History of Modern Computing is a readable history for those who want to understand how we got to here.

You’ll See This Message When it is Too Late: The Legal and Economic Aftermath of Cybersecurity Breaches by Josephine Wolff (2018), 14 hours; 336 pages.

I’d heard about many of the incidents covered in this book but hadn’t read much about them. While I pay attention to security issues, it is not a core part of my business offerings. Wolff’s book is approachable and fascinating look into what happens before, during, and after a cybersecurity breach.


My plan for June is to finish the Iron Druid Chronicles. After that I don’t know what else I’ll read, likely whatever I grab with no focused plan. There’s enough chaos and uncertainty right now for me to confidently commit to any specific book. An unsupervised visit to the new book section of my library the other day resulted in my leaving with my arms full and I hope to finish reading them before their due dates: Still Just a Geek by Wil Wheaton; Nettle & Bone by T Kingfisher; and Discriminating Data: Correlation, Neighborhoods, and the New Politics of Recognition by Wendy Hui Kyong Chun. My current knitting is to Shards of Earth by Adrian Tchaikovsky which is recorded as 19 hours of audio, ideal for my project.

Is there something you think I’d like to read?

Thoughts on my April 2022 Reading

It was a weird month … but doesn’t every month feel weird these days? I completed 17 titles, many of which were under 250 pages. There’s a lot of continued and new Life and Stuff going on within both my immediate circle and the greater beyond. I’m thankful for my public library systems – they help keep me in books and semi-balanced throughout all the things I can’t control.

In the one more thing department, my favorite library ebook app is going away soon. I don’t like it’s replacement as I feel there’s too much stuff between me and the book I want to read. However, this month I made myself switch over cold turkey. The app is getting easier to use as I gain familiarity with it, but I still find the other app better for how I prefer to read.

One benefit to the new app is it allows magazine access in-app. That means I finally read a bunch of magazines including that never ending virtual pile of New Yorkers instead of books. I need to start writing about some of the amazing short stories and articles I read, we’ll see what happens here in the next few weeks.

This month I’ve grouped the books I read by general subject and sorted by author. Please note that a star (★) preceding the title indicates that I received the book with the hope that I’d write a review, the FTC wants you to know.

Fiction, standalone titles

Haven: A Small Cat’s Big Adventure by Megan Wagner Lloyd (forthcoming, August 2022), 144 pages, Children’s Fiction, book.

This is a beautiful middle-grade title exploring love, loss, grief, and friendship. My complete review is at Library Thing.

The Employees by Olga Ravn (2020), 125 pages, Science Fiction, Library book.

I saw this title mentioned in a Guardian review, and despite my mostly-miss luck with any title on a Booker Prize short list, decided to give it a try when I saw it on the library shelf. It’s definitely unique! While my first take was “how is this a novel”, weeks later I’m still thinking about it.

The Kaiju Preservation Society by John Scalzi (2022), 272 pages, Science Fiction; Urban Fantasy, Library ebook.

Scalzi himself calls this a pop song of a novel. Yes, it is. It’s a fun read and the kind of light and quick story I needed the day I read it. The only fault I have right now is that this is the only story (I believe) set in the world for now. I want more!

I appreciate the authors who admit somewhere how bloody hard writing is in general and how the pandemic specifically and life in general screwed with their plans. But also how they love writing. I grew up believing a) all authors were dead [which was weird because I was in an author of the month writing club at school] b) they were mythical perfect beings. I like my revised view and that there’s a greater admittance that we’re human!

Fiction, series

Ruby Fever by Ilona Andrews (forthcoming, August 2022), 384 pages, Urban Fantasy, Catalina Baylor (#3)/Hidden Legacy (#6), ebook.

Ruby Fever is the satisfying conclusion of Catalina’s story in the Hidden Legacy series. With long kept family secrets revealed, the story is well paced from start to finish. There’s a good deal of responsibility on Catalina’s shoulders and this book shows she’s able to handle it. My complete review is at NetGalley.

Deepest of Secrets by Kelley Armstrong (2022), 341 pages, Urban Fantasy, Rockton (#7), Library book.

I love this series. The path this book takes wasn’t unexpected and it is yet another a good read set in Rockton. If you’re fearful this is the last time you’ll read of Casey and Eric, Armstrong has hinted you’ll see them again. I’ll leave it an exercise to you to find that hint on her website.

Flame in the Dark by Faith Hunter (2017), 342 pages, Urban Fantasy, Soulwood (#3), reread, ebook.

Circle of the Moon by Faith Hunter (2019), 399 pages, Urban Fantasy, Soulwood (#4), ebook.

I read Flame in the Dark last year before lots of Stuff and Life happened. It’s no surprise my brain couldn’t remember enough details for Circle of the Moon to sit right in my head. So, I reread it after feeling a bit lost in the chapter of the 4th book of this series. These stories are closely twined, and I think these two are good to read together. Nell grows quite a bit over these two books and it’s delightful to read. I’m also rooting hard for her sister Mud and hope to read more about her.

