How it fulfills the challenge: Every year our library has two huge book sales put on by the Friends of the Library. I helped run the fall sale, but I went a day early to check out all the books. I ended up with a huge box of books for both myself and as gifts, including this old copy of Asimov’s book for 50 cents.
Quick Description: In Asimov’s second Foundation book, new forces are set to destroy the fledgling Foundation, which was established at the end of the Empire’s power. The Foundation started as a scientific endeavor to create a giant encyclopedia containing all knowledge to shorten the inevitable chaos that will follow the end of the Empire to 1,000 years instead of 30,000 years. To do this, the Foundation must weather different crises. The first ones are described in the first book, but the new ones threaten to topple everything the Foundation has ever stood for.
Opening Line: The Galactic Empire was falling.
The city was quiet under its conquest and curfew, and the hazy milk of the great Galactic Lens, with here and there a lonely star, dominated the sky of the Foundation.
Highlights: This book series is without a doubt a masterpiece of science fiction. It shows interesting views of all of humanity, since part of the premise is that large bodies of people are predictable, even though individuals are not. The writing is atmospheric and smart, and through the jumps in time and space, Asimov is simultaneously able to make his characters seem individual as well as a part of the bigger picture.
Low points: Like any book, you really have to be in the right mood to read this one in order to keep up with the plotting, the history that’s been set forth, and the political powers at work. It’s a book that demands a lot from the reader, and you have to be into that. I’m not sure this really counts as a low point though… It doesn’t for me.
Goodreads Rating: 4 stars–though it probably deserves something more like 4.5. I find series difficult to award 5 stars to consistently. It definitely feels like this book is set up for more intense galactic struggles to come.
This week’s topic is all about book recommendations. I’ve read lots of great books that people suggest to me, so I wasn’t sure how to narrow down this topic until I thought about the one person with whom I exchange more book recommendations with than anyone else. My mom definitely encouraged my love of reading from a very young age. She loved to read and she loved to read to me. We read the first half of the Harry Potter books together (and pronounced ‘Hermione’ incorrectly the entire time), and ever since I was a teenager we’ve been trading books back and forth.
I’ve gotten pretty good at figuring out things my mom would enjoy reading and vice versa. But here are 7 recent/memorable books that my mom recommended to me that I really enjoyed:
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury–My mom has always had a soft spot for this science fiction writer, so when it came up on a summer reading list in high school she suggested I pick it. I don’t think any other book has informed my ideas about censorship as much as this one.
Trinity by Leon Uris–I actually haven’t read all the Uris books my mom has told me I should read, but this one was worth all the effort. His books are not easy reads–they’re long and dense–but they yield great rewards in scope and sheer epic-ness. This one is about Irish revolution. There were several unclaimed copies of it at our library book sale and I couldn’t believe it–I think because it was written in the 1970s people just don’t know anything about it.
Outlander Series by Diana Gabaldon–So far I’ve only read the first book in this series, but it’s hard not to get swept up into the setting and the characters, so I’ll definitely be heading back for more.
Karma Gone Bad by Jenny Feldon–My mom has always loved reading about East and South Asia and their cultures, and this is a memoir she recommended recently to me. We both enjoyed it, even though we felt that Feldon should have gotten over her culture shock a little more quickly and just enjoyed her experience the best she could. Both my mom and I have always wanted to travel, and while we’ve gotten to do more than some people neither of us has left the North American continent yet, so it’s hard to see other people get amazing opportunities and then fail to appreciate them. Still, the book is engaging and offers a different perspective.
Lost in Translation by Nicole Mones–This book took my mom by surprise, as it wasn’t anything like she’d thought it would be. We both enjoyed this adventure across western China in the name of archaeology. The main character was interesting and complex and the story was really interesting and unique.
Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden–This book is a far less recent one, but it was so captivating that I purchased it recently so that I could read it again.
The Incarnations of Immortality Series by Piers Anthony–I can’t remember if I’ve talked about these books before, but they are amazing works of science fiction that play with western ideas of religion and turn cosmology and theology on their heads. Briefly, the series starts with a man who kills Death and thus has to take up his mantle–and indeed all immortal positions (like war and fate) are filled by mortals whose stories all diverge and intertwine.
Did your mom/parent ever recommend a book to you that you ended up loving? Let me know in the comments!
The first completed series on my list was one I read for book club. Our reading list for the year includes 4 trilogies, and this was the first one up.
