Being the voracious reader I am, I tend to source my books from a variety of sources…
1 – Bookstores. To be fair, I bought a lot more while I was living back in Vancouver because I truly loved the independent bookstore (The Book Warehouse) I used to frequent on a regular basis, often picking up some of the staff picks suggested by their employees (as opposed to titles, ordained by the head offices of big bookstores, disguised as staff picks). Unfortunately, I have yet to find a good bookstore here in Toronto, so my purchase of actual print books has fallen off considerably.
2 – The iBook store. This one is, admittedly, the easiest. I’ll just search out the title I’m looking for or get something interesting from the Limited Time: $4.99 or less selection (Sara Perry’s The Essex Serpent for only $1.99!). This is fast becoming my preferred way to read as I can do so late at night without need of a bedside lamp. Instead, I just fire up the screen brightness to maximum, making it easy on my eyes while, at the same time, unfortunately, slightly irradiating my girlfriend sleeping beside me. I especially like the fact that iBooks let me know exactly how many pages remain in a given chapter, giving me something to look forward to.
3 – Kindle. Amazon also offers great deals on books, although you’ll be hard pressed to find them unless you know exactly what you’re looking for. I mean, is it just me or are the “deals” offered on Amazon Prime the equivalent of bargain bin remainders? After months of emails notifying me of the great prices on crap books I would never read, I just had to unsubscribe. On the bright side, purchasing digital editions through amazon also allows me to read on my desktop kindle which is slightly less preferable than iBooks. It doesn’t let you know how many pages remain in the chapter you’re reading and, occasionally, instead of offering an overall page count gives you a location number four digits deep that, presumably, can be translated into actual pages should one care to run the math.
4 – Scribd. They call this the Netflix of books and, while not altogether true, it has come a long way since the days you could only read a maximum of three books a month. THREE BOOKS??? I read that much in a single weekend! Recently, however, the monthly subscription service allows you to read as many titles as you like from their vast library. Granted, 75-80% of the titles in said library are crap, but there’s enough to choose from in the remaining 20-25% to keep you busy. I like the fact that, like iBooks and kindle, I can read on my desktop. Also, like iBooks, it lets you know how many pages you’re committing to when you start a chapter. The only drawback with scribd is the paucity of new titles.
5 – The library. About a month ago, I got my first library card in years. Now, I can hop online and borrow digital books, everything from old classics to new releases. There’s no limit to the number of books I can read (although the total number I can borrow at any one time is capped at a very reasonable 30) and, best of all, it’s free. For someone who probably spends $200-250/month on books, this is most appealing. The only drawback here is that the limited number of digital books available force you to place a hold on the more popular titles, leaving you bound to the leisurely pace of slow readers. I mean, holy shit, look at this –
I’ve been first in queue, waiting on that short story collection, since last week. I almost want to call the library so they can contact whoever has the books to make sure they’re okay. Meanwhile that Gilbert King novel? I won’t be reading that until summer of 2019! I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: Your wait time/placement on a library‘s ebook holding queue should be directly proportional to how fast you can read.
Anyway, a nice variety of sources ensures my reading habit gets fed in a consistent and timely manner.
If you live in the Vancouver area, check out the video and maybe help identify this sorry excuse for a human being.
Capsule reviews of all the books I read last month…
Blood Kinby Steve Rasnic Tem
A southern gothic tale that alternates between the 1930’s and the present day. It tells the parallel stories of a women and her grandson and their respective battles against supernatural forces in the southern Appalachians, all related to a mysterious crate buried deep in the kudzu-infested grounds of their family property. Moody and effectively atmospheric but, at times, slow-moving and disjointed. It starts strong, lags in the middle, and then culminates in an explosion of frenzied horror.
In the Miso Soupby Ryu Murakami
A young man who specializes in guiding foreigners on red light tours of Tokyo begins to suspect that there may be more to his latest client than meets the eye. Is this strange American merely eccentric, or could he be the serial killer responsible for some recent gruesome murders? As the mystery builds and our protagonist is drawn inexorably deeper, things begin to take a turn for the bizarre. Incredibly engaging and unnerving – until the sudden and inexplicable supernatural twist late in the hitherto grounded book. That’s when the wheels come off.
The Barrowby Mark Smythe
A rousing fantasy actioner in the spirit of Joe Abercrombie’s First Law series. Violence, humor, and colourful characters abound in this tale of a group of unlikely heroes on a quest for a fabled sword. It’s a gritty, lively adventure and a hell of a fun read, but my enjoyment was seriously hampered by some explicit sex scenes that, quite frankly, read like submissions to Letters to Penthouse.
