Thanksgiving 2017

Happy Thanksgiving/Turkey Day/Thursday

(depending on your location/preference)

When I think about all the great things that have happened around the blog and behind the scenes this year leaves me at a loss for words, let me list a few things I’m thankful for — a very incomplete list, I assure you:

  • The readers of this blog, the authors who’ve corresponded with me/provided books for me to read/encouraged me — even promoted this here project (seriously, Nathaniel Barber and Darrell Drake have done almost as much to advertise my work as I have). There are publicists, publishers, etc. I’ve been working with this year who’ve especially made things great — I’d mention some of you by name, but I’d inadvertently miss one I meant to include and would feel horrible nd cause offense.
  • Books
  • Authors!
  • Books
  • Coffee (and other beverages both caffeinated and adult)
  • Books
  • Time to read
  • Books
  • Easily finding an appropriate image for this post for a change
  • Audiobooks and talented narrators
  • The Nampa Public Library (and The LYNX! Consortium) — and their generous grace period /li>
  • Books
  • Goodreads, WordPress, NetGalley, BookLikes
  • Books
  • Evernote
  • Books
  • Authors!
  • Authors!
  • My supportive, understanding and encouraging wife and kids who do a pretty decent job pretending to care when their old man drones on and on about what he’s reading.

  • Again, all of you who read, follow, like, tweet, comment, email, etc. this page — you have no idea how much every little bit is appreciated.
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Happy Father’s Day!

I tried to take a photo of my actual book, but my photography skills were at their typical levels, so I had to opt for images I found online.

I know he’s not everyone’s cup of tea (for reasons I understand, but can’t fathom), but when Greg Dean introduced me to Patrick Rothfuss and his work 10 years ago, it reminded me just how much I could still love Fantasy literature (or just anything I hadn’t been reading for years). I’m an unabashed fan still.

So my kids scored themselves some major brownie points this past Father’s Day when they went in and pre-ordered me an autographed copy of the 10th Anniversary Edition of The Name of the Wind. It showed up yesterday, and is gorgeous. That stunning cover is just the beginning — the full-page illustrations are wonderful, the bonus content looks great, the maps are very impressive. And all of it just reminds me how much I liked the book the three times that I’ve read it, and that it’s been 6 years or so since I last did so.

It’s taking all I have just to not call in sick for the next couple of days to re-immerse myself in this book.

At the same time, I just don’t know if I can touch this volume again. Or let anyone else, for that matter, without cotton gloves or something. I just don’t want to mess this up.

Just wanted to take a moment and publicly thank my kiddos for a great gift, and stress to anyone on the fence about picking this up that they really should (second printing is under way).

A word of thanks

I’m not going to name names here, because if I do, I’ll forget someone and feel horrible. But I wanted to say a brief word of thanks to all the publicists, publisher representatives and authors I’ve worked with on Book Tours or just reviews in return for books who are friendly, decent and nice to work with.

The last couple of weeks have not be entirely pleasant along those lines, with one notable exception (if you’ve paid attention to what I’ve said, you’ll know who that was) — but I’ve received a few emails this weekend that I have actually been happy to open. They served to remind me that this thing can be fun and rewarding (beyond the reading), and that there’s a lot of good people I’ve interacted with over the last couple of years.

Since I started taking requests for reviews/tours/etc. I’ve dealt with people who can write, people who can work with people, and those who aren’t so good at one or the other. Since I blog about books, I can put up with people who give me a good book and aren’t the easiest to work with; and it really bothers me that I can’t be nicer when there’s someone who is great to work with and is having me read a book that’s not all that well done. There’s little sweeter than someone who’s easy (even fun) to work with and is promoting a good book. I need to do a better job of acknowledging this after the posts are done.

So, if you’re reading this and you think you’re in that last category? Thanks a million.

Top Ten (and a bonus) Books from My Childhood

Having trouble finishing a post in time for this morning — mostly it’s that there are too many things I want to say about a few books and I’m having trouble narrowing it down. So, here’s a re-run of something I liked having written.
I was bemoaning how long my current read was the other day and how it was going to leave me without a post for today, and my ever-so-clever daughter suggested, “Why don’t you list the Top 10 Books from your childhood?” That sounded pretty fun, so I figured that I might as well. It turned out to have been better than I thought, so kudos to her.

Ranking them really would be impossible, but then 11 came to mind really without any effort, and I couldn’t axe one of them, so there’s a bonus entry to the list. All of these I read more than I can count — if they’re part of a series, these were the ones that I came back to most often. The links are to Goodreads pages because I can’t find good official pages for all the books/authors (a true sign of my age, I guess).

