2012 Reading List

Now in chronological order:

Trumps of Doom – Roger ZelaznyLots of Books
Blood of Amber – Roger Zelazny
Sign of Chaos – Roger Zelazny
Knight of Shadows – Roger Zelazny
Prince of Chaos – Roger Zelazny
The Last Light of the Sun – Guy Gavriel Kay
Look to Windward – Iain M. Banks
Here Comes Trouble – Michael Moore
The High King’s Tomb – Kristen Britain
22-11-63 – Stephen King
Trujillo – Lucius Shepard
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil – John Berendt
The Fear Index – Robert Harris
Solar – Ian McEwan
Matter – Iain M. Banks
Blonde Bombshell – Tom Holt
The Cold Moon – Jeffrey Deaver
A Bend in the Road – Nicholas Sparks
The Shadow of the Torturer – Gene Wolfe
The Claw of the Conciliator – Gene Wolfe
The Sword of the Lictor – Gene Wolfe
The Citadel of the Autarch – Gene Wolfe
The Big Sleep – Raymond Chandler
Iron Council – China Miéville
One of our Thursdays is Missing – Jasper Fforde
A Son of the Circus – John Irving
The Mist – Stephen King
The State of the Art – Iain M. Banks
Blaze – Richard Bachman
Alex & Me – Irene M. Pepperberg
The Coma – Alex Garland
Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell
The Caves of Steel – Isaac Asimov
The Man Who Was Thursday – G. K. Chesterton
Raw Spirit – Iain Banks

2012 was a highly varied reading year. As always I’m far below the number of books that I wanted to read, but I guess the times when I was an unmarried, jobless, friendless, carefree gal of 15 who didn’t generally bother with homework won’t be coming back. Good riddance, I say. If I had to pick my favourite book of the year I would have to say Look to Windward by the always amazing Iain M. Banks, with The Coma by Alex Garland a close second.

Worst book of the year is a little harder to pick. The competition is so thick that you could cut it with a chainsaw… and probably should. I guess I should nominate A Son of the Circus by John Irving, just because everyone keeps carrying on about how bloody brilliant his books are. Well, they aren’t, at least not all of them. Second place is a tie between Nicky Sparks and Jeff Deaver for brain-numbing, cliché-laden awfulness and abuse of the English language in general. And Kristen Britain… well… is Kristen Britain. See my review of First Rider’s Call for more details.

I also had a few firsts, authors which I’d been meaning to read since forever but never got around to, and those were one and all delightful. Chesterton, Zelazny, Wolfe, Chandler, Miéville and (I am ashamed to say) that giant of both fiction and non-fiction, Asimov, are all worth a read. Not a single turd there.

For now I’m still in the middle of Raw Spirit by Iain Banks, which I am enjoying way too much to be envious of someone who got paid to taste all of Scotland’s great single malt whiskies. Okay, maybe a little. But it’s a really great read. And I shall use it to bolster my next reading list – after all, I can legitimately claim that I read it in 2012 and 2013.

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2011 in Books

These lists seem to be getting shorter and shorter. Either I read less, or I’m running out of good books. No, wait, I remember now: the Unconsoled, that triple-damned piece of literary diarrhea by Kazuo Ishiguro, put me off reading for at least four months in early 2011. There, all his fault.

The Brooklyn Follies – Paul Auster
Excession – Iain M. Banks
The Mirror of Her Dreams – Stephen Donaldson
A Man Rides Through – Stephen Donaldson
Past Imperative – Dave Duncan
Present Tense – Dave Duncan
Future Indefinite – Dave Duncan
The Last Dragonslayer – Jasper Fforde
The Unconsoled – Kazuo Ishiguro
Sailing to Sarantium – Guy Gavriel Kay
Lord of Emperors – Guy Gavriel Kay
The Lions of Al-Rassan – Guy Gavriel Kay
Gerald’s Game – Stephen King
Misery – Stephen King
The Stand – Stephen King
A Wizard of Earthsea – Ursula K. Le Guin
The Tombs of Atuan – Ursula K. Le Guin
The Farthest Shore – Ursula K. Le Guin
Tehanu – Ursula K. Le Guin
The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner – Stephenie Meyer
Snuff – Terry Pratchett
The Alphabet – David Sacks
Nine Princes in Amber – Roger Zelazny
The Guns of Avalon – Roger Zelazny
Sign of the Unicorn – Roger Zelazny
The Hand of Oberon – Roger Zelazny
The Courts of Chaos – Roger Zelazny

2010 In Books

And once again a list of all the books that I read in the last year. Some people enjoy these, I hear. It’s sorted alphabetically by author, because I’ll be buggered if I can remember the order that I read them in.

