Tag Archives: reading

Series interrupted, the Millennium Trilogy

Okay, so I finally tackled the Millennium Trilogy. I admit it’s not exactly my cup of tea, that was why I had been putting it off for years, but seeing how crazy the past couple of weeks have been I decided that now would be a good time to give it a shot. Anyway, over all I have to say that I enjoyed the first book. The second one was interesting enough, though at times I felt that my suspension of disbelief was pushed past its breaking point. The third book I found downright annoying.

But let’s take things one book at a time.

As I said, the first one was a pleasant read, the story was reasonably well told, and over all I found myself being drawn into the plot. Oh, there are a couple of plot holes that can be more than a little annoying when the book is considered in the context of the series (without getting into too many details, and keeping things deliberately cryptic to avoid spoilers, Lisbeth’s financial dependence on Bjurman makes no sense whatsoever once concept of the Republic is introduced), but if the book is read on its own those can be reasonably dismissed.

Book two too has an interesting premise, though there were a few too many coincidences for my liking (Sweden comes across  like a tiny village in which everyone knows everyone else, rather than a country of nearly ten million), there were some loose ends I felt could probably have been trimmed, and it also got a little preachy at times. Still, those defects were not serious enough to detract from the main plot line.

Book three, on the other hand, is a bit of a mess (and I apologize for the mild spoilers in what follows).

To begin with there are a couple of subplots that take up a good chunk of the book, but don’t add one lick to the story, such as the whole story of Berger leaving Millennium (and then coming back), and the relationship between Blomkvist and Figerola. In addition to that the dramatic tension depends, to a large extent, on a really absurd plot hole, namely on the fact that, when confronted with a gross miscarriage of justice, the government cannot interfere because the judiciary is supposed to be independent (let me count the way to get around that one without breaking the law), thus leaving the heroine’s fate in the hands of a desperate legal ploy that was cooked up by the valiant hero. Finally there is the fact that the preaching is also amplified to a ridiculous extent… and the fact that a story that begins with the protagonist standing almost alone against the power of a corrupt government agency, ends up with a ringing endorsement of that government, where the bad guys turn out to be just a few bad apples. That last bit was the one I found the most annoying one.

Now,  I realize that the first one of those complaints -the one having to do with the pointless subplots- may have something to do the fact that this trilogy was never meant to be a trilogy in the first place, but rather that these books were supposed to be part of a much longer series, and that the author could reasonably have been laying down the groundwork for a future story, unfortunately the other issues are harder to excuse.

In short, I would recommend book one, as that one can stand alone, but seeing how much of a mess book three is, and how intertwined books two and three happen to be, I am more reluctant to recommend the rest of the series.

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eReading and dyslexia

So about a month ago I finally took the plunge and bought myself a tablet. I had been reading on my phone for a while and I admit that, unlike most people, I didn’t have much trouble with the size of the screen. Still, I was looking forward to having a more reasonably-sized page.

One month later the takeaway lesson is that while the bigger screen is great for watching movies, reading comics and getting some work done, for reading I’ll stick with my phone, thank you very much. Simply put I hadn’t realized how much that little screen was helping me to focus, or what kind of a difference having shorter and fewer lines to contend with at a time  made. Yes, I can read on the tablet’s screen, and I wouldn’t exactly describe it as a struggle, but it is more of a chore and I also finding far more tiring.

I don’t know if it’s just me, but if you are dyslexic, and you enjoy reading, you may want to give that ‘annoyingly little’ screen a chance. You may be surprised by the result.

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The scent of the past

Yesterday I stumbled upon one of my very old books… and by that I mean one of those my mom used to read to me when I was only a couple of years old, long before I could read them myself. The thing was falling apart, and there was some evidence that it had been patched up more than once. In other words, it showed all the signs of a children’s book that has been ‘well-loved’ (read ‘thoroughly chewed’). When I saw it, I was overjoyed. It was such a seemingly insignificant  thing, but it brought back so many memories. I spent a couple of hours getting reacquainted with some I hadn’t really forgotten (though I admit I was surprised to realize that that little book included The Three Astronauts, a very short story by Umberto Eco) and getting a little teary eyed.