Enough of that, on with the trip down Amnesia Lane:

The Castle of LlyrThe Castle of Llyr

by Lloyd Alexander
The Chronicles of Prydain taught me most of what I needed to know about Fantasy (augmenting The Chronicles of Narnia‘s lessons). Fflewddur Fflam here is at his best, I think it’s here that I fell in love with Eilonwy, Taran’s more of a real hero than before, and you get plenty of Gurgi (who I just have to mention because thinking of him makes me smile). There’s peril, the characters grow more than they have before, a hint of romance . . . it’s not the most important book in the series, but I think it’s pivotal.

Danny Dunn and the Anti-Gravity PaintDanny Dunn and the Anti-Gravity Paint

by Raymond Abrashkin and Jay Williams
I didn’t know until today that this was the first in the series, I always figured it was mid-series. It’s the only one of the series that I owned — thankfully, the library had a few more — so it’s the one I read most. It was also my favorite — I just loved the stuff at the edge of our solar system and Prof. Bullfinch and Doctor Grimes making musical instruments from their hair — stupid as all get out, but it worked for me.

The Mystery of the Dead Man's RiddleThe Mystery of the Dead Man’s Riddle

by William Arden
While Encyclopedia Brown (see below) got me reading mysteries, it was The Three Investigators — Jupiter Jones, Bob Andrews and Pete Crenshaw (btw, the only thing there I had to look up was Pete’s last name — not bad for a series I haven’t touched since the late 80’s) got me hooked on reading detective series. The Dead Man’s Riddle was one of my favorites — and I think the first or second I read — something about the Cockney slang kept bringing me back to it. I read what I do today because of this series, really.

SuperfudgeSuperfudge

by Judy Blume
I remember Tales of a Fourth-Grade Nothing being funnier, but this was a better story — the Fletchers leaving NYC, Peter maturing, Fudge being a real pain, not just a cute nuisance. Blume taught me a lot about how to read non-genre stuff, probably paving the way for Hornby, Tropper, Weiner, etc.

The Last of the Really Great WhangdoodlesThe Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles

by Julie Edwards
What a great world, what a great magic system . . . I’m not sure I can express what this book meant to me as a kid, and the copious warm-fuzzies the memory brings up. I remember that it was in the pages of this book about a magic kingdom that I first learned about DNA and RNA (and what those letters meant) — thanks, elementary school science classes. The creatures’ names in this are great (and, as an adult, I can “hear” Andrews saying them in my mind for an added layer of fun). There’s a great deal of whimsy here, a sense of play that permeates this — even when it gets silly. The kingdom’s motto, “peace, love and a sense of fun” really sums up the spirit of the book.

Me and My Little BrainMe and My Little Brain

by John D. Fitzgerald, Mercer Mayer (illus.)
Sure, the series was supposedly about Tom, but J. D.’s the real hero of the books. He has a conscience, a better moral compass than his brother — and is probably just as smart. This is the book that lets him shine as he ought to have all along. All the books had their strong points, and were fun, but this ruled them all.

The Phantom TollboothThe Phantom Tollbooth

by Norton Juster, Jules Feiffer (illus.)
Such wordplay! What a great, twisted way to teach how important words and ideas are. Seriously, just a wonderful book. The humor is so off-kilter, any appreciation I have for puns came from this book (and it set the standard that a pun must achieve for me not to groan). If you haven’t seen the documentary about it, The Phantom Tollbooth: Beyond Expectations, get on it. (I contributed to the Kickstarter for it, I should add).

The Voyage of the Dawn TreaderThe Voyage of the Dawn Treader

by C. S. Lewis
I remember the bookstore where I bought this, the date and month that I bought it, and reading a good chunk of it before I got home. I read this one more than the rest of the series (Prince Caspian a close second). I just love this one — you get Reep at his bravest and funniest, some really odd creatures, an epic story, and Eustace’s redemption (back when I did crazy things like this, I almost got a tattoo of Eustace as Dragon). Who could ask for more?

Alan Mendelsohn the Boy from MarsAlan Mendelsohn, the Boy from Mars

by Daniel M. Pinkwater
Pinkwater has funnier and stranger books (both before and after this one), but there was heart, there was depth — there was length! — to this story about a kid who didn’t really fit in until he made a friend who didn’t want to fit in. This is another one where I can peg the place and time I bought it. Science Fiction-y in a real world (didn’t know you could do that!), comic book geeks as heroes, and real non-sanitized-for-kids emotions. There’s no way this wouldn’t be a favorite. More than the rest on this list, I’m thinking of finding my old copy and taking it out for another spin (because I just read the next one a couple of years ago).