The list would be a lot longer if cookbooks counted, but alas, I have decided that they don’t. I fear “place noodles in boiling salt water and cook until al dente” doesn’t count as enough of a narrative to constitute a novel. Wish I had read more. Sigh.

2010 was the year that saw my novel finished and also the year in which I wrote a very nice short story that I hope will get published soon. It was the year in which Jonas sold his first flash game and his first articles, and when I say this it is not with envy, but with pride (and a little envy). I made graphics for Jonas’s next game and did a lot of culinary experimentation. A good year, yes, but creatively speaking still a bit of a disappointment. I could and should have done so much more. I hope that’s all going to change next year. I’ll start with this blog. More updates, more reviews and the two final installments in the Twilight Experiment. 2011 will be a creative year. And in a few months it will also stop feeling weird to type that number.

Before They Are Hanged – Joe Abercrombie
Last Argument Of Kings – Joe Abercrombie
Never Have Your Dog Stuffed – Alan Alda
Things I Overheard While Talking To Myself – Alan Alda
Consider Phlebas – Iain Banks
The Player Of Games – Iain Banks
Use Of Weapons – Iain Banks
Two Hearts – Peter S. Beagle
Jane Eyre – Charlotte Brontë
The Death Of Bunny Munroe – Nick Cave
Last Chance To See – Mark Carwardine
The Yiddish Policemen’s Union – Michael Chabon
King Of The Murgos – David Eddings
Demon Lord Of Karanda – David Eddings
Sorceress Of Darshiva – David Eddings
The Seeress Of Kell – David Eddings
Belgarath the Sorcerer – David & Leigh Eddings
Polgara the Sorceress – David & Leigh Eddings
Shades of Grey – Jasper Fforde
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies – Seth Grahame-Smith
Juliet, Naked – Nick Hornby
A Prayer For Owen Meany – John Irving
The Summer Tree – Guy Gavriel Kay
The Wandering Fire – Guy Gavriel Kay
The Darkest Road – Guy Gavriel Kay
The Shining – Stephen King
Under The Dome – Stephen King
Twilight  – Stephenie Meyer
New Moon – Stephenie Meyer
Eclipse – Stephenie Meyer
Breaking Dawn – Stephenie Meyer
Spilling the Beans on the Cat’s Pyjamas – Judy Parkinson
I Shall Wear Midnight – Terry Pratchett
The Wilt Alternative – Tom Sharpe
Wilt On High – Tom Sharpe
Wilt In Nowhere – Tom Sharpe
Star Maker – Olaf Stapledon

My Year in Books

Here is, for all those interested, a list of the books that I’ve managed to read in 2009. I always enjoy these lists when I see them on other people’s blogs, as they provide me not only with inspiration for my own reading, but also with a rough idea of what that other writer might be interested in. So, here we go (and don’t dream of getting this in chronological order):

