Category Archives: About the Blog

Dusting The Shelves

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Hello. My name is Chanis and it has been 659 days since my last post.

There are plenty of reasons and excuses I can give for my long silence but the simplest is this: the stress outweighed the joy.

I’ve had moments of missing the blog but lately it’s been more than that. I’ve been craving the blog. The start of a new year seems as good a time as any to wipe the dust off the old Bookjacket and crack it open again. So. Here goes.

A (RE)INTRODUCTION
This started with a challenge to read a certain number of new books in a year and a desire to keep track of my first impressions of a book. After a year or two, I found that mixing old books in with the new was a more effective method of meeting my goal. Which is to say: anything goes, really!

Check out the About page for more details about the history/purpose of this blog. There’s a Ratings page which is a comprehensive list of every book I’ve talked about on the site based on how much cash I’d shell out to keep those books in (or out of) my life.

There is also a page called My Shelves. At the time I thought it would be a good way to acquaint people to the kind of books I favor. It may have been a swell idea but the execution of said idea was horribly ill-conceived. I saved pictures of every book cover, put them in alphabetical order (by author and then by title except that books within a series were kept in story order), made collages, AND gave them matching backgrounds. Well done, Past Chanis. There is no way I’m keeping up with all that.

A LOOK AHEAD
So what’s in store for 2017?

The numerical goal: 26 books
The personal goal: To read all the books I own but haven’t read
The blog goals: To post within a week of finishing a book & to keep the posts simple

I expect there will be a high volume of middle grade novels in the mix this year due to a new book club at work. I like variety in the abstract but it requires a lot of upkeep.

A LOOK BEHIND
I have decided to list all the books I read during my absence and give them each a three(ish) sentence review. Because I can. It will make this post excessively long but if you continue, well, you know what you’re getting into.

2015
Going Bovine by Libba Bray: A mix of Holden Caulfield, Percy Jackson, and probably Don Quixote. Not every book is for every person and this book is 0% for me. I cringe to admit that Going Bovine reminded me of Percy Jackson because Percy Jackson is completely relevant to my interests and Going Bovine is 0% for me.

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart: AHHHHHH I SO LOVED THIS BOOK! I’m pretty sure I have a post written about it because it was so completely, amazingly, gratifyingly good. E. Lockhart is brilliant, this book is brilliant, and nearly two years later I still like to sit and think about how brilliant this book is.

The Forgotten Sisters by Shannon Hale: The last book of the Princess Academy series. It is just as lovely and thoughtful and not-what-I-expected-but-totally-better-than-I-expected as the others. Princess Academy on its own is absolute magic; this is a very satisfying extension of that world.

Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened by Allie Brosh: If you want to laugh until you cry, are gasping for air, and your stomach aches even when the topic is depression, get this book immediately. You can also check out the Hyperbole and a Half blog — I do believe everything in the book is on the blog — but it is oddly thrilling to turn the brightly colored pages and to hug a physical object when you’re LITERALLY laughing out loud. This is for me and unless you’re physically sickened by swear words it’s probably for you, too.

Cinderella’s Shoes by Shonna Slayton: This is exactly the book you want after you’ve read Cinderella’s Dress. It delves more deeply into the story and lore of the original Cinderella and sends Kate across a post-war Europe. It’s beautiful and sad and full of magic and full of life.

Nightmares! by Jason Segel and Kirsten Miller: Yes, THAT Jason Segel. I read it because he came to my town for a book signing and it seemed like the thing to do. It’s a story that respects children, assumes that they can handle uncomfortable subjects, and although it’s not a feel-good book, the experience of reading this book felt very good. I would recommend it for pretty much anyone.

Sideways Stories From Wayside School, Wayside School Is Falling Down, and Wayside School Gets A Little Stranger by Louis Sachar: I re-read these because I worked on the play and I remembered loving these books as a kid. They are stranger, darker, and far more brilliant than I remembered.

