Sunday, July 26, 2009

Sunday Salon: A Reading Retrospective (July 2004) & Going Through a Phase

I did the unthinkable this weekend. I marked all of the blogs in my Google Reader as read. There was no way I was going to catch up, no matter how much I wanted to. Now I am worried that I missed all these wonderful posts. What if you wrote about a book I have been curious about or haven't yet heard of but it would be the perfect book for me? What if you touched on a controversial topic that would get my blood rising or wrote something inspiring that I needed to read? And I missed it all! I think I just made myself feel worse rather than better. Oh dear.

I finished The Welsh Girl by Peter Ho Davies earlier this week and have had a little more time to dive into The Red Tent by Anita Diamant. I even snuck in a little reading during intermission of Fiddler on the Roof yesterday. Thank you to all who expressed your thoughts on the book last week. I am finding it to be one of those books that, while I am enjoying it, I can't help but hope it gets better. I am not that far into it though--so don't hold me to that!

Being that this is the last weekend in July (Can you believe it? So much for finishing the Themed Challenge . . .), I decided it was time to take a look back at what I was reading five years ago. July 2004 was a hot one, temperature wise. What better way to stay cool than to find a nice comfortable spot under a vent or near a fan and read for hours on end?

More often than not, I am the kind of reader who likes to mix up my reading, reading different types of books so as to avoid burning out on one genre or book type. Occasionally though, I go through reading phases, where I read just one type of book until I feel the need to move on. July of 2004 was one much month. I was in the middle of an urban fantasy phase that had kicked into high gear. I was introduced to two new authors that month: Charlaine Harris and Jim Butcher. And I revisited a couple of ones I was already familiar with, Laurell K. Hamilton and Tanya Huff.

I read the second in Tanya Huff's Keeper's Chronicles, the aptly titled The Second Summoning, and the third, Long Hot Summoning. The second one did not have the draw for me that the first book did, but I still enjoyed it. And who could resist Austin the cat? I had this to say about the third: "Tanya Huff has a way of turning the most ludicrous ideas into hilarity while creating a fast paced and fun to read book." It certainly was a funny book.

The first time I met Sookie Stackhouse from Charlaine Harris' Southern Vampire series, I wasn't sure I would like her. I worried that she would be a bit of an airhead. I couldn't have been more wrong. Sookie may have been innocent and a bit too trusting, but she certainly did have a brain inside that skull of hers. Harris' novel, Dead Until Dark, was a nice break from the darker Anita Blake books by Hamilton.

In my quest for books about modern day witches, someone recommended I try Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files series. When I met Harry Dresden, it was love at first sight. While he wasn't a witch, he was a wizard, and a private investigator at that. I find the mix of mystery and magic an irresistible combination. I enjoyed Storm Front so much I made my husband read it. It was the beginning of what promised to be a great series, a series that is still one of my favorites today.

Laurell K. Hamilton's Anita Blake, a vampire hunter who has the ability to raise the dead, had attracted my attention with her first and second books, at least enough to continue on with the series. It wasn't until the third book, however, Circus of the Damned, that I was completely and irreversibly hooked. I went on an Anita Blake binge, reading six more of Hamilton's books from the series, one right after the other that month. One of the biggest draws of the series for me is Anita herself. She is tough and sassy, with a strong sense of right and wrong. I love her dry sense of humor. During the early books, I most enjoyed the mystery element. Anita's work with the police, in particular. She was constantly balancing her work was a consultant for the police and the needs of the supernatural world, which seemed to grow stronger with every book. It was crime fiction vampire and lycanthrope style. It wouldn't be until August of 2004, when I read Narcissus in Chains, that I would begin to really see the shift in the series that so many farther along in the series had been talking about. But that's a topic for another day.

I did venture outside of the urban fantasy realm once during the month of July in 2004. I had been selected to review my second First Look book for Harper Collins. It was Into the Volcano by Forrest DeVoe Jr., a spy novel set in the 1960's, the first in a series featuring Jack Mallory, who has a gift with the women. Jack is a skilled and straightforward man that no one would want to mess with. His partner, Laura Morse is not only beautiful, but is a master in the marital arts. Not to mention she keeps a paperback novel in her purse for those "just in case moments". I was not overly thrilled with the novel, I admit, finding it lacking in parts, but overall I enjoyed it. It was one of those books that I could easily see being made into a movie.

Looking back, I read an amazing amount of books in July of 2004, at least for me. I managed to stay cool and be entertained. What better way to pass a sizzling hot summer month?

