May top reads

May was a busy month with little time for serious reading but, of course, I still managed to pick up some good ones. It seems I overloaded on sci-fi and fantasy this month! Everything I read and watched is, as always, reviewed here. (For last year’s reviews, go here.) 

  • Bumped, by Megan McCafferty – post-apocalyptic YA fantasy that almost has you believing it could happen. 
  • Dark Places, by Gillian Flynn – brilliantly written but very, very disturbing.
  • Bellwetherby Connie Willis – funny, satirical, romantic sci-fi, and only a little bit disturbing. 

The best of the month’s movies were…

  • Saving Grace – light-hearted and funny
  • Thin Blue Line – you’ll either love it or hate it – British humor 
  • The Mountains of the Moon – powerful and intense 

So what have you read or watched lately that’s worth sharing?

April top reads

I really meant not to read any fiction this month, and not doing so forced my imagination to find other ways to occupy itself, giving rise to a new novel that I’m now working on. But about three weeks into the month my addiction to other people’s words overwhelmed me and sent me trawling through my bookshelves, where I found three old favorites and, to my delight, one that’s been there so long that I was sure I must have read it, only when I opened it up it turned out to be a brand new treasure! 

Everything I read and watched is, as always, reviewed here. (For last year’s reviews, go here.) I have only two recommendations this month – but each is bigger than one book.

  • The Discworld Series, by Terry Pratchett – fantasy, humor trending toward satire. From 1983 to his recent death, Pratchett wrote 40 novels in this series, and they are all wonderful. His fans have different opinions regarding the order in which to read them, but I favor reading them in the order they were written. Start with The Color of Magic and The Light Fantastic, which are considerably simpler and more lightweight than the subsequent books but provide a good introduction to the Discworld.
  • Regency romances by Georgette Heyer – not for feminists who take themselves too seriously, or for romance readers who require heaving bosoms and throbbing thighs, but if you enjoy well-crafted characters, clever dialogue, consistent and carefully-researched insight into the period, and unpredictable story-lines, you’ll probably love Heyer. (She also wrote mysteries, which I enjoy less; they haven’t worn as well, in my opinion.)

The best of the month’s movies were…

  • The Imitation Game – based on historical facts, a heartbreaking story in the context of a tense thriller
  • Chef – clever and poignant, it falls short of being a great movie but is nonetheless well worth watching 

I definitely am more creatively productive if I’m not drowning out my own stories with those told by other people, so will continue to limit my reading at least until my book gains more traction. But not reading at all? Nah, that’s not gonna fly!

March top reads

This month’s reading was completely out of control. I love, love, love books, and can’t imagine a life without them – but sometimes they’re like a drug, and reading becomes a compulsion – and a way to avoid “real life” – rather than an enriching way to spend leisure time. So for April I’m taking a sabbatical – but in the meantime, everything I have read this year is briefly reviewed on my Books, etc. page. (Go here for 2014’s reviews, dating back to last September.)

There were some real goodies among my March books, which I’d love to share:

  • One Day, by David Nicholls – romantic literary fiction, an interesting approach to the story that works due to the quality and consistency of his writing
  • The Last Anniversary, by Liane Moriarty – such a fun read, full of unexpected twists and delightful characters
  • Bad Feminist, by Roxane Gay – stimulating, readable essays that made me think

And the best of the month’s movies were…

  • Maleficent – new take on an old fairy story, with an unexpectedly powerful performance by Angelina Jolie
  • Transcendence post-apocalypse sci-fi with Johnny Depp – nuff sed
  • Rabbit-Proof Fence – based on a heartbreaking true story, beautifully done 

Happy reading! 

January top reads

As always, I glommed down a bunch of books this month, and also watched quite a few movies. They’re all reviewed on my Books, etc. page. (I’ve been doing this since around September last year; go here for 2014’s reviews.)

I thought it would be good to give an extra mention to the ones I enjoyed most, so here goes:

  • Next, by Michael Crichton – an intense fantasy thriller, gave me chills
  • Heartburn, by Nora Ephron – lightweight, funny, easy read
  • Coming Clean, by Kimberly Rae Miller – a moving memoir about growing up with hoarders

And the best of the month’s movies were…

  • The Grand Budapest Hotel – witty and powerful; I have to own it because I’ll need to watch it again, and then  again
  • Election – a fun comedy despite some dark humor
  • The 100 – complete junk, and I’m a junkie 

Hmm, not the most challenging month of reading, I must confess. No matter; I’m halfway through a wonderful book, and have a pile of promising reads next to my bed. February’s looking good!

Raising Steam, by Terry Pratchett

Discworld fantasy, published in 2013, available from Amazon.

I was so saddened, a few years back, to learn that Terry Pratchett had developed Alzheimer’s Syndrome. I assumed that would be the end of the Discworld, of which there was so much more still to explore. It’s great to be able to report that I was wrong! “Raising Steam” is the best fun read I’ve had in a while – absurdly complicated subplots, witty word plays, and fully three-dimensional characters, And yes, as always, there’s playful satire so it carries a wee bit of a message – enough to tweak the reader’s attention without burdening one too heavily. (No apologies here for intellectual laziness. Sometimes one just wants a chuckle.)

This installment from the Discworld takes us first to Sto Lat, where we meet bashfully obsessive young Dick Simnel, his slide rule, and the gleamingly beautiful Iron Girder. Then on to Ankh Morpork, where Lord Vetinari offers Moist von Lipwig a choice: add another hat to those he already wears – responsibility for the new railway, in addition to charge of the Royal Bank, the Mint, and the Post Office – or lose the head you wear your hats on. The story quickly builds up a head of steam and takes the reader on a twisting track that takes in rebel dwarfs, mechanically inspired goblins, talking golem horses, conspiracies and coups, politics and even the occasional hint of romance.

Just a taste…

“When it came to looks the Quirm goblins seemed exactly the same as the ones over the border in Ankh-Morpork. However, unlike the Ankh-Morpork goblins, the Quirmian goblins were dressed in a way that could only be called snazzy. They had a certain panache unavailable to their Ankh-Morpork brethren, and a whiff about them of what was probably eau de snail. Admittedly, the materials on show were effectively the same – bits of animal skin or indeed the animals themselves, birds, feathers – all embellished with sparkling stones. It was as if goblins had discovered taxidermy, but hadn’t quite got the important, nay, essential point of scooping out the messy bits first. But trust Quirm goblins to make their own haute couture.”

Seriously, how can one not just love such icky imagery? Makes me want to go back to the beginning of the series and work my way through it again, just for the sheer pleasure of watching his world take shape.

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