Category Archives: Bookish Musings

Short Story Collections: Thoughts, Goals, and TBR

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I love short stories. I really do. I’m continuously impressed by how much plot and emotion can be packed into such a small number of pages, and to me it really speaks to the skill of an author. I’ve recently started to recognize my love of short story collections and have been attempting to pick up more of them (and buy A LOT more of them), but when I gathered all of the short story collections I’ve read together on a Goodreads shelf, I was really not impressed by the number. It inspired me to want to pick up short story collections more often, and to set a solid reading goal for myself (as I laugh at myself for thinking I can actually stick to a reading goal) (No, but for real this time, I actually want to stick to this one) : to read one short story collection per month in 2017.

I already missed January, but that’s OK. This month I’m currently reading Kissing the Witch by Emma Donoghue, which is a collection of feminist fairytale retellings (is there anything more in my wheelhouse than that phrase?), but I need to keep this going strong throughout the year. Short story collections are great because you don’t necessarily have to read straight through them; you can read one or two stories per day and get through one in a week or so that way. Because of that, I feel like one short story collection per month is actually a pretty attainable goal, and I’m going to hold myself accountable this time.

Here is the (embarassingly low) number of short story collections I’ve completed so far (it’s possible I’m missing a few? But I don’t think so): 10

Interpreter of MaladiesFragile Things: Short Fictions and WondersStranger Things HappenSmoke and Mirrors: Short Fictions and IllusionsMagic for Beginners: StoriesThe Bloody Chamber and Other StoriesTrigger Warning: Short Fictions and DisturbancesThe Girl Wakes: StoriesUnaccustomed EarthGutshot

As you can see, there are a lot of repeat authors here: the vast majority of short story collections I’ve read have been from Jhumpa Lahiri, Neil Gaiman, and Kelly Link. Because they are awesome. But this also does point to the fact that I really need to branch out to new authors in my short story reading. Amelia Gray’s Gutshot was one of my favorite books of 2016, and it was a total gamble on a new-to-me author who I ended up loving, going to see speak, and buying another book from. Carmen Lau’s The Girl Wakes was my absolute favorite read of 2016 and I found it at a local small press book fair. Branching out in reading always pays off.

My short story TBR list contains a lot of books that I already have on my physical TBR shelf, so this works well with the #readmyownbooks challenge. A lot of my picks are well-within my wheelhouse: female authors, magical realism, weird fiction.

Short story collections from authors I’ve already read and enjoyed:

Pretty Monsters: StoriesStone Mattress: Nine Wicked TalesWhat is Not Yours is Not YoursGet in Trouble: Stories

I have all four of these on my physical TBR shelf (yes, I have two unread Kelly Link short story collections on my TBR shelf. Oops.) and I keep meaning to pick all of them up and then not doing it. I actually did start Pretty Monsters at one point, but after the first story I never returned to it, and I felt like it was just sitting on my bedside table judging me, so I put it back on the shelf. As far as Stone Mattress goes, Margaret Atwood is one of my absolute favorite authors and I have no excuse whatsoever for not reading it yet. I’ve only read one book by Helen Oyeyemi (Boy, Snow, Bird, which I really enjoyed) and I have FOUR unread books of hers on my physical TBR shelf, one of which is a short story collection–What is Not Yours is Not Yours. I’m planning on saving White is for Witching for an October read, but I really have no excuse for not yet picking up the other ones.

Short story collections from new-to-me authors: The Other World, it Whispers by Stephanie Victoire, The Unfinished World by Amber Sparks, By Light We Knew Our Names by Anne Valente, and A Guide to Being Born by Ramona Ausubel. I own physical copies of all of these except By Light We Knew Our Names.

The Other World, It WhispersThe Unfinished World: And Other StoriesBy Light We Knew Our NamesA Guide to Being Born: Stories

Apparently short story collections get the most beautiful covers in the world. I can’t even with these lovely rainbow situations.

And here are a bunch more! There Once Lived a Girl Who Seduced Her Sister’s Husband and He Hanged Himself by Ludmilla Petrushevskaya (what an amazing title, btw), Bad Behavior by Mary Gaitskill, Can’t and Won’t by Lydia Davis, North American Lake Monsters by Nathan Ballingrud, The Color Master by Aimee Bender, The Last Animal by Abby Geni, Unclean Jobs for Women and Girls by Alissa Nutting, and And Yet They Were Happy by Helen Phillips.