Do you ever go through reading phases where you just want to read one type of book for a spell? What about book binges? How do you feel about reading books by the same author back to back?

In Reading Mews:

Book (in this case, story) Review Posted this Past Week:
Short Story Saturday: "Success of a Mission" by Dennis Lynds

Currently Reading:
The Red Tent by Anita Diamant

New Additions to my TBR collection:
  • Scottsboro by Ellen Feldman (I had a gift certificate for Amazon and decided to spend it on this one. Many thanks to Wisteria of Bookworm's Dinner for the recommendation!)
  • Homer's Odyssey by Gwen Cooper (Thanks to the author and her publicist for sending me a copy for review! I'm sure you can all guess why I want to read this one.)
  • A Circle of Souls by Preetham Grandhi (Thanks to the author for sending me a copy for review! This sounds so good!)
  • A Carrion Death by Michael Stanley (Because I had to spend $25 at Amazon to get free shipping, and this was next up on my wish list. Many thanks to author Clea Simon of Cats & Crime & Rock & Roll for the recommendation!)
  • The Foreigner by Francie Lin (I had only $1 something left to get over that $25 mark at Amazon, and I couldn't resist this one.)

Other Posts of Interest This Week:
Monday at the Movies: No, I Didn't Walk Out of Harry Potter
Wordless Wednesday: Riding the Highway (Part 7)
TGIF: Quickies

(Many thanks to Florinda of The 3 R's: Reading, 'Riting, and Randomness for allowing me to copy her status report idea. And an added thank you to Anya who helped my husband and I come up with the title of my status review report.)

© 2009, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved.
If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.


  1. Sometimes, you just gotta mark it all "read". Don't feel guilty about it. I find that when there are over 100 posts in my Google Reader, I end up skimming instead of giving each post my full attention. When that happens, I don't notice really great posts, anyway.

    If a book is part of a series, I read all the books back-to-back whenever possible. In fact, I avoid even starting a series until my library has at least three of the books available for check-out. I don't think of that as a phase or a binge. Recently, however, I did go on what I thought of as a binge when I kept checking out Lori Wick romances. She tends to write trilogies and I read one after another. I couldn't get enough of wholesome romances set in the 1800s for some reason :-).

  2. OK, I am just sitting here with my mouth hanging open at you knowing what you were reading and doing that far back! I am impressed with anyone that keeps that level of detail written down somewhere!

    I wouldn't worry about starting fresh on your Google reader. I had to do the same thing when I was away for nearly 3 weeks. I just had to let go. I'm sure we will all be just as witty and charming going forward! Ha!

  3. Dani - Thank you. And you're right. When I have too many sitting in my feeder, I do tend to skim more and much gets mixed. Sometimes it's good to start fresh.

    I have discovered that it works best if I read the first three books in a series close together, if not back to back. The characters tend to stay with me longer than, as well as any overreaching story threads, in particular if I have to wait a year before the next book in the series comes out. I'm likely to forget things otherwise--and unless the author does a good job of reacquainting me with a story, that can be a bad thing.

    Sandy - I only wish I'd started journaling my reading sooner.

    It was a bit of a relief to see my Google Reader empty after I'd marked everything as read. I just have to work past this guilt of feeling like I've ignored my friends.

  4. I'm always fighting a losing battle against my feed reader, and yet I'm always on the lookout for interesting blogs to add to it. I'm hovering currently at an all time low (well, for the summer at least) of a number that I find myself unwilling to publicly admit to. I should probably just surrender...again because I'm just missing everything anyway, but usually when I do something ends up keeping me away from the computer for a few days and I end up just as behind as ever. I guess what I'm trying to say is don't feel bad, everybody's doing it! LOL.

    Love the Reading Mews - too clever! I won a copy of Scottsboro from Sam at Book Chase, it looks like an excellent read.

  5. I still have a few posts in my reader that are over two weeks old. I'm about to mark them all as read, but I know by the end of the week my reader will be unruly again. A constant battle, huh? :)

    I try to mix up my reading as well. Very rarely do I go through a phase where I read several books from the same genre or author in a row. Actually, I like to spread my favorite authors out over the years so that I don't finish them all and have nothing to read by them. :) Silly, I know, but I suspect I'm not the only one who does this!

    Hope you're having a great week, Wendy.