It was, in other words, a wonderful experience… and then I started thinking about kids today, who are learning to read on a tablet, that will get replaced and discarded in a couple of years, kids  who will never have a chance to stumble upon an old friend as I did yesterday, and I couldn’t help but to think that they will be missing something… and the worst part is that they’ll never even notice.

Oh, I’m not denying that there are plenty of advantages to technology, but it is a trade-off, and the kids that are growing up glued to their tablets will never know what they are missing. They will never know the joy of stumbling upon an unexpected treasure in a pile of old books, they will never wonder about the hands that held the book they are currently reading a hundred years ago. In short, we are heading into a world in which there are no first editions, and in which getting your favorite book autographed by its author is no longer an option. Granted, moving half a world away with a library comprising thousands of volumes is bound to be easier with a tablet or an ereader than with thousands upon thousands of pounds of dead trees (I’ve done it, and I’ll be the first  to admit that it is not much fun), but there is a certain kind of magic to the printed page. Cracking open an old book brings back a scent of the past… and that is a scent that is on the brink of being lost for good.

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The List

About three years ago I made a list of books I really wanted to read. It was a long list, featuring literally hundreds of titles. At the time the task ahead of me seemed daunting… there were so many books! Some were books I had never read, others were books I felt had crossed off my list a little too early (think of all those books you were forced to read in high school because they figured that, if they didn’t cram them down your throat then, chances were that you’d never pick them up on your own)… a few were books I remembered fondly. As you can imagine, I wound up loving some books and being sorely disappointed by others (rereading old favorites can be wonderful, but at the same time there’s no denying that revisiting childhood friends may wind up shattering some of your fondest memories).

I am done with that list now, at least with that initial version. The good news is that there are still plenty of books out there that I’m itching to read, that the list kept expanding itself (I added other  books by an author I fell in love here, a friend recommended a new title there), but at the same time as I made my way through it I became increasingly aware that my list was, almost by definition, one that was limited by my own knowledge, by the connections I have been able to make up to this point… and I wondered about those books that should have been in there, but weren’t, about the books I’ll never read and that I might have loved if only I’d known about them.

Of course, in addition to those books I long for but am unaware of, I also wound up taking a few chances, adding books that I knew of, but wasn’t sure I was going to like. Some of these chances paid off, others didn’t. In a couple of instances I was tempted to break my self-imposed ‘no desertions past the first chapter’ rule. I also tackled a few best-sellers that were not really up my alley in an attempt to see what all the fuss was about. That didn’t turn out too good.

The one thing I wound up getting out of the whole experience was a better understanding of who I am and what I like as a reader. Oh, in a way I have always known, but it was an instinctive knowledge, now it seems to be more narrow, more defined.

As for where my reading will take me in the future, I’m back out in the wilderness now. I don’t have a grand plan any more, I only know what my next four or five books are likely to be… plus there are a few books I’m still trying to hunt down and a few classics that should probably have made the list but didn’t. There is one in particular that I haven’t quite dared to tackle, one I still find a little too daunting but that keeps calling me. The problem is that, as was the case back in high school, I don’t think I’m ready for it… in fact I’m not sure I’ll ever be ready. That book? It’s The Mahabharata.

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Thoughts on amazon’s purchase of goodreads

NOOOOO!!! That about sums up my first reaction when I heard that amazon had purchased goodreads… at least as a reader. As a writer, and as an author that is actually published by CreateSpace, I know this may actually turn out to be a good thing, but the truth is that I was there mostly as a reader. In fact goodreads was the only social network I was sort of active in, now I am left to try to figure out what am I going to do about it all because the keyword in that statement is ‘was’.