Books in Order: Divergent, Insurgent, Allegiant
Favorite Book: Divergent
Genres/Keywords: science fiction, young adult, dystopic
My Average Rating: 3.33
What These Books Do Well: feisty heroine, interesting societal makeup with the faction system
What These Books Could Do Better: the romance (I really don’t like Tris/Four’s relationship), science fiction elements (the tech is way cooler in the films), the storyline (the plot feels stretched), the ending (I won’t give it away, but I was not thrilled)
Overall Thoughts: I really like science fiction and I enjoyed the first two films, but the books did not really impress me. I liked the first book the best, which went deeper into the creation of the faction system and was the most clever.
So I’m now coming down off the NaNoWriMo writing high, and I must say that it is nice to shower and get dressed before noon or leave the house without feeling like the world is ending, but in a way it’s bittersweet too. It’s so easy to fall back into not-writing. Writing comes naturally, but not writing does too, and after a month of writing 2/3 of a novel by hand, I want a little break. So I’ve cleaned my apartment. I’ve scheduled some blog posts. I’ve made a dinner that took more than half an hour to come to fruition. And it’s very nice. But it’s also nice to write for 8 hours a day, to have an almost complete first draft of a book. I’m excited for next year. I might have to do drafts like this more than once a year and then spend the rest of the year editing. I thrive under deadlines.
It’s definitely an intimidating prospect, 50,000 words in a month, but I’m good with goals. Once I decided to participate in NaNoWriMo, I had no question about my ability to meet the deadline. I was determined to meet it, and I did–that’s just how I am. But it is a huge prospect, and most people are not able to spend so much time in their pursuit of it. I want to raise a glass (filled with the liquid of your choice) to anyone who participated, whether you won or not. In my opinion, you won if you chose to put writing first, if you put time and energy into what had previously been just a passing fancy, if you worked hard developing your story and your skills. You are amazing!
I think one of the most powerful lessons to take away from NaNoWriMo is the power of persistence. To meet this word count, you have to develop a forward momentum. If you look backward, you’ll be discouraged, you’ll strip away words instead of building them up. The best thing is to use that old improv adage “yes, and” because you’re looking for a number, a high number, of words. This is not the time for logic, for tight phrasing, or for editing. This is about word vomit. You’ll discover new things that are better than what you’d written before, and you have to make a note and move on. The momentum is essential, but it’s the most difficult part.
November might be over, but it’s not too late to make writing a priority. The new year is right around the corner and it’s time to make a writing resolution. If you start in December, think how much easier it’ll be to carry that momentum into the new year! My resolution is to have two novels ready to attract elusive agents by the middle of next year. What’s yours?
So you may have noticed that it’s been a little quieter than usual around here. That’s because I’m participating in my first ever NaNoWriMo (like so many things, it’s taken me a long time to jump on the bandwagon).
I’m no stranger to writing sprints, as on a good writing day I’ve been known to put in at least ten pages in three hours. But then I call it a day. I’m too easy on myself, probably because I’m worried that I’ll run out of ideas if I write them down too quickly, which so far hasn’t happened, but you never know. So my challenge doesn’t just involve finishing 50,000 words in a month, which is a mighty challenge in and of itself, but it’s also about finding time to write every day and for longer periods of time.
Therefore, I’m trying something new. I’m writing all 50,000 pages of my first draft on my new science fiction book in a notebook. Yes, by hand. And yes, my hand starts to hurt around five pages out of the seven to eight I’ve challenged myself to write every day. And yes, I could finish the challenge a lot faster if I just typed it out. But I’m enjoying the process of not getting it over with quickly. Since I’m lucky enough to be able to devote my whole day to writing, that’s what I’m trying to do. Today it took me six hours to write all eight pages, but those were eight pages I really had to think about. Every sentence has to be considered before it goes down onto the paper. There might be fewer of them, but something tells me they’re going to need less editing.
Unlike my last book, I’ve started this one with a much rougher idea of where it’s going, so every page is an exploration for me, and I get to see where it’s taking me instead of trying to march my characters from point A to point B. It’s sort of freeing. I have a rough idea of where I’m headed, but no real idea of how I’m going to get there. I love it. I love this whole process. I might start writing all my novels in one month sprints.
I’ll be posting my daily word count on twitter, so if you’re interested in how I’m proceeding be sure to follow me. If you want more details about my book, let me know and I’ll write something up. I’m going to try and keep up with my blogging, but if it gets quiet over here, you know what I’m doing.