  6. When I've found a great book by a new author, I tend to look for more books by them. If I have more then I usually will read more by them immediately. A few authors in particular were: Thrity Umrigar, Chris Bohjalian, Wally Lamb, and Lisa Gardner.

  7. I love binging, especially with fantasy. If I fall in love with an author or series, I have to get all their books and read them back to back. Thankfully, it usually happens to me with established series, so I've got a lot to work with. :) In the past, I've binged on Mercedes Lackey's Valdemar books, R.A. Salvatore's Drizzt series and Anne Bishop's Black Jewels books.

    I'm currently on a different sort of binge: I'm craving chunksters. I want long books right now; books I can really wallow in.

  8. I think my reading is pretty mixed. Every now and then I will go on a kick where I will read the same thing/genre, but it usually doesn't last very long. I had read a few of the Georgette Heyer books back to back.

    It's so great that you tracked your reading way back when. Even now I would like to record more about my reading habits. I have the blog but I would like to write in my reading journal more.

  9. I always enjoy hopping the time travel bus with you!!! I binge all of the time!!!

  10. I'm having the same difficulty right now. Just can't keep up with the blog reading, and although it is stressful to mark them as read, it is more stressful to try to keep up when you get so far behind!

    I frequently go in cycles and find myself reading only 1 type of book. Sometimes that is exactly what I need!

  11. I rarely read books by the same author back-to-back. I used to, but found that if I did, it was more likely that if the author had any little quirks in style that they would annoy me to the point of not wanting to read any more of his/her books.

    Some people may think that I've been on a binge for the past five years or more, since the books I've read are 98% mysteries! But I do like to mix them up-- police procedurals, P.I., cozies, different countries and cultures.

  12. It is so neat that you've kept track of your reading. I started doing that on Goodreads a couple of years ago and it is fun to go back and look now and then.

    I discovered Google Reader a couple of months again and started adding every blog in sight. Since then I've scaled back and try and keep up every couple of days.

    I do go through phases, particularly when I've read several intense books in a row. Lately when I need a break it's mysteries! As for authors, after I discover someone I like I will try and read all their books, particularly if it is a series.

  13. Oh I've totally been in the mood to read a particular type of book. I've been on a graphic novel binge lately, reading the Sandman series, the Fables series, and now the Walking Dead series. I just can't get enough of those puppies! When I'm stressed out with other stuff, they are like brain candy.

  14. I love traveling back in time with you! So much fun to see how or if your reading has changed.

    Don't feel guilty about clearing everything. Blogging and reading blogs is supposed to be fun and if you make it work, then it takes away from the magic. I got behind right now too, so I am catching up on some tv shows while reading the blogs.
    I hope you had a fantastic weekend!

  15. I had the same reaction to LKH, reading the first 6 or so back to back. I can't wait to see your thoughts on how they have changed.

    I also love Butcher, but didn't do it back to back and am only on the 5th one.

  16. Oh, The Red Tent. I love that book! She has a new book out later this year that I was looking at. I hope you enjoy. I should do a reading retrospective. I was looking up my old reads the other night and it got me thinking about how long it has been since I read some of my favourite books.

  17. So hate to say it since you are reading it but I thought The Red Tent was just okay. My book group gushed over it and I couldn't understand why.

  18. I look forward to your review on The Red Tent, Wendy. I've heard nothing but raves about that book! :)

    I've only read two Anita Blake book and one Sookie Stackhouse book. I guess I need to catch up on these series soon!!

  19. I liked The Red Tent. You might not believe it but certain aspects of it are still relevant in a few parts of INdia too.

    TSS: The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane/The Lost Book Of Salem by Katherine Howe

  20. Megan - I'm the same way. I do try to keep the number of blogs I follow to a reasonable number, but I always seem to find new ones I cannot resist.

    I am really looking forward to reading Scottsboro too.

    Trish - Keeping up can be a constant battle. We can only do so much.

    That's smart--spreading out your favorite authors over the years. I do that with some of mine--although not necessarily on purpose. LOL

    I hope you have a great week as well.

    Diane - I do that too, start collecting the books of an author I really like, although I don't always get to read those other books right away. Especially not in recent years. I really like Trity Umrigar, Chris Bohajalian and Wally Lamb too. I haven't yet read anything by Lisa Gardner. She's on my list to try though. :-)

    Memory - It's so easy to binge on fantasy--it's such an addicting genre (to me, at least). I love Mercedes Lackey's Valdemar books and Anne Bishop's Black Jewel series.