Welcome to Night Vale by Joseph Fink and Jeffery Cranor: The novel to accompany the genius and bizarre podcast. This was my first audio book experience because Cecil Baldwin (the voice of Night Vale) did the narration and it seemed appropriate to listen rather than read. I enjoyed it but don’t know how well it reads for someone who’s not already a fan of the podcast.

Frog and Toad Are Friends, Frog and Toad Togetherand Frog and Toad All Year by Arnold Lobel: Again, I re-read these because I worked on the show and had fond childhood memories of the stories. My remembrance of these books was quite different from reality. The stories are completely lovely even if my memory was inaccurate.

Winter by Marissa Meyer: The last book of the Lunar Chronicles — and the only time I ever looked forward to winter. I made a weekend out of this; reading it late into the night, sleeping for a bit, and then reading until I finished. It’s a good book and a great conclusion to the series but there’s not enough Cress and Thorne.

The Princess in Black and The Princess in Black and the Perfect Princess Party by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale: I bought the first book for my niece, found out she already owned it, and decided not to return it. I sent the second book to my niece but I had to read it before wrapping it. A fabulous series for young/reluctant readers.

2016
Leviathan, Behemoth, and Goliath by Scott Westerfeld: This series was actually the subject of my very first post (read it here). This time around I listened to the audio books which are narrated by Alan Cumming. How do you make a flawless series even better? Alan. Cumming.

Vicious by V.E. Schwab: And this is the book that introduced me to the magic comes from V.E./Victoria Schwab. When she conceived this book, she asked herself, “Can I take two villains and make you root for one of them?” The answer is YES.

Paper Towns by John Green: Believe it or not, this was my first John Green novel. I enjoyed the Paper Towns movie more than the Fault in Our Stars movie (*dodges thrown objects*) and so this was the book I chose to read. There is a line that says something like, “It is a treacherous thing to see a person as more than a person” which I’ve almost certainly misquoted but the sentiment resonates deeply with me.

A Darker Shade of Magic and A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab: These books cemented my Schwab obsession. It was a slowish start for me as I adjusted to the style of ADSOM but ultimately, this series is probably better than Vicious. I recommend reading Vicious first so that you can properly appreciate how brilliant it is and then move onto ADSOM so that you can marvel in the increasing genius.

The Islands at the End of the World and The Girl at the Center of the World by Austin Aslan: These are by a local author and I finally got around to reading them. They are far more doomsday than I usually read or watch so it took a while to get used to the style and the construct. I did enjoy the stories though and plan to read his next books more promptly.

The Chronicles of Narnia (all except The Last Battle) by C.S. Lewis: I’ve read each of these multiple times but I recently discovered that there’s a set of audio books narrated by Kenneth Branagh, Derek Jacobi, and the like. The narration is as wonderful as it sounds but, with all due love and admiration for Patrick Stewart, it’s difficult to get past the opening of The Last Battle and I abandoned ship. Traditionally The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is my favorite but I found the audio of The Magician’s Nephew to be the most compelling.

Midnight in Austenland by Shannon Hale: I need an emoji for this — one that I’m not sure exists — with gritted teeth and Xed out eyes. I read it on an overnight flight and that may be the only reason I finished it. Guys, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a bigger Shannon Hale fan but this book made absolutely no sense to me (and, when combined with travel delirium, it made the Seattle airport super creepy).

Zeroes by Scott Westerfeld, Margo Lanagan, and Deborah Biancotti: This is the book I read on the flight home. It was interesting and I’m glad I read  it but it’s nowhere near the genius of the Leviathan series. The sequel (Swarm) came out recently and it’s on my to-read but not necessarily my to-buy list.

Thanks for reading! The irregularly scheduled programming will start soon!

2014 Year in Review

Three years completed and it just gets keeps getting better. I surpassed my goal for the first time, ending the year with an even 30. Yay! Mixing in the re-reads definitely helped — they cleansed the palate after heavier reads and allowed me to keep up momentum. Plus, I enjoyed reacquainting myself with these past favorites.