Dragon’s Dawn by Anne McCaffrey (1988), 384 pages, Science Fiction, Pern (#1, Chrono), reread, Library Audiobook.

I was testing a pair of headphones and needed a quick easy listen. It’s an interesting story and a series I’ve not reread for a few years. I am curious my thoughts about all of it today but want to make my way back through more of the series before I write my thoughts.

Business

Book Yourself Solid by Michael Port (2006), 258 pages, Business, reread, book.

Beyond Booked Solid by Michael Port (2008), 240 pages, Business, Audiobook.

I first read Book Yourself Solid back in 2007 and never commented much about it. I liked the framework and never had the focus to make my way fully through the process and implement it. Speaking with current clients and a vastly different world today had me rereading it and thinking about it this past month. Because I’d never fully implemented the process, I hadn’t read Beyond Booked Solid until now. For me this is a much better book to wrap my brain around and unstick and hopefully get me working on moving forward. Yes, much of it is now dated and many (most) of the links no longer work. My belief is that Port’s overall guidance is still useful especially if like me you hate thinking about sales.

Creating Things That Matter: The Art and Science of Innovations That Last by David Edwards (2018), 288 pages, Business, Library book.

This title makes a bold promise, and while well intentioned is a little shy of the mark. While there is no simple checklist that can guarantee creative – and lasting – results, over the course of the book, Edwards guides the reader through the creative cycle. My complete review is at NetGalley.

Grief

Welcome to the Grief Club: Because You Don’t Have to Go Through It Alone by Janine Kwoh (2022), 128 pages, Nonfiction, Library book.

I wish this book existed back in 1989. While I think the ball and box is a really good analogy to explain grief, Kwoh unfortunately has the experience to write this remarkable book that shares other thoughts about grief. Everyone should read it.

Crafting

The Tunisian Crochet Handbook: A Beginner’s Guide by Toni Lipsey (2021), 175 pages, Crafting, library book.

Tunisian Crochet Stitch Guide by Kim Guzman (2013), 96 pages, Crafting, library book.

I checked a bunch of Tunisian crochet books out from the library after seeing the technique pop up more. The basics have been part of my tool kit for years, but it’s not a technique I thought much about. I feel that these are the best for learning the basics (Lipsey) and seeing the vast array of stitch possibilities (Guzman). Lipsey’s Handbook is a beautiful and modern book that brings the technique to today’s crocheter. With clear photos and the projects are modern. She has succeeding in helping to make it accessible. It is the type of book I wish existed when I first started to crochet (a very long time ago). Guzman’s Stitch Guide by contrast is deceiving book – it looks small and unassuming. Inside it is a fully thought-out stitch dictionary.

Together these two books remind me of an experience in AP Biology (a very long time ago). The preferred text was the classic Campbell. It was a very good book but one that it was easy to fall asleep to. I love clear diagrams and we also had a second book we were allowed to borrow. It was a newer text laid out in a more modern manner and to my delight it had amazing color drawings. Both were amazing textbooks, and together helped level up my studies. It’s the same with Lipsey and Guzman. I recommend both for anyone interested in Tunisian Crochet.

Cooking

Graze: Inspiration for Small Plates and Meandering Meals by Suzanne Lenzer (2017), 205 pages, Cookbook, Library ebook.

#EATMEATLESS: Good for Animals, the Earth & All by The Jane Goodall Institute (2021), 168 pages, Cookbook, Library ebook.

Plants-Only Kitchen: Over 70 Delicious, Super-Simple, Powerful and Protein-Packed Recipes for Busy People by Gaz Oakley (2020), 244 pages, Cookbook, Library ebook.

I’m at a seasonal change meal planning slump crossed with the post-pesach I don’t want to cook anything blahs. Lenzer is a great concept (especially for those who need to feed aging relatives), but it’s not the book for me. It features meat and shellfish a bit too heavily for me to make significant use of it. Both vegetarian books have tempting photos and have helped inspire our meals. I plan to make the Strawberry “Cheese” Cake from #EATMEATLESS this weekend.


It was an interesting collection of titles last month as I dipped into this and that. I’m in the mood for a long series that I can binge. I’m not sure what I’ll read – maybe a reread of Pern or The Laundry Files. Or I may find myself reading something new. We’ll see. I’m also trying to work my way through more review titles. I’ve set aside daily time to focus on reading them, if I don’t request any more titles, I’m eight books away from 50% at NetGalley. Is there something specific you’d like me to read?

Thoughts on my March 2022 Reading

Technically it’s now spring, though I’m still adding extra layers of wool. The weather tempted me to find more moments to curl up with Dot, a blanket, and a book, also known as my preferred state. Last month it allowed me to finish reading nineteen books; they had an average page count of 357 pages, and were published between 1962 and 2022.

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