    A chunkster craving! That sounds appetizing!

    Nicole - I don't go on reading kicks quite as often as I used to. Last year I tried to do a couple of themed months, but it didn't work out all that well.

    It's become such second nature to me to keep up with my reading journal. I think that makes it much easier for me to stick with it. I started keeping a reading journal about three years before I began blogging. I wish I'd started earlier.

    Staci - It's fun to see where my reading has taken me over the years. :-)

    Jenclair - Oh yes, I know what you mean. As the number of unread messages in my Google Reader grows, I get more anxious about not keeping up. There's something freeing about clearing out that box.

    Sometimes going through a reading phase is just what we need, I agree!

    Cathy - I've become good at knowing my limit of when too much of one author is too much.

    There's certainly enough variety within the mystery genre keep a reader busy for a life-time or two. :-)

  21. Gavin - I do like looking back on my reading. It's a good measure of where I was in my life all those years ago as compared to now.

    Google Reader can get overwhelming if we aren't careful, can't it? I try and keep the number of blogs I follow reasonable, but it doesn't seem to work very well. :-)

    Mysteries are my "break" books too often times.

    Kim - I know what you mean. Graphic novels are great when I want something not especially time consuming.

    Kristie - Thanks. I am trying not to feel guilty. I try so hard to keep up with blogs; it's hard to let it go sometimes.

    Lisa - I'm behind on the Dresden Files series too. I think I'm two behind now. I haven't been very good about keeping up with my series reading lately.

    Kelly - I'll have to keep my eye out for Diamant's new book. I really liked Last Days of Dogtown.

    I hope you will do a reading retrospective!

    Ti - It's okay, Ti. There were a number of people who commented last week who felt the same way you did. :-) I am enjoying it but I haven't quite felt the love yet that so many people have for it. We'll see. I've still got a ways to go.

    Melody - I just read that Charlaine Harris has signed a contract to write at least three more Sookie books. I'm excited about that!

    Gautami - I imagine there are cultures that still share some of the same aspects as in the book, The Red Tent. It's fascinating so far.

  22. I like mixing genres too for the fear of burning out. I very rarely feel like reading books from the same genre one after the other. Max i cna manage is 3 books before getting tired of it.

    I still haven't read the Southern Vampire Series, but I don't think I want to bcoz that would mean 7 (?) additional books in my TBR, I have too many as it is :)

  23. It happens, Wendy! I still go through all the blogs on my RSS reader but I must admit I won't be giving them full attention, which are totally deserved full attention.

    I'm going to have to give Laurell K. Hamilton's books a try. Thanks for highlighting it!

  24. I think that "mark all as read" button is a sanity saver. Even so, it kills me every time I have to click it.

    I'm sooooo jealous...I wish I'd been keeping track of what I was reading 5 years ago. Have you always done it?

  25. Sounds like you had a pretty fun month of reading back in July 2004. Can you believe that I haven't read any of those authors?

    As for The Red Tent, from what I remember, I didn't like the first half as much as later on in the book and the ending! Hopefully it'll pick up for you.

    I'll occasionally read books by the same author back to back, but not very often really. A book binge sounds appealing right now though, as does escaping the heat. :P

  26. Well don't feel bad about marking posts off as read. I've had to do it as well when I just knew I didn't have the time or energy to catch up - such is life.

    You know I did the same thing with the Anita Blake series. I had read the first book on a recommendation from my bookstore lady and just loved it. I went and bought all the others I needed to catch up and I think at the time it was 5 or 6 of them. I have also noted a change in the series which is probably why I haven't been in as big a rush to read the last two books although they're on my shelf. It would be nice to see Anita go back to the old days again.

  27. Wendy,

    I don't know how many blogs you follow, but I absolutely can't keep up with every single post. I try, but they just keep piling up! It's okay to do a mass delete.

    I'll give you a hint, though. You can set yourself to "all items" (just above the little box in which you view posts) and even though you've marked everything as read, the posts still show up in your reader. So, you don't have the pressure of looking at that huge number of unread posts, but you can still page down when you're reading a blog and want to see if you missed anything, easily and quickly.

  28. Violet - It can be daunting starting a series that is well established and has many books in it. I feel that way about the Discworld series, which I've been wanting to try try. The one advantage though is that you don't have to wait for the next book to come out--until you catch up, but that could take a while. :-)

    Alice - It can be hard to keep up, can't it? We get so busy. I'll be interested to know what you think of Laurell K. Hamilton's books, Alice. You might like the earlier books. I'm not so sure about the later ones.