So, statistics:

*22 new books
*8 re-reads
*11 new authors

There weren’t any resounding disasters among this year’s books — the ones that didn’t suit my taste were impeccably written. Here’s a rundown of the more dazzling discoveries:

*Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein broke my heart in all the best ways. It’s probably the purest historical fiction I’ve ever read and devastatingly beautiful.

*Unnatural Creatures, the short story collection curated by Neil Gaiman, proved to be entirely magical. Despite the numerous authors and settings, the spirit of the book remained cohesive.

*Shannon Hale’s Dangerous defied the boundaries of genre to create an absolutely thrilling contemporary-superhero-sci-fi.

*The Lunar Chronicles (Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress) by Marissa Meyer blew my mind. The characters, the world-building, and the sneakily logical use of fairy tale elements all combined in a deeply complex and connected manner. Cress in particular was a marvel and a delight.

*Shonna Slayton’s Cinderella’s Dress was a lovely debut novel that blended historical fiction with fairy tale. I hope there are many more books to come.

*E. Lockhart’s We Were Liars was an off-the-beaten path gem. I found it absolutely compelling, and could use more of this type on my reading list.

*I fell head-over-heels in love with Bridget Zinn’s Poison for its charm, wit, and levity.

*Kiersten White’s Illusions of Fate captured my heart with its brilliant characters and complete fearlessness. I will quickly snatch up her subsequent novels.

This year I added a rating system which is, at least in my brain, more quantifiable than the standard one to five stars. Technically, it is as arbitrary and subjective as anything else, but it eliminates gray area by asking how much would I be willing to invest in each title? Would I buy the full-price hardcover, new paperback, discounted e-book, borrow it from the library, or just walk on by? This list is a good place to get an at-a-glance look at my recommendations.

So, what’s in store for 2015? Well, since I breezed past my goal, I suppose it’s time to raise the bar. Next year, I’m aiming for 35 books, and will still keep it a mix of new and old. Four of the series I love get new books within a six week period so prepare yourself for some sequels, especially early in the year. I will probably keep exploring the work of authors I discovered this year, but will try to keep adding new authors. Although my to-read list is pretty long, I always welcome suggestions! Chime in if you have any requests 🙂

May your new year be full of grand adventures!

New Page: Ratings

I’ve been noticing for a while that several qualifiers have crept into my “At the end of the day” conclusions.  I’ve mentioned that I don’t like to choose favorites, and apparently categorizing is troublesome as well.  I finally came up with a logical “ratings” system, for lack of a better term, and have added a separate page called… Ratings!  Here’s what works for my brain:

Hardcover = Loved, want to keep forever
Paperback = Enjoyed, want to keep around
E-book = Worth the read, but not life-changing
Library = Worth the read, but not the dollars
Walk On By = Not my flavor

Obviously, this is just as subjective as anything else that’s my opinion, but it seems more tangible than a handful of stars.  This isn’t based on what I actually own, rather on what level of cash I’d be willing to shell out.  Also, I’m doing this for the new reads on the blogs since it would be redundant to list the re-reads.

So check it out, especially if you are interested in reading any yourself and trust my taste 😉  If not, the library or a used bookstore is always a great option!

2013 Year in Review

Man, oh, man, 2013 was an excellent year for reading.  I had quite the run going, with one essentially flawless book leading into another and into another.  Even the not-flawless books were still respectfully good — my biggest strikes were the ones I read in connection with Book Club.

So, here are highlights from 2013:

*Karen Thompson-Walker’s The Age of Miracles which is stunningly beautiful and not one I would have stumbled across on my own.

*My first Stephen King novel, The Eyes of the Dragon, which was brilliant and not one I would have picked up on my own.

*Maureen Johnson’s The Name in the Star which provided a genuine moment of anything-could-happen-right-now-and-it-would-work-and-I-have-no-idea-which-direction-this-is-going-to-take-but-whatever-it-is-will-be-amazing (I suppose in shorthand, the term is “adrenaline”).

*Finally got around to reading Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief and fell in love with the little German bibliophile.

*Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson and the Olympians series which blends myth and the modern world (mostly) logically and completely sarcastically.

*Cat Valente’s The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making which is the most magical book I’ve ever read and the quintessence of literature.

*The opportunity to experience something new from my most enduring favorite author in Robin McKinley’s Pegasus.

This year, I was able to develop some consistent reading habits and tore through several of those books at a remarkable pace.  However, I found it difficult to keep the pace on the blogging side of things (as evidenced by the 7 day delay on this very post).  The trick for this upcoming year will be to sync the reading and writing better.

So what is in store for this upcoming year? you ask.  I’m going to stick with the goal of 25 (with fresh motivation — I was so close to the finish line in 2013!).  I have loved branching out and finding new things to read, but I miss my old favorites.  This year, I plan to mix in some re-reads with the new finds.  Also, there will probably be a number of sequels this year, since every series I started in 2013 was worth continuing.  And as always, I’m open to recommendations!

Thanks for two great years and happy reading!

 

2012 Year in Review

Okay, so I didn’t quite make it to 50…

But I still call the experiment a success because I read about 17 more new-to-me books than a normal year.  That is, I read:

*19 new books
*13 new authors
*6 books out of my favored genre
*8 five-star books
*4 four-star books

Makes for a pretty good year : )  This project did teach me that when reading a book for the first time, I have trouble setting it down.  I tried reading a chapter before going to bed or on my 30 minute lunch break, but it’s rough.  If I like the book, I don’t notice that the chapter has finished or I have to stop in the middle of something great.  If I don’t like the book, it’s that much harder to return to it and press on.  However, it is often harder to find the time to read a book properly, that is in several hour chunks.  Finding a balance there is something I hope to achieve going forward.

This year, I think perhaps a 50-book goal is a bit… ambitious, so I’ll be aiming for 25 instead.  Good news is, I have the first one of 2013 ready to go.

Day 26: Validated

woohoo!

Well friends, I’ve done it.  I’ve passed that 50K mark and taken my place among the 2012 National Novel Writing Month winners.  Before undertaking this project, I had hoped to post weekly progress reports so that the blog would remain active, but obviously that didn’t happen.  (I’m very glad I didn’t promise to do so.)  This month has been crazy on many different levels, and when I say that writing a novel in 30 days has been the least mad part of my November, I think you’ll understand just how little time I’ve had for blogging.

But in celebration of crossing the finish line, I wanted to take a moment to check back in.  To be honest, I’m not sure how I finished already because I feel like I had more slacker days than last year.  However, my good days must have been fabulous enough to keep me going strong.  The NaNoWriMo website automatically updates a bar graph and I worked very hard in the beginning to stay above the par line, then over time to stay two days ahead of par.  Some days I wrote just so I could see the line go higher and of course the more you write, the easier it is to see the difference.  Turns out that bar graph is a HUGE motivator for me, but being so far ahead didn’t drive me to keep up a breakneck pace.  I often felt like I could afford to take some time off and only wrote the cursory words to nudge up the graph.   After a few days of piddling, I’d binge again to reclaim my big lead.  Good, bad, or completely normal, the process ultimately worked for me because I’m sitting here with 50,170 words of newly created fiction and four days of November remaining.

I’m very happy with the project, not necessarily as it stands now, but with where it’s going and the discoveries I’ve made along the way.  There are some structural problems inherent in what I’m doing (but I knew that going in) and I’m missing at least a couple characters (oops), but at least I’m armed with a list of things to address in rewrites.  That and a long list of research topics — how does one sculpt a human figure or shear a sheep after all?  I’m also not finished with the story quite yet (I know, I know, I said that was my goal this year, but I needed to brag about the 50K), but I left off at a really exciting place, so I’m eager to return to it tomorrow.   There are still four more days for me to take it closer to the end and I intend to use them.  Realistically, I don’t think I’ll reach the end of the plot by December 1, but I’m comfortable with what I’ve accomplished and with where I’m going.  If all goes well, I will continue the daily writing and/or researching indefinitely, eternally.  It’ll be tough without that bar graph (the ones I make myself aren’t quite as effective), but at least I’ve taken 26 steps in the right direction.

