Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016 Reading Challenges (Don't Call Them Goals)

Back at the beginning of the year, I saw a challenge to set a goal of reading 60 books in a year. I laughed it right off. Sorry, but as much as I like to read, I don't often get the chance. My two prime slots from reading are commuting by train and falling asleep, the latter being particularly hazardous with hardcovers and ebooks. For the first half of the year (and most of the fall), I commuted by car, losing almost 2 hours round trip daily.

So I found some other Challenges which I list in this this post. I considered them something to shoot for, and maybe to influence my choices in this past year, but calling them goals? I ruled that right out. Sorry, I'm in it for the fun. Putting a goal in front of it makes it a little more work. The journey is more important the finish line right? (With my eyesight, and age, I'll never win Indy, so yeah.)

(By the way, ignore the hashtag. It was already there, so I wasn't making a new one.)

In the first batch, I can say I caught up with a book I've been meaning to read, one given by my spouse, one published before I was born. A few of the books had been in the house for quite a while before I read them.

I don't usually get recommendations from booksellers (although I do own two such books -- I asked for opinions before getting them signed by Mary Higgins Clark and Carol Higgins Clark). No banned books or high school/college books this year, but I have gone back to those. I can't say book intimidate me, except for math books that get really theoretical about halfway through. And with so many books to get through, revisiting old ones doesn't generally happen. (I did double-check to see if I'd read or even listened to one of the Sue Grafton books this year, but no, I hadn't.)

As to the second reading challenge, it's a little longer, so I'll just hit the highlights:

I read books under 200 pages, but not over 500 (no GRRM, Tom Clancy or Stephen King). Curious Incident won many awards, though I don't now about National Book Award. Ditto for Tuesdays. I read a couple of graphic novels (however those are defined) as well as manga, but I didn't list those -- maybe I should? Several female authors with female protagonists, particularly the aforementioned Grafton, as well as those teenage paranormal romances, all of which had protagonists with different lifestyles than I have. No essays or poetry, but a collection of short stories, which had some essays, that I put aside and didn't get back to, but will. There was science fiction to be found, but not much in the way of self-improvement this year.

Will I continue with these challenges in 2017? Maybe. It depends on what new challenges I find, and how "reasonable" I think they are.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Vampire Academy (Mead)

Vampire Academy, Richelle Mead, 2007

Okay, for starters: There are two types of Vampires: the Moroi, who are living, breeding vampires, and the Strigoi, who are your more traditional evil vampires. There are also Dhampirs, which are the offspring of Vampires with humans or dhampirs. Dhampirs are mules, unable to reproduce on their own, so they owe their existence to the Moroi. If you search online, you'll find that these are creatures from Romanian folklore, which is a plus for me. Mead takes something existing, which I'm at all familiar with, and makes it her own.

The Moroi aren't your typical vampires. Besides having families, and vampirism being hereditary, they also go to church every week, even if just to learn about St. Vladmir, the patron of the academy. One of the characters is even named Christian, which seems odd at first blush.

This book is the last in a pile of books I won, which included How to Be a Zombie, A Great and Terrible Beauty, and Catching Fire, which I'd previously read but don't seem to have an entry for. (I donated that one to the hotel's library by the pool.) I wish I could say that I left the best for last, but that really, I left the one that looked like I'd least enjoy for last.

First off, I'm not the target demographic for this book. I joke around about Teenage Paranormal Romance, but they are a big sub-genre. They don't have to appeal to everyone. Like Bray's Great and Terrible Beauty, there was a bit of "Mean Girls" to it, but unlike it, the fantasy elements just didn't make it worthwhile for me.

Not to compare it to Harry Potter, but as an example, we don't expect Harry to defeat Voldemort in Book 1, but we expect that he'll make an appearance. In Vampire Acadmeny, much is made about the Strigoi and while I don't expect Rose to take one down (any one, but a powerful one, or the "main" one, if there is such a creature), you might expect on to show up at some point. Basically, the book was long on Academy and short on Vampire.

So little, in fact, that halfway through it, I imagined a "What If...?" where I replaced the Moroi, Strigoi, and Dhampirs into High Elves, Dark Elves and Half Elves. I could write it -- I wouldn't, but perhaps I could.

Again, I'm not the target audience here, so if anyone found my blog and this is your genre, don't let me turn you off from the adventures of Rose and Princess Lissa as they learn how to protect vampires or just be a vampire.

Would I read farther into the series? Probably not, unless the sequel showed up in another book raffle.