Thoughts on my January 2022 Reading

I felt as if I didn’t read much last month. It was a pleasant surprise to check my notes and discover I’d read 17 books. Last week, my friend and I had a laugh over this article about reading spreadsheets. We’ve tracked our reading in a shared one for a long time (after years of each having our own) and use it to recommend books to each other and comment on our reading.

This year I adjusted what I track; I’m curious about publication dates and number of pages. Do I read only recent books or is there a range? I like big books. While I still have this bias in digital books, is that actually true of what I read? Thanks to my data, I can attest that in January, the average publication date of books I read was 2015 and with an average page length of 351, the shortest was 100, and the longest book only 432.

The Book List

Steel’s Edge by Ilona Andrews (2012), 388 pages, The Edge Series (#4), Urban Fantasy/Paranormal, reread, library book. As I mentioned last month, this is a good series. Perhaps it’s not as popular as some of their others but I like the world building in a different way than the Innkeeper Chronicles.

The Wild Girls: Plus … by Ursula K LeGuin (2011), 100 pages, Fiction, library book. I checked this out on a whim wanting something different and short but still LeGuin. “The Wild Girls” is a fascinating short story with lots to unpack. I also enjoyed the essay from Harpers (2008) “Staying Awake While We Read”, which I don’t know if I’d read before in other collections. There were also a handful of poems and an interview. I highly recommend this for the variety and depth of LeGuin’s writing in a mere 100 pages!

True Dead by Faith Hunter (2021), Jane Yellowrock (#14), 384 pages, Urban Fantasy/Paranormal, library book. This is an interesting series mostly because of all the character/plot threads that are in play. This newest book was published after my tear through the series last March. In the ten months between finishing Shattered Bonds and picking up a copy at the library, some of the details were forgotten. Thankfully there were reminders sprinkled through that helped make the story enjoyable.

Dune by Frank Herbert (1965), 412 pages, Science Fiction, reread, library ebook. I checked this out because we tried to watch the new movie and I was incredibly confused, the opening scenes didn’t match what I remembered of the story. It didn’t help that the laptop we were using crashed, so we haven’t yet made it past the first 30 minutes or so. As I was rereading it was surprising to me how fuzzy my memory was for this story, I last read it in 2006. It was interesting that I my recollection of many details wrong and it almost felt as if I was reading it for the first time. I don’t know if I really care enough to continue in the series. As it just received a slew of BAFTA nominations, I think we will try to watch the entire movie.

An Easy Death by Charlaine Harris (2018), 336 pages.
A Longer Fall by Charlaine Harris (2020), 291 pages.
The Russian Cage by Charlaine Harris (2021), 304 pages.
Gunnie Rose Series (#1-3), Urban Fantasy/Alternate History, Library ebooks. While overall this series could be a bit predictable, I enjoyed it. It had been on my to be read (TBR) list for a while and my friend reread it at the end of last year and nudged me to give it a read. I’m happy I did.

Cursed Luck by Kelley Armstrong (2021), 364 pages.
High Jinx by Kelley Armstrong (2021), 349 pages
Cursed Luck Series (#1-2), Urban Fantasy, Library ebooks.
This was a light series and is set in the same world as “Goddess of Summer Love”. A novella that I read in Shards and Ashes, last month. It was nice to have more of the characters back stories, and watch them develop. I hope there will be more.

City of the Lost by Kelley Armstrong (2016), 403 pages.
A Darkness Absolute by Kelley Armstrong (2017), 416 pages.
This Fallen Prey by Kelley Armstrong (2018), 432 pages.
Watcher in the Woods by Kelley Armstrong (2019), 384 pages.
Alone in the Wild by Kelley Armstrong (2020), 368 pages.
A Stranger in Town by Kelley Armstrong (2021), 356 pages.

Casey Duncan Series (#1-6), Mystery, Library books & ebooks. The first book took a little for me to get into, but the series had come with a strong recommendation so I persevered. Once I did, and I’m thankful for library e-books! This is a mystery series that feels like a desert island, but it’s actually set off the grid in the wilds of Canada. Honestly reading when the windchill read -11°F helped the story.

