What I’ve been reading – early May edition

May 8, 2012

Well, it’s been nearly four months since I checked in on my ’52 books in a year’ and other reader details, so guess what I’m blogging about today? My 52-books count currently stands at 19 since I finished ‘Equal Rites’, by Terry Pratchett, which sounds pretty good to me… though now that I’m doing the math it looks like I’m not ahead of the game like I thought I was. But the important thing is, I’m loving every word of it! A few highlights:

  • Trading in Danger, by Elizabeth Moon. A nice little science fiction piece, alternately fun and gritty. I’ve never read anything written by Moon alone, though I loved ‘Sassinak’ which she co-wrote with Anne McCaffrey – apparently a lot of the detail in Sassinak about space ships and what it was like to fight in one, and live in one while the environmental systems are limping along, were Elizabeth’s, because she visits the same kind of territory to great effect with this book. Soon after I wrote it, I found some of the themes popping up in the next short story I wrote – ‘The Shuttle.’
  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Another great installment in the series, with things going from bad to worse for Harry and his friends at Hogwarts. The school is taken over by a noxious Inquisitor from the Ministry of Magic, and Harry finds out the secret that connects him to the Dark Wizard Voldemort!
  • Mort, by Terry Pratchett. This is one of the first Discworld books that I’ve read, but I really loved the humor and the sense of detail that Pratchett gives to his characters and the wacky world they find themselves in. This book did remind me a lot of Piers Anthony’s ‘On a Pale Horse’, as they both look at the Grim Reaper as a character with an uncomfortable job, and examine the possibilities of the job passing from one Death to another, but Terry Pratchett makes the premise his own as he takes it to the Discworld. (Disclaimer, I have no idea if Pratchett knew about ‘On a Pale Horse’ when he was writing this book – since Piers’ book was published four years earlier, it seems just about possible.)
  • Power of Three, by Diana Wynne Jones. A great little stand-alone fantasy tale, with a fun twist that comes in just about half-way through. I won’t say anything more for fear of spoilers.

I also read a few of the ‘Star Trek: New Frontier” series, and enjoyed “Inheritance” and “The Puppet Masters” as audiobooks. Right now, I’m a little over three quarters of the way through “A Game of Thrones”, right in the middle of the war of the heirs, and hoping that Ned Stark will be free by the end!

What have you enjoyed reading lately?

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It’s goal-setting time again.

December 31, 2011

Time to set goals for 2012 – yikes, where did 2011 slip away to so fast? – and also setting some more specific goals for January. I’ve been thinking about the whole process of setting my own goals, and I’m obviously not alone – Elizabeth Twist posted this great meditation¬†yesterday about what New Year’s resolutions mean to her:

Gone are the days when accountability to others – my angry thesis committee, impatient clients, or needy students – made me hop to it and apply myself… Left to my own devices, I would be facing the spectre of large chunks of time in 2012 with only the vague idea that I would maybe like to write something at some point. It is not enough.

I definitely agree with Elizabeth about the power of self-declared goals, but I’ve also been feeling a little uncertain about it – uncertain about if I’m pushing myself too hard or not hard enough to accomplish my writing dreams, and about if I’m setting myself too many goals or not enough.

Oddly enough, one thing that’s influencing how I feel on all of this is a relatively minor plot point in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, which I’ve been reading nearly every day lately – the fact that as fifth-year students facing their OWL levels, Harry and Ron are having a harder time keeping up with their homework and struggling to buckle down, especially when Hermione says that she’s not going to let them copy her notes any more:

They spent the whole of Sunday in the common room, buried in their books while the room around them filled up, then emptied. It was another clear, fine day and most of their fellow Gryffindors spent the day out int he ground, enjoying what might well be some of the last sunshine that year. By the evening, Harry felt as though somebody had been beating his brain against the inside of his skull.

‘You know, we probably should try and get more homework done during the week,’ Harry muttered to Ron, as they finally laid aside Professor McGonagall’s long essay on the Inanimatus Conjurus Spell and turned miserably to Professor Sinistra’s equally long and difficult essay about Jupiter’s many moons.

Order of the Phoenix, pp264-265, Bloomsbury paperback edition.

I suppose I aspire, at least, to Hermione Granger’s work ethic or something, because I actually felt sorry that I couldn’t manage that kind of hectic slog to finish a Holly Lisle revision worksheet on my own deadline. But now that I’m looking back on what I managed to accomplish in December 2011, I’m thinking that maybe it’s a good thing that I cut myself a little bit of slack. Unlike school or (usually) day jobs, when you’re motivating yourself for personal projects, you don’t really have somebody else’s perspective on how much you can accomplish in a certain amount of time when you really apply yourself.

Month by month, I’ve noticed that I tend to push myself a little harder than I think I can go, so it’s alright if I fall a little short. I can just nod to myself and think, “Maybe I’ll get there next time.”


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