The Westing GameThe Westing Game

by Ellen Raskin
If I had to pick one off this list (and I don’t), this would probably be my favorite. I re-read it two years ago, and it was one of my favorite experiences that year with a book. The characters are great, the story was so clever, the writing so crisp. There’s nothing wrong with this book at all.

I saw a hardcover reprinting of this on Monday, and had to fight to resist buying a new copy. Kind of regretting that now. [Note: I went back a couple of days later and bought the hardcopy. It looks very nice on my shelf]

Encyclopedia Brown Boy DetectiveEncyclopedia Brown, Boy Detective

by Donald J. Sobol
Summer after second grade, we were on a forever-long road trip and I was bored, so I demanded my parents buy me something to read. I must’ve been a real snot about it, because at the next town, they did. I got two books, this one and Sugar Creek Gang Screams in the Night (not the best in the series, but it was good enough to read several times). It blew me away — I loved the puzzles, the characters, the idea. I wanted to be a P. I. This was my first mystery book, and it clearly set the stage for most of what I’ve read since (about a third of what I read).
Were you a fan of any of these as a kid? What were some of your faves? Have you read them lately?

Open Apology to Susan Barton and Robert Germaux

Public screw up, public apology.

I’ve been out of town for a couple of days (roughly 5 pm Tuesday to 11:40pm Thursday) for some medical screening and evaluations for one of my kids (long story, not that relevant, but if you’re super curious, feel free to check out The Backup Kidney blog). To help keep things alive during that time, I signed up for a couple of Book Tours — posts that are pretty much prepared by someone else, and can be scheduled well ahead of time.

One of those was for the entertaining read, One by One by Robert Germaux, as put together by Susan Barton. Those posts went up Thursday, technically yesterday now. Monday while packing, I finished putting those together, got them scheduled to post and checked another item off my pre-trip To Do list, and thought no more about them.

They looked fine, everything worked in Preview mode.

Then this morning, somewhere between a chest X-Ray and an echocardiogram (I’m not exactly sure when), I got an email from Ms. Barton that things weren’t looking right — no images were showing up — and could I please fix that. Well, no, I was on a spotty and slow connection with only my phone — I really couldn’t even get a reply composed given all that was going on. I was 400+ miles and 13-14 hours away from being able to sit down and fix things.

I don’t know what happened, again, it all looked good Monday night. I didn’t bother to troubleshoot — I just uploaded the files with different names and changed the coding on the posts. I believe things are displaying correctly now. I sure hope so. If not, I’ll try again as soon as I get home from work tomorrow — and then, I don’t know, try self-immolation.

I’ve given the explanation, now the apology — I’m very sorry, Ms. Barton and Mr. Germaux. I said I’d do something and I didn’t deliver. The “irresponsible” in the blog title is supposed to mean that I read whatever, with only a regard for what catches my eye, not in an effort to better myself or be literary or live up to whatever standard — it’s not supposed to be an ethic.

Lowering Expectations

When I get home from work today, my copy of Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire should be waiting for me, I’ve been eagerly waiting for this book for about a year now.

I know (well, I fear) that it won’t be as good as Every Heart a Doorway — it can’t be.

That doesn’t mean it won’t be good, just not as good. As long as I remember that, I won’t be disappointed. Which is my biggest fear.

Am I the only one who plays mind-games like this?

The Mail I Get . . .

(with apologies to Lee Goldberg for stealing his title for blog posts to describe the strange, the obnoxious, the puzzling emails that he gets.)

Have myself a nasty case of eyestrain today — which makes this whole thing interesting — I got about half of a post written, but I can’t read it, so who knows how good it is. Thankfully, I can still make out graphics enough to black out revealing information, so I can tell a little story and still get a post up today. My eldest assures me that I got the graphics right — and he even fixed a typo that I couldn’t see.

Last year I got this email:

I responded (I seem to have sent several emails that day, most of which were overdue, so I didn’t realize that this one wasn’t):

I got the book, didn’t like it at all, posted about it, and then a couple of weeks later, I got this email:

I chose not to reply.

Fast-forward to this week, when I got this from the same author:

Believe it or not, I said I’d be happy to read it — I think there’s a really good chance that I’ll like this one. I really hope I do — I prefer liking things to any alternatives. (and, yeah, it’d be a better ending to the story).