Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Pile O' Shame (part I)

I have a lot of books. Seriously. Since I've started reviewing I've accumulated hundreds of books that are sent to me by various publishers to review. Sounds great doesn't it? Okay. It is. But for all my good fortune I also feel the tug of guilt on a daily basis that I haven't even come close to getting to all the books I said I'd try to review. I'm lucky in that I'm sent a lot of stuff that I'm not obligated to review-- and those don't leave me with that feeling in my gut that tells me I haven't lived up to my word. I have lots of excuses: the newest of which is that I have a monthly obligation to read new arrivals for the Sacramento/San Francisco Book Reviews; which is a legit reason. But oh the agony of those guilty feelings. On top of that-- and something tells me you'll all be able to relate to this-- I have those books on my shelf that everyone tells me I should read. You know, the critically acclaimed ones. Not necessarily the classics, but books that everyone raves about but you can't quite get into. So, just for the heck of it, I'm going to list the books that stare at me from the bookshelves. The ones that I keep telling myself: next week. I'll read that one next week for sure. In no particular order. The Last Realm: Dragonscarpe by Pat Mcnamara, Gary Turner, Michal Dutkiewicz I got this book quite a while ago and it's HUGE. Coffee-table sized. I know this could not have been cheap to produce and then give away. But my goodness, this is a tough one to sit and read (I don't have a coffee table and it's a bugger to put in your lap) and it's not exactly portable. I even forget I have it because it doesn't sit on my regular bookshelf. It's one that sneaks up on me. Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson I picked this one up on a whim. I've seen mention of Stephenson's work all over the net and it seems as if he's the guy you read if you're the cerebral type. His books aren't just book, they're tomes. (Doorstops like a Stephen King book, only much more complex). I actually thought this seemed really interesting, but not something I had the time to devote myself to. Though I do occasionally wonder if I'm just being intellectually lazy. Perdido Street Station by China Mieville China Mieville is one of those authors that I hear a lot about. He seems to be regarded very highly-- almost reverently. I tried to read "Perdido Street Station" and...well.. it seemed weird to me. I don't know if it's a style thing or if I'm just not very sophisticated. Couldn't get into this at all. A Madness of Angels by Kate Griffin This is one of the very few books that I reminded the publisher when it didn't arrive. (I didn't solicit the book, but had been told it was coming). I read about half, was scheduled to review it when it got bumped from the print edition and it has lingered in online-only hell for a while. This one is tough to put down and then go back to. Good book but has a lot going on and my memory isn't what it used to be. The Last Argument of Kings by Joe Abercrombie I don't get a lot of books from Pyr Books, so I hate to appear ungrateful and not review their books. And I really wanted to read this when I got it. But Joe Ambercrombie has a very strong style when it comes to his writing and it's definitely a 'mood' thing with me. His characters are direct and profane and that was somewhat refreshing at first. But by the third book I was craving some subtlety and ended up letting this one linger. I hear it's really good though. Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson This isn't a book I have to read. But I've read so many rave reviews about this series that I feel like I have to or I'm going to be kicked out of the fantasy literature in-crowd. And I have a confession to make. I've tried to read it three times. Each time I get a little farther but it I never quite make it to the end. Why? Why can't I like this like everyone else? Is there something wrong with me? Truancy Origins by Isamu Fukui This one doesn't quite give me the guilt trips the other ones do because I did a giveaway featuring this title--so it got some love. I'm not a big YA reader. I like Harry Potter, but not much else in that category really holds my attention. I was scheduled to review this one but it ended up getting bumped from the print addition due to space constrains and it went to the online-only pile and has stayed in scheduling hell ever since. The Mirrored Heavens by David J. Williams This is a really cool book. This is one of the few that the author personally contacted me about and I've just been lazy about finishing it. Sci-fi isn't as compelling to me as fantasy, so I'm easily sidetracked when I get a sci-fi title. No excuse though... Witch Ember by John Lawson This is the only self-published book in my pile o' shame and I've had it for awhile. I tried to read it and was confounded by the glossary-- it's a big one. But there's real quality in John's work and I owe it to him to go back to this and finish it. John's also a really, really good guy who doesn't give me a hard time about how long I've been sitting on his books. Acacia by David Anthony Durham This one gets to me a lot. Maybe more than any other book on my list. I read at least a third of the way through "Acacia" before I was forced to put it down because I had another book on my schedule that had to be reviewed and I liked it-- a lot. But it's a very detailed book. Very deep in its themes and when I tried to pick it back up I wasn't able to followed the storyline that well; so I put it down in favor of another book that I could quickly read and review and never got back to it. I'm not sure why I feel guilty about not reading it and then don't pick it up. I think it's because I feel like I have to give it my undivided attention but just don't have the time. I'm weird. The Court of the Air by Stephen Hunt I got this one at least a year ago. It's a beautiful book and I read the first few chapters. When I got it I really wasn't familiar with steampunk as a genre and was kind of confused at the overall style. It wasn't until I eased into steampunk with "Clockwork Heart" by Dru Paglissotti, "Darkborn" by Alison Sinclair and later "Boneshaker" by Cherie Priest that I began to understand the technology and Victorian settings that are so common to the genre. Since then I've been itching to get back to this book, but keep getting sidetracked. Boilerplate by Paul Guinan and Anina Bennett This book is soooo cool. I am constantly telling myself that I am going to get to this one soon. Then I forget. It's over-sized so it's on my bottom shelf and I don't give that shelf enough attention. Plus I've only recently gotten most of my books off of the floor (my husband bought me two more bookshelves last weekend) so I don't have many excuses left since I can see it now. As I write this, I realize this could end up being a really long list. I've been looking at the bookshelves I have downstairs and these are the ones that pop out at me right away. But then I remember I have two shelves upstairs that I can't look at right now or I'll wake up my husband. I'm almost afraid to guess at how many will I'll spot up there when I look tomorrow. So, to give myself a distraction, I'll ask you what sits on your pile o' shame.