The Blade Itself – Joe Abercrombie
I See By My Outfit – Peter S. Beagle
Strange Roads – Peter S. Beagle
We Never Talk About My Brother – Peter S. Beagle
Lythande – Marion Zimmer Bradley
Green Rider – Kristen Britain
First Rider’s Call – Kristen Britain
The Gargoyle – Andrew Davidson
Adventures in Unhistory – Avram Davidson
Pawn Of Prophecy – David Eddings
Queen Of Sorcery – David Eddings
Magician’s Gambit – David Eddings
Castle Of Wizardry – David Eddings
Enchanter’s End Game – David Eddings
Guardians Of The West – David Eddings
Neverwhere – Neil Gaiman
The Glass Key – Dashiell Hammett
The Maltese Falcon – Dashiell Hammett
The Thin Man – Dashiell Hammett
Lustrum – Robert Harris
A Song For Nero – Tom Holt
The Hotel New Hampshire – John Irving
The Lions Of Al-Rassan – Guy Gavriel Kay
Cell – Stephen King
Duma Key – Stephen King
It – Stephen King
Lisey’s Story – Stephen King
On Writing – Stephen King
Die Känguru-Chroniken – Marc-Uwe Kling
The Gunseller – Hugh Laurie
A Game Of Thrones – George R.R. Martin
A Clash Of Kings – George R.R. Martin
A Storm Of Swords – George R.R. Martin
A Feast For Crows – George R.R. Martin
Dragonharper – Anne & Todd McCaffrey
Blood Sucking Fiends – Christopher Moore
Nanny Ogg’s Cookbook – Terry Pratchett
Nation – Terry Pratchett
Unseen Academicals – Terry Pratchett
The Name Of The Wind – Patrick Rothfuss
The Tales Of Beedle The Bard – J.K. Rowling
Indecent Exposure – Tom Sharpe
Riotous Assembly – Tom Sharpe
Wilt – Tom Sharpe
Barnacle Bill The Spacer And Other Stories – Lucius Shepard
Softspoken – Lucius Shepard
The Scalehunter’s Beautiful Daughter – Lucius Shepard
The Writer Got Screwed (But He Didn’t Have To) – Brooke E. Wharton

Getting to know me, Part I (books and short stories)

Tell me what you read and I’ll tell you what kind of person you are. Well, maybe not, personally I do not suscribe to this kind of DIY-psychoanalysis, but you are welcome to try. So here is a list of my favourite books and short stories. I would try to put them in the right order, but I’ve read that the sun will in fact go supernova on our collective posteriors at some point so I am not sure if I’d have enough time.

1. The Man Who Painted to Dragon Griaule, Lucius Shepard, 1985

2. The Lord of the Rings, J. R. R. Tolkien, 1954-55

3. The Dark Tower, Stephen King, 1982-2004

4. Discworld, Terry Pratchett, 1983-hopefully a long time in the future.

5. The World According to Garp, John Irving, 1978

6. The Last Unicorn, Peter S. Beagle, 1968

7. I See By My Outfit, Peter S. Beagle, 1965

8. The Lions of Al-Rassan, Guy Gavriel Kay, 1995

9. The Alphabet, David Sacks, 2003

10. A Long Way Down, Nick Hornby, 2005

Now here’s an incomprehensive list for you. No Stephen Donaldson. No Steven Erikson. No Jasper Fforde or Tom Holt. No J. K. Rowling and no Patricia McKillip. Gnargh! What about Gaiman, Arthur C. Clarke or Auster? Or (dare I mention them? I guess I should, seeing as they got me hooked on writing back in the early nineties)  Anne McCaffrey, Piers Anthony and Hal Foster. Simply imagine this list to be about 90 mentions longer and we’ll be just fine.

The Hotel New Hampshire

Another Irving book. I swore not to read any more after Until I Find You. Needless to say that I didn’t like that one very much. I find that some of Irving’s books (not all of them… wait, yes, actually all of them) are just an exercise in collecting weird characters with weird jobs and weird fetishes. It’s okay, if you do it right, after all I loved The World According to Garp, and the people in that one are about as cockoo as you can get, but sometimes it just gets in the way of the story. Like in The Hotel New Hampshire.
Now, to be fair, it is a lot better than Until I Find You, where I had to restrain myself from making a lot of black and white confetti fifty pages in. (I read the whole book in the end, god knows how I managed AND stayed sane. It doesn’t get better. Not. One. Jot.)

The Hotel New Hampshire seems to constantly be balanceing between falling off the edge of a very high cliff with spiky rocks at the bottom, pulled by the weight of cliché accumulated by its characters and staying on top of the ridge, anchored there by Sorrow. (If you read the book you’ll know what I mean. Almost all the beautiful scenes in the book are connected to Sorrow. Sorrow and State-of-Maine.)