Vampires in the Lemon Groveby Karen Russell
As is often the case with collections, this one is a mixed bag – but there’s no denying the inventiveness of the strange stories contained herein. Like the tale of the reformed vampires who have retired to the Italian countryside where the juice of fresh lemons slakes their thirst for blood. Or the one about about the exploited mutant female workers of a Japanese silk factory. Or the one about the young boys who discover a scarecrow that eerily resembles someone they used to bully… Recommended for those who appreciate inspired, slice-of-life narratives (and, FYI, “slice-of-life” is writer code for “doesn’t have an ending”).
The Walking Dead (volume 20)by Robert Kirkman
“All Out War”, Part 1. Well, “Preamble to All Out War” would probably be more accurate. Rick and co. and their newfound allies take the fight to Negan’s doorstep. And things get ugly – with the promise of still uglier things to come. Darker, deeper, and, frankly, better than the television series.
Harbourby John Ajvide Lindqvist
Two years after the mysterious disappearance of his six year old daughter, a man returns to his family home on a remote island – and discovers the community hides a dark secret. Chilling, at times unnerving, the novel is somewhat reminiscent of Stephen King’s grounded small-town horror. Unique in certain respects but, overall, not quite enough to set it apart in a very crowded field. Still, an above-average horror read.
The Glass Castleby Jeanette Walls
The book opens with our narrator, Jeannette, on her way to a New York City function, when her cab stops beside a homeless women rooting through the trash. Upon closer scrutiny, Jeannette realizes that homeless woman is, in fact, her mother. And so begins one of the most amazing books I’ve read in recent memory. The blurb on the back of the jacket does it an enormous disservice, painting it as a bleak autobiographical account of woman growing up in an abusive family. It’s actually quite touching, uplifting – and incredibly funny, reminiscent of David Sedaris at his very darkest. One of my Top 10 books of all time. Go read it!
Peter Panzerfaust (volume 1)by Kurtis J. Wiebe
It’s Peter Pan in WWII as Peter leads a group of young orphans from Calais to Paris. Complicating matters for them = nazis! No magic but certain aspects of the story stretch credulity.
The Circleby David Eggers
Our young heroine lands a job working for The Circle, a cutting edge internet company that is Google, Facebook, and Yahoo rolled into one. Before she knows it, she is at the forefront of a wave of technological advancements that will revolutionize social interaction. But at what price? A smart, scary book that explores the potentially insidious consequences of our increasingly “connected” lives. It takes a while to get going and the big “surprise reveal” at book’s end isn’t all that surprising at all, but it nevertheless delivers a powerful message on our increasing willingness to relinquish privacy and freedom in exchange for convenience.
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselvesby Karen Joy Fowler
Inspired by an experiment in the 1930’s in which a husband and wife research team raised a baby chimp in their home as a member of their family, this novel offers a fictional account of a similar experiment run some sixty years later – and its heartbreaking effects on those involved. Our narrator is Rosemary, a woman who reflects back on her childhood, growing up with a human brother and chimpanzee sister – until the dark day her sister, Fern, was taken away. The loss of their beloved family members has far-reaching consequences for all of them. Some fifteen years later, Rosemary reflects back on her time with Fern and tries to learn the truth about her sister’s fate. It’s rare I read a truly great book, even rarer for me to read two back to back, but that’s exactly what happened. Right after reading Jeannette Walls’ The Glass Castle, I picked up this book – and was equally bowled over. Humorous and poignant. A wonderful book.
Ack-Ack Macaqueby Gareth Powell
A monkey of another kind is the titular hero of this alt history romp that features a royal conspiracy, nuclear-powered airships, VR ninja nazis, and poachable portable souls. It’s silly fast-paced fun, but the sloppy villains and a maudlin love story really throw a wrench into the works.
I approached the re-watch of this episode with some trepidation, not because I was worried that Akemi wouldn’t like it but because I feared that I wouldn’t. After all, I’d been reviewing my episodes in particular with very critical eyes and, to be honest, I’m a lot less happy with the results now than I was years ago. Back in the day, this one had been a personal favorites, so I was curious as to how it would survive the test of time. As it turned out – quite well. Of all of the episodes I wrote for the last two Stargate incarnations (SGA and SGU), this one ranks as one of my faves. It still holds up. And it was especially satisfying watching this with Akemi who, despite English being her second language, greatly enjoyed it. In fact, she declared it: “My favorite of your episodes. ” High praise indeed. She loved the humor, the quick pacing, and was delighted by the unexpected twists – especially the final one in which it is revealed that McKay had been fooled all along as well…
Ever-appreciative of the trademark Stargate humor – and a certain Robert Picardo: “I find many funny scenes. Especially with Bob.”
On the admittedly talky reveal: “That scene was difficult but cool. I like it.”
On when her suspicions were first raised that maybe something was up – and Kolya’s punching prowess: “I was wondering. Bad guy punching him thirty times and he’s still alive. Just scratches. Not losing teeth. Guy is not good at punching people.”
On another red flag: “I thought too expensive for Sheppard without hand for rest of series. Not like old man on Walking Dead. Major character. DingDingding! Price go so high.”