There Once Lived a Girl Who Seduced Her Sister's Husband, and He Hanged Himself: Love StoriesBad BehaviorCan't and Won't: StoriesNorth American Lake Monsters: Stories

The Color MasterThe Last AnimalUnclean Jobs for Women and GirlsAnd Yet They Were Happy

 

I would love to hear everyone’s thoughts on this–what are some of your favorite short story collections? Have you read any of these? Do you ever set goals for yourself for reading short stories? Let me know!

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List of All My Ongoing Book Series!

So here’s the second part of my analysis of what books series I’ve been reading–my ongoing book series! I’m only going to include ongoing series that I actually plan to complete; maybe I’ll do another post later about series that I’ve DNF’d (there are a LOT of them). It was really interesting doing this post; when I started I thought there were only a few series that I was technically in the middle of; it turns out that there are actually a bunch of them. I’ve listed the series and then where I’m at with each of them, with images only of the books I’ve completed in the series so far. It’ll be interesting at the end of the year to see which series I’ve made progress with during 2017 (hopefully a bunch, since I’m waiting on new releases for most of these).

Illuminae Files by Jay Kristoff and Aimee Kaufman (2/3):

Illuminae (The Illuminae Fi...Gemina (The Illuminae Files...

Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews (9/10):

Magic Bites (Kate Daniels, #1)Magic Burns (Kate Daniels, #2)Magic Strikes (Kate Daniels...Magic Bleeds (Kate Daniels,...Magic Slays (Kate Daniels, #5)Magic Rises (Kate Daniels, #6)Magic Breaks (Kate Daniels,...Magic Shifts (Kate Daniels,...Magic Binds (Kate Daniels, #9)

A Court of Thorns and Roses series by Sarah J. Maas (2/3)

A Court of Thorns and Roses...A Court of Mist and Fury (A...

Arcana Chronicles by Kresley Cole (4/6)

Poison Princess (The Arcana...Endless Knight (The Arcana ...Dead of Winter (The Arcana ...Arcana Rising (The Arcana C...

Broken Earth trilogy by N.K. Jemisin (2/3)

The Fifth Season (The Broke...The Obelisk Gate (The Broke...

Kushiel’s Dart series by Jacqueline Carey (1/3)

Kushiel's Dart (Phèdre's Tr...

Wayfarers series by Becky Chambers (2/?)

The Long Way to a Small, An...A Closed and Common Orbit (...

Checquy Files by Daniel O’Malley (1/?)

The Rook (The Checquy Files...

Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss (2/3)

The Name of the Wind (The K...The Wise Man's Fear (The Ki...

October Daye series by Seanan McGuire (9/?)

Rosemary and Rue (October D...A Local Habitation (October...An Artificial Night (Octobe...Late Eclipses (October Daye...One Salt Sea (October Daye,...Ashes of Honor (October Day...Chimes at Midnight (October...The Winter Long (October Da...A Red-Rose Chain (October D...

Wayward Children series by Seanan McGuire (1/?)

Every Heart a Doorway (Wayw...

Innkeeper chronicles by Ilona Andrews (2/3)

Clean Sweep (Innkeeper Chro...Sweep in Peace (Innkeeper C...

Lilith’s Brood trilogy by Octavia Butler (1/3)

Dawn (Xenogenesis, #1)

Themis Files by Sylvain Neuvel (1/?)

Sleeping Giants (Themis Fil...

Thessaly trilogy by Jo Walton (1/3)

The Just City (Thessaly, #1)

Saga by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples (6/?)

Saga, Vol. 1Saga, Vol. 2Saga, Vol. 3Saga, Vol. 4Saga, Vol. 5Saga, Vol. 6

Giant Days by John Allison and Lissa Treiman (2/?)

Giant Days, Vol. 1 (Giant D...Giant Days, Vol. 2 (Giant D...

Binti by Nnedi Okorafor (1/?)

Binti (Binti, #1)

Hidden Legacy trilogy by Ilona Andrews (1/3)

Burn for Me (Hidden Legacy,...

New Crobuzon series by China Mieville (1/3)

Perdido Street Station (Bas...