And the book actually has many good things about it. Old friends die heroically. Parents seem to regress into children. Dwarfs try to grow. Rapists get raped. Bears transform into humans. And most of all, one of the most prominent sentiments in the book: Sorrow floats.
I’m built close to the water, as we say in Germany, meaning that it is easy to move me to tears, but even I found that the ending of The Hotel New Hampshire was extraordinarily touching.
Now imagine that I found it extraordinairily touching DESPITE all the crap that the reader is made to swallow before that.
Irving loves his wacky characters. And he loves to have a lot of them. In the last two books that I read this almost made me swear off Irving forever.
And in the Hotel? Well, it’s pretty thick. Whores, radicals, communists, radical communists, bombs, opera, circuses, dwarfs, pet-bears, fake-bears, fake orgasms, lesbians and gays, rapists, weight-lifters, stuffed dogs, plane crashes, hostages, day-dreamers, more rape victims than you care to count: You name it, the hotel got it.

It’s just a little too much. It suffocates the story at times. At other times you will just put the book down and ask: why am I doing this to myself?
Me? Well, I’m a bit of a masochist when it comes to books. Finish what you start, is my first commandment. I tend to think that things will get better, just after the next page. Often they don’t. Often I know that. I those cases I at least want to be able to make an informed decision on how bad the book in question is. This lamentable habit has cost me quite a few precious hours over the years. The only book I ever put down I regret having done so, The Stand by Stephen King, but that’s nothing that can’t be remedied.
Anyway, the bottom line is that despite all the sex, and the rape and the general nauseating over-the-top-ness of The Hotel New Hampshire I am very happy that I did not put it down. At least not for long.

Hope floats too, I guess.

This was going to be a post about Barnacle Bill the Spacer but then…

… I read up a few things about Lucius Shepard, the author of Barnacle Bill the Spacer and half a dozen other books that I absolutely adore.

I very much adore Lucius Shepard. I adore his writing. I adore the way he describes places and I absoluetly adore his gift for setting the mood. I also adore his political and religious views. I short, Lucius Shepard is God.

At least I thought so before I started reading his blog in order to get a few nice juicy quotes for this post. Up until a few days ago, I didn’t even know Mr. Shepard had a blog. I had read that he was a very seclusive person and didn’t like to give interviews. Somewhere. Wikipedia, I think. And that was it. Man has no public life. Good for him. I tend to support life-style choices like this.

But then I re-read the Wikipedia entry and lo and behold! There seemed to be a blog after all.

Only it turns out that the political and religious views and the great writing (also suspiciously absent in the blog) come in a package deal with a stunning example of the most horrid artistic snobbery that I have ever witnessed in a human being.

This man claims to be a Firefly addict, yet he says that according to his own likes and dislikes he should hate the show. Actually, he hates “populists like Joss Whedon and J. K. Rowling.” I won’t even get into on how many levels that is so  wrong. (Not a Whedon fan-girl myself by any means, but he has done some good stuff over the years, above all Firefly.) Could it be, Mr. Shepard, that you try to dislike everything new and presumably Hollywood with a Harold-Bloomesque fervor, but actually, deep down, like stuff like that? Did you, like many people of your generation, sit through Star Wars Episodes 1-3, desperately grabbing on to your deep-seated mistrust, lest it fly away on wings of superb CGI? And did you shelter your carefully-groomed hatred, lest it get scared away by the good story? If yes, then I pity you. There seem to be too many people out there today that reject modern cinema out of principle. Like my grandfather, who still insists that in his youth the vegetables still tasted of vegetable and not of cardboard. Only he is probably right.

Also, there is the small matter of JCVD, which as I can personally testify is the worst movie of the decade. And I’ve seen Bloom. (Not Harold.)

Sorry, Mr. Shepard, but it’s true.

Now, the question is: Can I still adore an author who is also so obviously a total idiot?

I guess I can. The Man Who Painted the Dragon Griaule and Jailwise are still two of the very best short stories that I have ever read. Nothing will change that. Fine writing is fine writing.  Shame about the rest though…