By the Numbers: June 2013

Books

Total read since January: 17
(target is 36 by December, to be on track I should have read 18 books by now)

I’m almost caught up to my 3 books per month reading goal! I read two mysteries, some science fiction, some fantasy, and some historical fiction… basically, a little of everything except non-fiction, but I have a few non-fiction titles lined up for vacation next month…

I really liked all the books I read this month… except one. I wanted to try to rank them in order of preference, but it’s so hard to do. If I were forced to stack rank them, here’s what I’d say:

  • The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman — I had big expectations for this one, and it completely lived up to my expectations. If you’ve never read anything by Neil Gaiman and you want an introduction into his books and the worlds he creates, start with this one. This is basically a book about childhood for adults. If it doesn’t make you remember what it was like to be young and believe in magic and monsters, then you are a cold-hearted person and I have no idea why you are reading my blog.
  • Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein — This may be tied with “Ocean” for the best book I read this month. I’m usually not a big fan of historical fiction, but this story just grabbed me and I couldn’t stop reading. I loved the characters and the story. The only annoying bit was something that was my own fault for reading reviews before I read the book. From what I’d read I was expecting some sort of major plot twist or something. Lots of people referred to how the main character “lies.” So I kept waiting and trying to anticipate (figure out) what would happen. So when the ending came, I had this feeling of, “that’s it? really?” Not a solid sense of closure to the story. I guess some of the stuff I guessed was going to happen was more of a surprise to others reading the story? Regardless, this is a really well written book and I highly recommend it. My advice though, just go into it and get absorbed by the story without expectations.
  • Thousandth Night by Alastair Reynolds — Technically, I think this is more of a novella, and I think it should have been paired with a second novella (Minla’s Flowers), but my Kindle version only had the one story. Still, Alastair Reynolds is quickly becoming a new favorite science fiction author. This story played with some of the concepts he explored more in Blue Remembered Earth, and featured a little mystery plot that kept things moving as we learned more about this world and this species of space travelers. I really enjoyed it and can’t wait to read more by Mr. Reynolds.
  • In the Bleak Midwinter by Julia Spencer-Fleming — This one may be tied with Thousandth Night, it’s hard to say which I liked more. I read this for a project I’m doing for my mystery fiction class. However, I got to pick the topic and the book for my project. I had narrowed my (self-selected) choices down to three, downloaded the samples for Kindle, and ultimately picked this one. I am so glad I did. This is the first mystery I’ve read for my mystery fiction class that I actually liked. I am excited to read more in the series. It’s an odd choice for me, since it’s a mystery (I don’t usually read mysteries) and one of the main characters is a Episcopalian priest (female, but still, a priest…). I’m not religious. But I do like fiction that features a tension between believers and non-believers (like Contact and The Sparrow). And both the main characters have military backgrounds, which ranks up there with boarding schools as another feature I enjoy in my fiction.
  • Indemnity Only by Sara Paretsky — This one I read for my mystery fiction class, and despite the fact that I generally liked the main character and liked the fact it was set in Chicago (my home town), I didn’t really like the book. Sure, it is a mystery and has a lot of action and a “who-done-it” plot that makes you want to keep reading to figure out what happened. However, I felt like the book moved unnecessarily slowly. There was a lot of “activity” that didn’t really result in much resolution, or wasn’t really critical to the development of the plot. The author makes a point of describing the main character’s clothes, what she had for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, how she slept, her exercise habits, etc., etc. It got really tiresome. So tiresome that I think it distracted from the story and left me thinking, “meh. it was okay.” Maybe I’m just not a mystery fan.

So many good books this month! If you want a sneak peak at the books I finally decided to bring with me on vacation, you can check it out here.

Writing

Big month for blog posts (6)… not much (any?) fiction writing this month, though. Writers write. But I haven’t been writing. I’ve been working. And reading. And, apparently watching a lot of movies this month, as you will soon see…

Swimming

My US Masters Swimming FLOG (Fitness Log) says I swam:

  • 12 of 30 days (target was ~20 days)
  • 19 miles (target was ~30 miles)

Yes, I remember saying in my last “by the numbers” post that I was determined to get 20 days in the pool this month. So, I only swam 12 days (3 days/wk instead of 5 days/wk). I’ve been struggling to get back on the getting up early in the morning schedule. I am also dreading swimming in the dinky three lane pool at the gym and would much rather swim outside. Unfortunately, swimming outside means waking up even earlier because the lap swim hours are 5:30am to 7:00am on weekdays. That’s early. Still, the weather has been so nice, even at 5:30am, that I can’t bear to swim inside. The last few weekday swims have been at the outdoor pool and they have been marvelous. Totally worth waking up early. If only I could remember that feeling when the alarm goes off….

Movies

I don’t even feel like talking about movies this month. We watched a lot of movies this month. Here’s what we watched with “Twitter-style” (140 character) reviews:

  • The Heat — Screening for Twitter employees. Really liked it. Wasn’t expecting to. Funny with strong feminist themes.
  • Double Indemnity — Watched for class. Didn’t like it. Don’t get why this is a “classic” that people love. Lame characters. Lame plot. I don’t like insurance.
  • If…. — Watched because I read it was one of Neil Gaiman’s favorite movies. British boys boarding school. Didn’t get it. Greg really liked it.
  • Cloud Atlas — Pleasantly surprised at how they turned this book into a movie. However, if you didn’t read the book you may not get the movie.
  • Robot & Frank — Cute movie.
  • Despicable Me — Really cute movie. I ❤ Minions. Looking forward to the sequel.
  • Beautiful Creatures — Terrible movie. The book was okay, but this movie was terrible.
  • Beasts of the Southern Wild — Cute movie. Artsy. Greg liked it more than me, go figure.

And that was June… A bit of a lull on progress towards most of my goals, but I did start to catch up on my reading… Next month, vacation! And hopefully a little more productivity outside of work…

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