And what does this mean for the irregularly scheduled posts this blog usually broadcasts?  Not a lot, unfortunately.  Now that I’ve lived up to NaNo’s expectations, I have to face some of the reality I’ve been putting off.  I have another, far less pleasant, mad dash ahead of me, and I can’t make any promises until that is over.  However, my reading list is growing ever-longer and I can’t wait to dive in.

Before I go, I want to share two articles that I came across shortly before the NaNoWriMo adventure.  The first is an attack on the Novel Writing Month, claiming that we should celebrate readers not writers.  The second is a well-formed rebuttal that captures my thoughts in a more eloquent fashion than I could muster.

http://www.salon.com/2010/11/02/nanowrimo/

AND

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/jacketcopy/2010/11/12-reasons-to-ignore-the-naysayers-do-nanowrimo.html

In response to the first article and in defense of NaNo, there will always be the egotistical writer who thinks that their words are sacred, but NaNo does not endorse sending manuscripts to anyone (or self-publishing) immediately following the event.  All through the month, writers are reminded that it’s only a first draft and we should also be editing… just not in November.  And one of my recurring thoughts through this process was that I need to read more books to see how other writers handle the problems I’m facing.  Which, by the way, is why I started this challenge/blog — an idea inspired by one of the NaNoWriMo pep talks from last year.  I want to delve into what’s already on the market to inform the choices I make in my own writing.  Speaking of, I need some suggestions for really good uses of third person omniscient.  If you know any, send them my way!

Sabbatical

Hello!  I’ve stayed away from personal posts, but I’ve been quiet lately and I know it will be a while before I post again.  In September, I changed jobs and cities, so there was a period of goodbyes, moving, adjusting, and not reading.  Thanks to a long train ride, I did finish Red Riding Hood, but I had trouble deciding what to read next.

My priorities have been stretched with the new job, and I’ve focused my reading time on stuff for work, which are the plays we’re doing and the plays we might do.  Originally, I intended to treat the plays as any other book and I even started a post, but it never went anywhere.  Plays just read differently than novels, and even though I’m comfortable reading them, I can’t get lost in their world the same way.  Some people, usually directors, can imagine the full potential of the text as they read, but I tend to look at plays on a more practical level — scene shifts, quick changes, and other shenanigans.  Also, I evaluate plays less on the words and more on the overall production experience.  Yes, certain plays are inherently fabulous or dreadful, but some of my best shows have been my least favorite stories (and vice versa).  Besides, I’m not sure what state of publication these are in and I want to be respectful of the work in progress.

All that to say, yes, I am still reading new stuff; no, I am not going to talk about it here.

And now my excuse for why you may not hear from me in the near future.  Several years ago, a friend told me about NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) which is a program that challenges people to write 50,000 words of a novel in the 30 days of November.  I always thought it was a good idea, but didn’t participate until last year.  I had a blast, locking up the inner critic and typing like the wind, knowing that people all over the world were doing the same.  No way I’m missing out this year!  I approached last NaNo with virtually no direction or preparation, and it worked, but not well.  This year, I’ve been doing the research, planning ahead, and have a bigger goal than winning — I aim to finish.  Oh, I hit 50K all right, last November, but I didn’t finish the story until February (after about 2 months of doing nothing at all).  Not for me, not this year.

So for the next month, my energies will go toward that project.  I do plan to return with more bookish posts in December and carry on from there.  Yall, I love this blog.  I love the reading of new adventures and thinking about them in great detail.  However, I tend to ponder for a long time, which slows things down, and I do become distracted easily.  For those of you who have stuck with me, thank you, and I promise there will be more.  For those of you who think NaNoWriMo sounds intriguing, I encourage you to check it out.  As they say, it’s thirty wonderful days and nights of literary abandon!

I’ll be back as soon as I can — for now, all the best.