 

So, that’s all of my ongoing book series at the moment! Let me know which of these series you’ve read or are currently reading in the comments, and happy reading 🙂

 

All the Book Series I’ve Finished

So lately I keep seeing all of these adorable blog posts and BookTube videos where bookish people are tracking their completed and ongoing book series, and I started to feel left out. So this is post 1 of 2, where I’ll list all of the book series that I’ve finished (that I can think of!) My next post will track all of the ongoing book series that I’ve started but not finished yet. There are links to the Goodreads page for all of these series; let me know in the comments which you’ve read and if you track your series reading too! Maybe at the end of the year I’ll do a post updating my progress on series reading? That might be fun.

Southern Reach trilogy by Jeff Vandermeer

Annihilation (Southern Reac...Authority (Southern Reach, #2)Acceptance (Southern Reach,...

Sookie Stackhouse/Southern Vampire series by Charlaine Harris

Dead Until Dark (Sookie Sta...Living Dead in Dallas (Sook...Club Dead (Sookie Stackhous...Dead to the World (Sookie S...Dead as a Doornail (Sookie ...Definitely Dead (Sookie Sta...All Together Dead (Sookie S...From Dead to Worse (Sookie ...Dead and Gone (Sookie Stack...Dead in the Family (Sookie ...Deadlocked (Sookie Stackhou...Dead Ever After (Sookie Sta...

Maddaddam trilogy by Margaret Atwood

Oryx and CrakeThe Year of the FloodMaddAddam

Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante

My Brilliant Friend (The Ne...The Story of a New Name (Th...Those Who Leave and Those W...The Story of the Lost Child...

Shatter Me trilogy by Tahereh Mafi: 3 books, 2 companion novellas

Shatter Me (Shatter Me, #1)Unravel Me (Shatter Me, #2)Ignite Me (Shatter Me, #3)Destroy Me (Shatter Me, #1.5)Fracture Me (Shatter Me, #2.5)

Milennium trilogy by Stieg Larsson: I don’t count the fourth book

The Girl with the Dragon Ta...The Girl Who Played with Fi...The Girl Who Kicked the Hor...

Six of Crows duology by Leigh Bardugo

Six of Crows (Six of Crows,...Crooked Kingdom (Six of Cro...

The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games (The Hunge...Catching Fire (The Hunger G...Mockingjay (The Hunger Game...

Twilight Saga by Stephenie Meyer

Twilight (Twilight, #1)New Moon (Twilight, #2)Eclipse (Twilight, #3)Breaking Dawn (Twilight, #4)

Inheritance trilogy by N.K. Jemisin

The Hundred Thousand Kingdo...The Broken Kingdoms (Inheri...The Kingdom of Gods (Inheri...

Dreamblood duology by N.K. Jemisin

The Killing Moon (Dreambloo...The Shadowed Sun (Dreambloo...

The Magicians trilogy by Lev Grossman

The Magicians (The Magician...The Magician King (The Magi...The Magician's Land (The Ma...

The Edge quartet by Ilona Andrews

On the Edge (The Edge, #1)Bayou Moon (The Edge, #2)Fate's Edge (The Edge, #3)Steel's Edge (The Edge, #4)

Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien

The Fellowship of the Ring ...The Two Towers (The Lord of...The Return of the King (The...

Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Sorcer...Harry Potter and the Chambe...Harry Potter and the Prison...Harry Potter and the Goblet...Harry Potter and the Order ...Harry Potter and the Half-B...Harry Potter and the Deathl...

Agent of Hel trilogy by Jacqueline Carey

Dark Currents (Agent of Hel...Autumn Bones (Agent of Hel,...Poison Fruit (Agent of Hel,...

Harper Connelly series by Charlaine Harris

Grave Sight (Harper Connell...Grave Surprise (Harper Conn...An Ice Cold Grave (Harper C...Grave Secret (Harper Connel...

Lily Bard series by Charlaine Harris

Shakespeare's LandlordShakespeare's ChampionShakespeare's ChristmasShakespeare's TrollopShakespeare's Counselor

Kenzie & Gennaro series by Dennis Lehane

A Drink Before the War (Ken...Darkness, Take My Hand (Ken...Sacred (Kenzie & Gennaro, #3)Gone, Baby, Gone (Kenzie & ...Prayers for Rain (Kenzie & ...Moonlight Mile (Kenzie & Ge...

