Engaging Books: A Book Club for the next 4 years

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Summer wildflowers by E.A. Schneider

Salutations, dear pond readers! Today, I am excited to launch a new project at Technicolorlilypond just in time for Summer. This project is a book club for the next four years that I’m calling “Engaging Books.” The election for the 45th president of the United States has made the world an extra tumultuous place and stirred up a lot of feelings in people. I think that if we could all be on the same page of the same book engaging in the imaginative exercise together, and then sharing thoughts on it in a polite way, that that would make the world a little bit better place right now with a little bit brighter future. What can I say? I’m the child of librarians; I can’t help but think that books are the best place to start when faced with crises.

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Ring-tailed Lemur hugging its tail by E.A. Schneider

Engaging Books is designed with three specific goals. Goal #1: pierce our self-made bubbles of knowledge and, by so doing, achieve Goal #2: foster consideration for each other as human beings whilst doing Goal #3: read some amazing books. In short, the ultimate goal is to become a more engaged, informed, and polite member of society. Our self-curated bubbles of information have highlighted our polarized political climate in the United States as well as contributed to a crumbling sense of community. There is data to support this belief and there is no shortage of evidence that we are more likely to believe that the “other” is a subhuman enemy when we don’t know anything about them personally. I’m hoping that reading these books and works will help us all see the world with more compassion.

Like a lot of others in the USA, I felt a little blindsided after the November elections and I want to read up on points of view that I’m now aware I knew nothing of as well as perspectives that I might have mistakenly taken for granted.  A lot of thought went into this list of books. The books are a mix of fiction and non-fiction and every book is less than 600 pages long.

Because this is the Internet, everybody reads at different paces, and there’s this pesky thing called Real Life that rudely interrupts one’s ability to read, I have some guidelines for how this is going to work. Naturally, these are subject to revision as things develop. The books are listed below in the rough order I will aim to read them in. There are 60 books on the list which works out to 15 books a year for the next four years. As I read, I will post thoughts on the books here on my blog as well as on Goodreads in the Engaging Books Group. If you are reading along, please post your thoughts. If you’ve already read something on the list, feel free to post your thoughts on the work even if it’s way down on the list. However, all people posting will need to put SPOILER warnings on their comment where applicable and always be politely respectful in their remarks.

The books on this list are purposefully challenging. I fully expect many of them to contain content that is disturbing, offensive, graphic, and emotionally affecting. That is the point. Again, we all curate bubbles for ourselves regardless of facts to protect our identities. It is our nature. However, we can and should challenge that nature to stretch because that is how we learn and grow.

This isn’t a class. There are no grades and no credit beyond the personal. All I can offer is my own written commentary, some cute animal pictures, and the truth that when you read a book, you’re going to learn something you didn’t know before. Personally, I think that reading these books is a worthwhile endeavor and I hope you do too. On to the list!

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Relaxed Seal by E.A. Schneider  Seals are one of the cutest animals around!

 

Engaging Books: The List  

# / Title / Author / [page count]

  1. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood [311]
  2. Tracks by Louise Erdrich [226]
  3. News from Nowhere by William Morris [167]
  4. The Benedict Option by Rod Dreher [272]
  5. Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed [274]
  6. Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance [272]
  7. It Can’t Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis [400]
  8. Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler [345]
  9. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley [288]
  10. Narrative of the life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave by Frederick Douglas [160]
  11. Bus Girl: Poems by Gretchen Josephson [107]
  12. The Irony of American History by Reinhold Neibuhr [174]
  13. We by Yevgeny Zamayatin [225]

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    Diving sea turtle by E.A. Schneider

  14. 1984 by George Orwell [322]
  15. Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond [418]
  16. Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood [400]
  17. The Diary of Anne Frank by Anne Frank [200]
  18. Selected Poems by Langston Hughes [320]
  19. Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston [243]
  20. Strangers in Their Own Land by Arlie Hothschild [288]
  21. Origins of Totalitarianism by Hannah Arendt [527]
  22. Ecotopia by Ernest Callenbach [181]
  23. Stone Butch Blues by Leslie Feinberg [308]
  24. Muslims and the Making of America by Amir Hussain [150]
  25. Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine [160]
  26. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot [370]
  27. Waist-high in the World: A life Among the Non-Disabled by N. Mairs [224]
  28. I Am Malala: The Story of the Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai [352]
  29. Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver [436]
  30. Imagined Communities by Benedict Anderson [240]

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    Summer wildflowers at dusk by E.A. Schneider