How the Other Half Eats : the Untold Story of Food and Inequality in America  by Priya Fielding-Singh (2021), 326 pages, Sociology; Nutrition; Public Health, Library book. It turns out I have a lot to say on this topic and may write that in a future post. The shortest version is I grew up on the edge of food insecurity, even if I didn’t fully recognize it at the time. But it may be why today I’m notorious in the family for my diligence to meal planning, budgeting, and trying to avoid highly processed foods. With all that in mind, I’m curious how others make choices on food and why. Fielding-Singh’s readable overview shares the story of modern society, food, and inequality in one small — yet diverse — slice of America.

Boundaries : all-new tales of Valdemar by Mercedes Lackey (editor) (2021), 354 pages, Fantasy, Short Story Anthology (#15), Library Book. I still enjoy the stories written in the world of Valdemar. One day I’ll write about challenge of feeling seen in books and discovering the author or their partner was/isn’t the best of people. For now I’ll keep reading these stories.

Current Reads

I didn’t finish most of what I started reading last month. In fact, many of those were returned to the library after I removed bookmarks at chapter two. There’s nothing wrong with them, I just am not sure what I want to read right now. There’s a whole new batch of books that I’ve started. As always I have a few books I’d like to finish and review, but my main goal is to enjoy what I read.

Thoughts on my December 2021 Reading

Overall, I completed reading 201 books last year. Of those, ten were books I reread and six were NetGalley titles for review. I’m honestly surprised I didn’t reread more, especially in the days after losing my Shadow cat. I may write more about my complicated relationship to grief soon. For today, however, I will write a few thoughts about the ten books I completed in December.

Read More about Thoughts on my December 2021 Reading

thank you & some thoughts on books and reading

Thank you for all the kind words, virtual hugs, and support. Shadow was a very special cat and it means the world to us to know that he touched hearts beyond our own. Stress has been the theme of our year (yes, I know it’s true for everyone) and my reading last month reflects this.

The Book List

The books are presented in the order I completed them during the month. With each title I write some words — sometimes a few, sometimes many. This format, inspired by Jo Walton’s series for Tor.com, encourages me to think about each title and why I finished it.

Most of the commentary this time is simply the notes I scribbled as I read and finished each title. The ability to form new or edit many extra words beyond the requirements of my work day is asking a bit much of my brain right now. That’s most apparent in my thoughts on The Dresden Files.

Small Favor by Jim Butcher (2008), 420 pages. Fiction, series. I’m fascinated by the Archive, felt that Michael could’ve used more page-time, and found the dinner with Luccio some sort of foreshadowing I wasn’t sure about (all became clear in time).

Turn Coat by Jim Butcher (2009), 418 pages. Fiction, series. Aaah. Morgan. Peabody’s influences, that makes more sense with Luccio. Overall this felt a bit of filler book and I’m curious how (if) without Morgan by his side Dresden will feel differently about the Wardens… and his relationship to the Grey Council.

Changes by Jim Butcher (2010), 438 pages. Fiction, series. Well, anyone who has read the series already knows the ending. It lays out so much that is needed in the later books. I’m sad about Susan, but I knew it was coming pretty much as soon as she reappeared.

Ghost Story by Jim Butcher (2011), 481 pages. Fiction, series. Interesting narration device. It should be no surprise that I’m most fascinated by Molly.  

Cold Days by Jim Butcher (2012), 515 pages. Fiction, series. Not totally surprised by this arc, and I’m interested how the diversion of Mab is worked in. There’s quite a few geek in-jokes. They used to frustrate me because I knew they were there and I didn’t understand them, and now having read more … when I don’t grok them they don’t bother me as much. One quote that hit me: “There’s always, always a choice. My options might really, truly suck, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a choice.”

Skin Game by Jim Butcher (2014), 454 pages. Fiction, series. Robbing Hades, what could go wrong? That last kiss … Aiye.

Peace Talks by Jim Butcher (2020), 340 pages. Fiction, series. I think this should’ve been published combined with Battle Ground, but as I didn’t have to wait to read, my advice here is to make sure you have the next book near at hand.

Battle Ground by Jim Butcher (2020), 418 pages. Fiction, series. I finished this the night after we lost Shadow. All the death and loss and love? Honestly it helped. I should note I watched “The Long Night” the evening after my mother died. Think of that and me what you will.