As far as I am concerned there is a pretty big difference between connecting over books with other readers via a relatively small, independent network, and opening my reading nook to a large corporation. To me that’s a game-changer… and on top of that I have to admit that my experiences dealing with amazon properties have been decidedly mixed. As a customer I admit they are extremely effective, as a writer my experiences with CreateSpace have been great, but when it comes to their AuthorCentral, the property that most resembles goodreads itself, my experience was a total nightmare, so much so that I decided to end my affiliation with that service… only to be told that I was not allowed to do that, that once I had signed up, so I was basically screwed. It is that experience, that inability to terminate my affiliation with their program, that now makes me so wary of continuing my affiliation with goodreads.

So what am I going to do? The truth is that I’m not sure. For now I guess I’m going to be moving mostly to lurker mode, I may also choose to delete some of my personal information, not that that’s going to do me much good at this stage, and I will abandon the reading challenge. Yes, I will go on reading, and I would love to be able to keep sharing my thoughts on what I read, but I would much rather do this without the mighty amazon looking over my shoulder, so any comments I write will be now restricted to my own blog, where I can be certain I will remain in control of my content.

Still, in spite of everything, and of the fact that I am mourning the death of the goodreads I used to love, I consider this a lesson learned: small private networks may seem like a great alternative to behemoths such as facebook, Google and company, but successful, small. independent networks are also attractive targets for takeovers by large, greedy corporations, and that means that choosing to participate in a small network doesn’t mean you won’t find yourself suddenly in the clutches of a large one… whether you want to or not.

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I just finished reading ‘Snuff’

And I just finished reading Snuff. That means that in a couple of days you are probably going to get stuck with a final entry into The Flatland Chronicles. Over all I have to say that rereading the Discworld books was well worth it, as it allowed me to see some things I had missed the first time around and it provided me with a different perspective. Unfortunately it also had a bit of a downside, though I realize that saying that as I went over them again the books feel somewhat predictable would be silly.

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Reading update

And I am halfway through Snuff, That means that I will be finishing the Discworld series before the year is out. I will follow with the Nomes trilogy and Nation, but in spite of that I have a bit of a problem: what should I read next. Oh, I know there are plenty of books out there, but I usually start the year with some remedial reading that makes sense as a whole (either books I should have read or books I had crossed off my list because some high school teacher figured that s/he might just as well get us to read the thing while we could still be ordered to do it). For the time being I’m inclined to try to sort out a list of 50/100 fantasy or SF titles, but I’m not really sure… of course I could tackle just one book and read an unabridged version of the Mahabharata but I’m not sure I know enough about that particular culture to tackle that one, and I really don’t want to just cross it off my list (of course, I’m not sure I’m ever going to know enough to tackle that one).

Well, I’m sure I’ll come up with something!

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On Reading as a Writer

Okay, so I have been blogging about what I read under the heading of ‘reading as a writer’ for almost two months now, but up until now I haven’t really stopped to explain what I mean by that.

As I have said more than once, I am an avid reader, some times writer and full-time misfit… and the order of those statements does matter. You see, being a reader is, almost by definition a preamble to becoming a writer (being a misfit, on the other hand, is just a bonus), but one of the things I have noticed in the last few years is that there is a considerable difference in how I approach what I read nowadays. When I was a kid I used to read just for the fun of it, that was easy enough. When I was in college I was forced to look at the scholarly aspect of things, and truth be told that one pretty much squeezed all the joy out of the experience. Reading became a chore… one I didn’t particularly care for. Yes, I had one great teacher that made me appreciate whatever it was that we were studying –a cantankerous old bastard who insisted on handwritten papers and actually cared deeply about each and every one of his students– but unfortunately he was the exception, not the norm. Still, he was there, and that kept me from becoming disenchanted with literature altogether. That was stage two. Stage three kind of crept up on me and it was born out of a combination of two different factors. After stage two I had gone back to reading just for the joy of it, and I was finally free to explore my own interests, but at the same time I had already discovered fanfiction. Continue reading On Reading as a Writer

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