8 comments:

Sullivan McPig said...

Stardust by Neil Gaiman is the first book that comes to mind. I absolutely love most of what Gaiman has written, but I can't get myself to finishy Stardust, I just don't like the characters.
Hmmmm.......
some other books:
-The Labyrinth by Kate something or other, highly praised, but just can't get into it.
-Greywalker by Kat Richardson
-Vilette by Charlotte Bronte
I just can't figure out how old the little girl in the start of the book is and it annoys me bad enough to put away the book.

Carrie said...

Just one book for me. "The Light of Burning Shadows" by Chris Evans. I read it, twice in fact, so I could try to do a decent review, but when it came time to sit down and write one, I just couldn't do it. I had absolutely no idea what to say. I still don't. I read reviews that other people wrote and I wonder if they read the same book I did. So I ended up never writing anything. Whoops. I still get a twinge of guilt when I see it on my bookshelf.

SQT said...

@Sullivan

I thought about putting Gaiman on the list. The only reason I didn't is because I've read enough opinions by other people that are kind of "meh" on him, so I don't feel too bad about letting the book sit.

"Greywalker" is okay. Nothing too exceptional imho.

@Carrie

That's interesting. I started to read that when one of my other contributors beat me to the review. I didn't think it was too bad. Kind of middle-of-road. But I didn't finish it so I can't say for sure.

I have a few books I've read but not reviewed. They weren't obligatory so it doesn't worry me too much. I always have a harder time with negative reviews. But I think I'm getting better at it...

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

At the moment, I've gone through most of my shelves, so I'm casting about for my next read. And no sci-fi book in this house goes unread, that's for sure.

Charlotte said...

I feel your pain. And this is only one type of Pile of Shame--the other is books that one has read for review but never written about...and everyday, they move further away into the mists.

Acacia is on my list (although not yet in my house), but I don't know if there will ever be a Right Time for me to read it. Maybe a long Siberian train ride, leaving the kids at home, or some other journey with few distractions...

SQT said...

Charlotte-- I have the read-not-reviewed pile too. Ugh.

DarkWyrmReads said...

"Perdido Street Station" is a new one to me, but "Un Lun Dun" is by the same author, and that one is sitting on the bookshelf...just sitting there and staring at me :op

I will get to it. I promise. the title alone is intriguing. Un Lun Dun = Un-London ( or as it says on the book jacket: London through the looking glass). I thought it was catchy.

By the way, you've been chosen for a blog award. Details can be found here: http://darkwyrmreads.blogspot.com/2010/03/my-first-blog-award-o.html

Dan Smyth said...

Just stumbled onto this blog (through a comment from Pat's Fantasy Hotlist) and thought I'd give a nudge for Gardens of the Moon. I read it for the first time about two years ago, started Deadhouse Gates (the second book) immediately after and quit reading after about 100 pages. Then I tried DH again a while later. And quit after 200 pages. Then, just recently, I started over and read 1-2-3 right in a row. I found that the first book (GotM) was mostly confusing but good, the first-half of the second (DG) almost impossible to get through due to an unsympathetic main character, the second-half of the the second (DH) was REALLY good, and the third book (Memories of Ice) was absolutely awesome. So, right now you're probably asking (because I did before the big read-through): "You mean I have to commit to reading over 2000 pages of "book" before I can definitively say that the series is awesome?" And, from my perspective now, the answer is yes. But it is AWESOME. Easily the most massively epic series of fantasy to date. In my mind, nothing else even touches the Malazan Book of the Fallen (series) in that regard. Well worth the time put into it (on the author's part and the reader's), but the amount of time necessary for reading it is, indeed, large.

So, you're not alone in your thoughts about the first book. You just haven't given the series enough time yet. The question you have to answer, that every reader has to answer, is: Are you willing to give the time that it requires? :)