Parable of the Sower/Earthseed duology by Octavia Butler

Parable of the Sower (Earth...Parable of the Talents (Ear...

 

And…that’s it! I think. As far as I can remember, anyways. I left out a bunch of series I read when I was younger and only included adult/YA series that I’ve read as an adult.

 

 

 

Bookish Reminiscing: On Childhood Favorites and Old-School YA

I have a constant, ongoing search for YA novels that I can get lost in. I’m extremely picky, and have a harder time finding a book I can connect with in YA than in most other genres. But when I find it, that magical book (or series, let’s face it, it’s usually a series if we’re talking YA) I become completely obsessed and reread it an absurd number of times because YA, when it’s good, is just so, so good.

YA didn’t explode as a genre until recently. When I was growing up, I never thought of books as being “YA” or “middle-grade;” I asked for recommendations from my parents, teachers, and librarians for what to read. Occasionally I’d glance at the back of the book where a “reading level” was listed that was supposed to roughly correspond to grade level, but usually I just wandered the library and picked up what looked appealing to me (which, for some time, meant anything related to either sharks or Greek mythology).

My best book-finding memory from childhood, however, was when my beloved babysitter, leaving for college, stopped at my house with a car trunk full of her childhood books. She’d wanted to pass them on to someone who also loved to read and who would love the books as much as she had. So much of what I read when I was younger was found in those cardboard boxes that I watched her and my mother carry into the house, while I literally leaped around with excitement. It’s no mistake that a lot of them ended up in this post.

I started thinking about this amazing gift that my babysitter had given me, and how different the reading community is now compared to when I was growing up. And that lead me to think about the books that meant the most to me as I was discovering myself as a reader; the books that, even now, I think about all the time. I hope that people are still reading these books, and I hope that one day I can make a bookish contribution to someone the way that my babysitter did to me.

 

The Message (Animorphs, #4)

The Animorphs series was, for me, my first foray into bookish obsession. Starting in about second or third grade, I began to devour these books; they are a perfectly curated combination of action, humor, heart, and friendship; they’re immersive and addicting while never shying away from the realities of war. They’re sort of the emotional precursors to the Hunger Games series in that way. The premise of the series is that a group of teenagers are given the power to transform into animals by a dying alien prince in order to combat the insidious and secret invasion of Earth by a race of mind-controlling aliens called Yeeks. I loved all of the characters so much, but Marco was probably my favorite; his mom died when he was young, and he turned to humor as an emotional coping mechanism. The group ends up depending on him as the comic relief, even when he’s tearing himself up inside. I’m not sure if these books are still being stocked in bookstores, but it makes me so sad to think of a generation of kids growing up without the Animorphs. I may do another post later entirely about this series and my favorite books from it, so I’ll stop myself here, because just I have way too many thoughts about them.

Island Of The Blue Dolphins

I pretended I was Karana so much after reading this book. Did anyone else do this as a kid? Island of the Blue Dolphins is a survival story about a  young woman alone on an island in the Pacific Ocean, but that’s such a simplified synopsis of what this book is. It’s inspirational and a really sad yet beautiful story. I also read Zia, the sequel, but it did not quite have the same the magic of this one. I did not realize until I looked it up on Goodreads today that this book was published in 1960; I’m glad it’s endured so long.

A Wind in the Door (Time, #2)

I loved the entire Wrinkle in Time series, although the books I read the most were probably A Wind in the Door and Many Waters. These books were so creative, but I don’t think I realized how fully weird they are until I started thinking about them recently; in A Wind in the Door, the protagonist journeys inside her little brother’s mitochondria to save his life; in Many Waters, the identical twins who were previously the more normal members of the Murray clan go back to Biblical times, fall in love with the same girl, and get into all sorts of issues with seraphim, nephilim, manticores, and miniature mammoths. (Yes. This is an actual plot point.) My favorite thing about this series was Meg, the main character, who sees herself as pretty ordinary but is actually impressively strong and devoted to protecting her family.

The Egypt Game

In The Egypt Game, a group of friends devote their free time to learning as much as possible about the culture of ancient Egypt and acting out its ceremonies and rituals in their spare time. It makes you embarrassed for all the time you most likely spent watching TV as a kid, as you could have been doing something as awesome as this.