Anyone else participating in NanNoWriMo this month? Anyone else like me and insanely trying to write their book by hand? Let me know how you’re doing and what kind of book you’re writing in the comments.
It’s crazy to me that I haven’t read anything by Le Guin before this book (which apparently is the fifth in a series, but there’s no need to worry, you can jump right into this book without missing out on anything). She is a master of science fiction and her prose is just so good, sweeping you right into the narrative. She has this amazing blend of philosophy and science with an achingly good awareness of human nature. It’s both cognizant of realities and idealistic, and it allows us to examine our own society by making it alien and creating distance. Plus the worlds she creates are just so cool. I really loved this book. If you like science fiction and you haven’t read this book… you’re doing yourself a huge disservice.
Since today’s topic was actually a freebie, I thought I’d do a list on the life blood of this year’s reading challenge, which is all about female authors. Making this list wasn’t as easy as I’d thought, as my true favorite author list would be a pretty equal combination of both male and female authors, so I had to broaden my favorites. This means that I went backwards in reading history, and selected authors that made my childhood/young adulthood come to life.
So here they are in alphabetical order:
Margaret Atwood: Atwood is a relatively new discovery for me, as I read her book The Handmaid’s Tale just before 2015 had begun. Her deft mix of social commentary and science fiction is not to be missed, and when she isn’t writing science fiction she has an amazing mastery of character and description that allow her to hop from genre to genre. One day I’d like to be able to write like her–just a little bit.
Jane Austen: Some people claim that music or sports or certain groups of friends got them through high school, but I certainly think Jane Austen receives a lot of thanks for getting me through that period of time. Each of her heroines give different insight in what it means to be a woman, what it means to be in love, and what it means to navigate through an unyielding social system. Beyond the romance, Austen makes her characters people and she gives them the chance to improve themselves.
Meg Cabot: This woman is simply inspiring in the sheer volume of her work combined with its total readability. Her characters are just insecure enough and just strong enough to conquer all of the bizarre challenges she throws their way. Cabot got me through middle school without a doubt, though she did plant an absurd idea in my mind that it was possible to suddenly find out you’re a princess…
Angela Carter: A new discovery of mine also from last year, I can already tell Carter and I are going to be very happy together. Her short story collection The Bloody Chamber was dark and magical and completely enchanting. Her fairy tale adaptations were nothing short of brilliant–innovative, but still capturing that grim and slightly gruesome fairy tale mood.
Emily Dickinson: I tried to keep this list geared towards novelists and not poets, but I couldn’t resist adding this one. Dickinson’s poems capture little microcosms. Her small poems cut right to the heart of the matter and the person reading them.
Gail Carson Levine: Levine and I go way back. I read Ella Enchanted and loved her. Her adaptations have so much light and hope and her heroines have so much gumption. Her books were mainstays in my childhood.
Sylvia Plath: There are some writers you wish you could be as brilliant as, and then there are some you knew you would go crazy (literally) if you attempted to emulate them. Plath is just scary dark and scary good. Her writing makes mental illness accessible–more human and more possible for the average person. If you haven’t read The Bell Jar, you really should.
JK Rowling: All Potter fans think they’re the biggest ones. My love of these books runs very very deep. I’ve read them countless times and I reread them every summer. They capture something that is very hard to explain. She really understands teenagers and the universe she creates is vast and so easy to see yourself living in. I think she’ll continue to capture hearts for years to come.
Zadie Smith: Can I just say I read a lot of good books last year? This is another author I’ve just recently found for myself. Smith’s writing is humorous, witty, poignant, and tight–she has such control over her narrative and her characters. She’s obviously fond of them, but she doesn’t let them get away with just anything. White Teeth is one of the most amazing first novels I’ve ever read.
Patricia C Wrede: Another mainstay of my childhood, Wrede is another of those fantasy authors I couldn’t put down, whether it was Sorcery and Cecilia (cowritten with Caroline Stevermer) or the Enchanted Forest Chronicles. Her heroines were just so feisty and the stories were playful and gripping.
I think what you can tell from these books is that I love well written female protagonists, fantasy, and whimsy mixed with just the right amount of feminism, wit, and gothic sensibilities.
Do any of these authors make your favorites list? What is your favorite book written by one of these amazing women? Let me know in the comments.