    Debi - So true! A felt a sense of relief seeing a clear Google Reader, but I also felt guilty at having done it.

    I actually started keeping track of my reading in the fall of 2003, so about 6 and a half years ago. I wish I'd thought to start earlier.

    Nat - It was a fun month. :-)

    I'm glad to hear you liked the second half of The Red Tent better. Once I really get into Dinah's life, I'm hoping it will pick up.

    It's supposed to start cooling down a bit here. I sure hope so. It's been a very hot couple of weeks.

    Dar - Thank you. I really enjoyed those early Anita Blake books. I couldn't get enough of them. Like you, I haven't been so eager to get to the ones remaining on my shelf. I think I'm three behind in the series now. I hear that the latest book is reminiscent of days of old. Now just to get there and see . . .

    Nancy - I probably follow more than I should, but there are so many great blogs out there! :-) I don't comment as much as I used to, which was something that was hard of me to let go of. I just can't anymore, you know?

    Thanks for the tip with Google Reader!

  29. I really wish I could be brave enough to do that! I have at least 2000+ unread ones but I plan on at least reading five from every one and then deleting the rest after I've at least glanced at it. SO, so tired of being so far behind lol.

    I miss the old Anita Blake books a lot, I haven't picked up Huff or Dresden yet (besides a few short stories) but I love Sookie... well, actually Eric lol. I do get in those type of moods where I want to read nothing but one type of book (usually paranormal romance but lately YA) and they're usually pretty hard to break lol. If it's a series then I really want to read them all in one go more often than not but if it's just books by a particular author I tend to try to space them out so they last longer.

  30. Sometimes you just gotta give yourself a break with the blogs. :-)

  31. Hi LF...
    I didn't do a Sunday Salon this week and I feel so guilty. I was so busy planting a garden with my cousin who was nice enough to come down with all the food, and all the plants. I think I will do a Sunday Salon next week to explain why I didn't post this past week. Does that make sense?
    Anyway, See my Wordless Wednesday and you will see the result.
    Thanks for the mention for the Scottsboro book...I am anxious to see what you think.

    Yes, I have remained stuck reading a specific genre, especially taking post grad courses right now in history. I am getting a bit tired of non-fiction. I never thought I would say that.

    I just finished a YA fantasy book in one big deal, but it just shows you how ravenous I am.

    I did buy the Sookie book one.

    I feel bad because my challenges are really not doing well due to all my review commitments. Sadly!!!
    Well....I have rambled enough. I just haven't talked to you in a while. Wisteria.

  32. Very curious to hear what you think about "A Carrion Death." I hope it's worth the investment of time and money!

    Hope "Shades of Grey" is somewhere in that TBR pile, too!

  33. I'm fighting the urge to mark my Google feeds all read right now. I take a long weekend, it gets out of hand and then while I wind my way through them during the week it's like - tribbles.

    I mix up my reading a lot. I didn't realize how much until I started to keep track.

  34. Jen - That's a smart idea! I'm tired of being behind too--but that seems to be the natural state of things for me lately. LOL

    Eric is my favorite too. :-)

    Marie - Yes, sometimes you do! :-)

    Wisteria - Oh, don't feel guilty! Your Sunday sounds like it was much more worthwhile than spending it behind the computer. :-)

    I can see how classes might sway your reading in one direction for awhile. How long do you have before you finish with your courses?

    My challenges are suffering too. Oh well, I had fun thinking up what books to read for them at least. :-)

    Clea - I'm looking forward to reading "A Carrion Death". I'm glad you brought it to my attention. :-)

    I'm even more excited about starting "Shades of Grey", which I'll be getting to later this month. It's sitting right here on my desk. :-)

    Carrie - Exactly! It's so easy to get behind and then catching up takes forever. Sometimes it's better just to start fresh. I think many of us are in the same boat.

  35. Modern Day Witches? Have you read the Three Sisters Trilogy by Nora Roberts? Yup - Nora Roberts. Nothing like I have ever read from her and I am not a real fan but these are some of my favorite all time books.... first one is called dance Upon The Air.

    They are reviewed on my blog just use the search link if you want to read more about them.

  36. Sheila - Haha! I see you foresaw my first thought at the mention of reading Nora Roberts. :-) Thank you for the heads up about the trilogy. I may just have to give it a try! (And thanks for pointing me in the direction of your review!)


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