Alanna: The First Adventure (Song of the Lioness, #1)

Tamora Pierce writes adventurous, female-driven fantasy the way that I wish more authors would. Her world of Tortall is a fully realized fantasy society, and Alanna emerges at a time when no women have been knights for centuries. She disguises herself as her twin brother and devotes herself to winning her shield; her adventures kick off several subsequent series with heroines who are just as badass and likable.

Julie of the Wolves (Julie of the Wolves, #1)

This is another book that I’ve lost count how many times I’ve read it. Julie escapes a teenage marriage and an abusive husband into the wilderness of Alaska, where she learns to become part of a wolf pack to survive. She’s a strong, intelligent, admirable protagonist facing what seems like an inescapable position in society who then battles the odds to live in one of the world’s harshest environments.

Ella Enchanted

Ignore the movie version, as it doesn’t even come close to capturing the spirit of this story.  I think this was my first exposure to fairytale retellings, which have since become one my favorite genres. You can’t help but sympathize with clever, spunky Ella, cursed with obedience by a fairy who thought it was a gift, and who manages to remain fiercely independent of her circumstances despite everything.

Speak

A sad and powerful story of a rape survivor in high school who feels unable to express herself after her assault. I get chills thinking about this book; the writing is detailed yet emotional, and I became so emotionally invested in helping the main character regain her voice.

The Music of Dolphins

There are a lot of dolphin-related books on this list, but that can never be a bad thing. In this book, Mila has been living as a member of a pod of dolphins since she was stranded in a plane crash, and only experiences humanity when she is found by a team of dolphin researchers.

Claudia and the Phantom Phone Calls (The Baby-Sitters Club, #2)

The Babysitters Club was about friendship and young teenagers learning to deal with all sorts of issues; my favorite was always Claudia, who was obsessed with fashion but struggled in school. This series went way past #100 and I had to have read at least fifty.

 

As I look over this list, I can see some themes emerging; female protagonists, for one; survival stories; science fiction and fantasy. I tried to include the covers of the books that I actually owned instead of any redesigned covers. I think it’s important to look back at what we read as children to see how it shapes our reading lives; I can see evidence in this list of my current reading tastes and characters that I will never forget.

 

Do you see any of your childhood favorites on this list? What books did you love as a child that I left out? Let me know in the comments!

Audiobook Issues

I really want to like audiobooks, but I’m having some issues.

Here’s the thing: I started a job last year that has about a 25-minute commute. Nothing terrible or crazy, but long enough that I went from ecstatically rocking out every time Taylor Swift came on the radio (don’t judge, you know  you do it too) to getting really tired of all the repetitive songs and commercials. Audiobooks seemed like the perfect solution–I love books, and I have almost an hour of extra time each day that could be used to listen to them.

But! I’m a terrible listener. I don’t mean when I’m talking to someone one-on-one, but as part of an audience. In school, I always had difficulty paying attention in lectures; I always ended up teaching all of the material to myself later from notes and textbooks, unable to absorb things spoken aloud. I was a good student; it’s just that I’m not an auditory learner. And I quickly found this becoming a large hurdle to my audiobook enjoyment.

I’m an audiobook newbie; I’ve only listened to about five or so audiobooks total. But I’ve also started several that I’ve had to DNF because I was just not able to focus on them, for whatever reason. I have a hard time pinpointing why; I’m sure the narrator was doing a good job, and the stories were interesting enough, but my listening skills were just not up to par.

Only two audiobooks, so far, have really worked for me:

Why Not Me? by Mindy KalingReady Player One

I really enjoyed Mindy Kaling’s Why Not Me? because Mindy is so conversational and relatable–I could easily focus on the book because it was like we were chatting, and I just happened to be feeling very quiet at the time. And Ready Player One was just so funny and action-packed that I never even had a chance to think about whether I was paying attention; I couldn’t help it.

I’ve also tried these, and although I finished them, they weren’t great for me:

BossypantsModern RomanceAnansi Boys (American Gods, #2)

The thing is, I’d love to keep audiobooks a part of my commuting routine, but I keep striking out with the books I try.

So I’m looking for recommendations–does anyone have any suggestions for me of audiobooks you loved?