Ash by Malinda Lo (2009), 264 pages. Fiction. I always fall for retellings. This twist on Cinderella turns some gender roles on their head and it’s beautifully done.

Light from Uncommon Stars by Ryka Aoki (2021), 372 pages. Fiction. I was blown completely away by this story. I haven’t read anything as beautiful and even if I wasn’t grieving when I finished I’d read most of it with tears streaming down my face because it just felt so … true. Not that I felt or wanted to be any of the characters, everyone felt real and plausible. It is a magical story. Perhaps my adoration is based on my childhood of music and the musical community I found myself immersed in. I look forward to rereading it once I acquire my own copy.

Strange Brew by Elrod, P. N. (Editor) (2009), 372 pages. Fiction, short story anthology. I checked this out for the big names on the cover — Charlaine Harris, Jim Butcher, and Patricia Briggs. I stayed for all the stories. Of them, I think “Seeing Eye, by Patricia Briggs, “Death Warmed Over” by Rachel Caine, and “Signatures of the Dead” by Faith Hunter were my absolute favourites, something that should be no big surprise.

Noor by Nnedi Okorafor (2021), 224 pages. Fiction. Wow. When I saw this on my library new book shelf I couldn’t grab it fast enough. This is africanfuturism at its best. It’s on my reread list after I acquire my own copy.

December’s Reading Plan

My focus has been as scattered as I expected. I’m unable to focus long on anything. This is amusing to me as one book I keep picking up is over 1000 pages! We’ll see what I finish.

Keep safe, get vaccinated and boostered, wear a mask mindfully, and wash your hands.

Tuxedo cat laying on a crochet blanket and light blue couch next to "Noor" and a tablet device. The cat's paw is in front of her mouth as if she has a secret.
Dot loved Noor as much as I did.

Thoughts on my October 2021 Reading

October is always a challenging month for me. It begins with anniversaries of loss and ends with my completing another trip around the sun. Toss in climate change that makes me cranky, so it’s no surprise that I chose distractions over focus. I took advantage of the unseasonal warm weather for this region while it lasted (this morning even E put on wool socks). I spent most of the month working in the garden or on the house instead of always having my nose buried in a book. Don’t worry, Shadow and Dot got lots of snuggles.

The Book List

During October, even while focusing elsewhere, I finished fourteen titles. The presence of a ★ an icon indicates I received the title through NetGalley (the FTC wants you to know) and its prescence means that not only did I finish it, but I also actually wrote a review!

The books are presented in the order I read them during the month. I like the format I trialed last time; it encourages me to think about each title and why I finished it.

Storm Front by Jim Butcher (2000), 384 pages. Fiction, series.

This series has been in and out of my read list for a while. We’ve been watching reruns of classic Law and Order episodes on a few different channels. That means we jump around the seasons and sometimes catch reruns of the reruns. The other day I snapped and needed something—anything—different (yet similar) to read while E watched. I believe I read the first two chapters of this book at least five times over the years. What I found upon finishing this first book is that Dresden makes me frustrated, and I find myself making the same comments I do to the characters in L&O, especially during the early seasons of that series.

Fool Moon by Jim Butcher (2001), 401 pages. Fiction, series.

Again, we meet some expected plot and I find Dresden just as infuriating and chauvinistic. But it’s a slight twist on the full moon urban fantasy I’ve read of late, and I devoured this book (as part of an omnibus edition).

Grave Peril by Jim Butcher (2001), 378 pages. Fiction, series.

I don’t search out the standard gothic fare during October, let’s just say that I try to do the unexpected. I found myself giggling (and cringing) over this ghost and vampire story.

Summer Knight by Jim Butcher (2002), 446 pages. Fiction, series.

Losing your love life can land you in a deep dark place. Dresden is predictable and when the Winter Queen asks for his help in clearing her name, the expected helps him get back on his feet. More or less. I was curious how Dresden would remain as his infuriating chauvinistic self while deep in depression and how he’d emerge from the depths of his darkness.

Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day by Seanan McGuire (2017), 182 pages. Fiction.

Technically this is a reread, but I first read it in July 2019 when I went on that J D Robb tear. As with Grave Peril, it was weird to read a ghost story in October. I liked it the first time and I enjoyed it this go around too. It’s a quick novella, set in my favorite city in the world.

Death Masks by Jim Butcher (2003), 432 pages. Fiction, series.

This was a bit of a challenge to get into due to the plague angle and the real-world pandemic still happening. That said, the characters in this book are intense and the consequences pave the way for (as in prior books infuriating and chauvinistic) Dresden’s immediate future.

Blood Rites by Jim Butcher (2004), 464 pages. Fiction, series.

This book begins with flaming flying monkey poop and a puppy who to everyone’s surprise — including his — chooses Dresden. Honestly with an introduction like that I had to finish this book. While the end wasn’t a twisty surprise, it’s a surprisingly fun read.

Dead Beat by Jim Butcher (2006), 517 pages. Fiction, series.

I’m not sure which character I like more, Mouse or Butters. Both feature prominently in this book and along with Thomas made it another fun read.

Never Say You Can’t Survive by Charlie Jane Anders (2021), 240 pages. Non-Fiction, writing.

Because of everything that is my October, I really hoped to get this read and reviewed and I did. I’ve filled notebooks with scribbles of made-up places and imaginary people for over thirty years. I also enjoy reading about the craft of writing. This new book by Anders is remarkable. It is a map of storytelling treasures providing anecdotes, tips, and insights. My full review can be found at NetGalley.

Proven Guilty by Jim Butcher (2007), 551 pages. Fiction, series.

So much of this was expected, and in his now traditional infuriating and chauvinistic manner, Dresden drags us along for the ride. While it may have felt tedious at times, the characters help make this a good story that made me curious about the future of this series.

White Night by Jim Butcher (2007), 407 pages. Fiction, series.

Well, this quote sums it all up for me, and felt very fitting for me and my relationship with the month of October.

“We still hadn’t learned, though, that growing up is all about getting hurt. And then getting over it. You hurt. You recover. You move on. Odds are pretty good you’re just going to get hurt again. But each time, you learn something. Each time, you come out of it a little stronger, and at some point you realize that there are more flavors of pain than coffee.”

Seasonal Slow Knitting by Hannah Thiessen (2020), 192 pages. Non-Fiction, knitting.

I’ve been rereading my well-worn copy of Elizabeth Zimmermann’s Knitter’s Almanac and the library had this title on the new books shelf the other day when I went to pick up my holds. Arranged seasonally much like my beloved Almanac, the designs nod to modern styles and still have the potential to become classics. In addition to many seasonal tips and thoughtful essays, the there are several knitting patterns as well.

A Modern Guide to Textured Crochet: A Collection of Wonderfully Tactile Stitches by Sartori Lee (2021), 128 pages. Non-Fiction, knitting.

This wasn’t at all the book I expected it to be, not that I’m sure what that was. I thought it would be more like a Treasury of Knitting or 1000 Japanese Knitting and Crochet Stitches. It isn’t and that is good, I like to discover something different. The textured stitches are grouped around the seasons, and it’s made me rethink many stitch patterns as a result.

Distitch: A New Knitting Concept by Assia Brill (2019), 272 pages. Non-Fiction, knitting.

Each week I go through new additions to my library’s catalog and often add new titles to my list. This is one of those books. Distitch is sort of a love child between holding two strands together (creating marled yarns), brioche, and the twice-knit method. I was most curious about this book because she creates a DS chain, and I am always looking for new ways to make crochet feel fresh and different. Hopefully, this weekend I’ll be able to swatch and not simply read the theory.

I’ll write up my full thoughts on the three knitting titles soon and post the reviews to my little acorn creations notebook. Not sure you’ll remember to visit the site regularly? You can sign up for its monthly newsletter, it includes a summary of recent blog posts.

Next Month’s Reading Plan

Ideally I’ll read other books while I continue through my Dresden reading, I’m not a one book at a time reader. However, we all know that once I get going on a series it’ll take quite a bit to force me to pause if the books are available. It’d be nice to make further progress in my languishing NetGalley titles. I’m stuck at a 48% review ratio, and I really would like to get it over 50% by the end of the year. That means I need to review thirteen more books between now and then! And not make any new requests. We’ll see how that goes.

Black cat selfie with his person. They are wearing a grey hoodie and he's smooshing his face into theirs.
Shadow loves to face smush me during snuggles. Moments later he knocked my glasses off.