  31. Prophesy Deliverance! by Cornel West [188]
  32. The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks [243]
  33. The Dictator’s Handbook by Bueno de Mequita [352]
  34. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury [249]
  35. Fight Club by Chuck Palahnuik [218]
  36. Coyote by Allen Steele [436]
  37. The Big Stick: The Limits of Soft Power and the Necessity of Military Force by Eliot A. Cohen [304]
  38. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins [374]
  39. The American Jeremiad by Sacvan Bercovitch [256]
  40. High-Rise by J. G. Ballard [204]
  41. An Unnecessary Woman by Rabih Alameddine [291]
  42. V for Vendetta by Alan Moore and David Lloyd [296]
  43. Caesar’s Column by Ignatius Donnelly [278]
  44. Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center by bell hooks [174]
  45. The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements by Eric Hoffer [240]
  46. Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin [349]
  47. Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman [208]
  48. The Long Walk by Richard Bachman (pseudonym of Stephen King) [384]
  49. In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin by Erik Larson [448]
  50. The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt [528]
  51. The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli [140]
  52. Animal Farm by George Orwell [112]
  53. The Wave by Morton Rhue and Todd Strasser [143]
  54. Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel Garcia Marquez [120]

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    Coneflower by E.A. Schneider

  55. Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson [433]
  56. Southern Horrors and Other Writings: The Anti-Lynching Campaign of Ida B. Wells, 1892-1900 by Ida B. Wells-Barnett Jacqueline Jones Royster (Editor) [288]
  57. The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels [48]
  58. One-Dimensional Man: Studies in the Ideology of Advanced Industrial Society by Herbert Marcuse [320]
  59. The Origins of Political Order: From Prehuman Times to the French Revolution by Francis Fukuyama [585]
  60. The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief by Francis S. Collins [294]

Thank you for reading to the end! I am going to intersperse my reading of this list with other lighter works and hopefully I will blog about those, too. I’ve already read a couple of these and will be posting my reviews sometime soon. Hopefully, this will help you launch your Summer Reading with some fascinating books and dynamic thinking. Any thoughts? Concerns? What are you reading now? Please, share below, happy Summer reading, and thank you for stopping by the pond today, dear reader.

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Onward by E.A. Schneider

 

 

Finished some reading!

I got to do some reading the last couple of days, dear pond readers, and I have a couple tiny updates for you.

Changeless (Parasol Protectorate, #2)Changeless by Gail Carriger

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This series is distractingly addictive and I am thoroughly enjoying every page. Alexia is a fabulous heroine and I can hardly wait to read what further adventures she encounters in book three armed with her parasol, glassicles, and preternatural wit.

View all my reviews

Red Hood's Revenge (Princess, #3)Red Hood’s Revenge by Jim C. Hines

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The stakes keep building for the trio of no-nonsense princesses in Red Hood’s Revenge. I absolutely love how Hines is mining the deep, dark recesses of classic fairy tales to tell these very realistically positive fantasy stories. I can hardly wait for book four.

View all my reviews

I’m over halfway through my goal of 52 books this year with 29 books done. Here’s hoping that I can not only power on and finish some more books but also do a longer capsule review heavy post for all of you. What are your reading and writing goals this Fall, dear readers? Please, leave a comment below and thanks for stopping by.

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Budding possibility by E.A. Schneider

 

If you want to support Technicolorlilypond and check out some super fun books, check out these links: Changeless (The Parasol Protectorate) and Red Hood’s Revenge (Princess Novels) Thank you!

Reading in the Woods

As you all know, I was able to sell a second short story entitled Kitsune Tea,” using my pseudonym, E.A. Lawrence and it was published in the anthology ROAR 7 edited by Mary E. Lowd.

Prior to going on my recent camping trip, I finally got my paperback copy in the mail. It was a delicious feeling to hold the book in my hands, drink in that new book smell, and caress the pages that held my imagination. Let me tell you, that is the best paper I have ever felt in my life. This whole selling-my-fiction-for-money thing is a dream that I’ve been actively pursuing since I was nine and getting to see my work in a BOOK is a dream come true.  I feel triumphant and energized and hopeful that my story will make people smile. Optimism about this being but one step in my literary journey with more to follow in the not-too-distant future is also revving me up.

Since I got the book in the mail before my trip, I figured that I would bring it along. Why not? Paperbacks are tough and what better place to read a story set in the woods than actually sitting in the woods? I guess that I’m a little method but who cares.

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Campsite by E.A. Schneider

We got to the state park in the upper midwest and set up camp in a nice clearing. Like most state parks there was a picnic table set on more or less level ground and a fire ring. The site was surrounded with a nice mix of hardwood deciduous trees with a full, bushy understory and a wet spot/creek bed running through the area. It was lovely.

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Butterfly feeding by E.A. Schneider

My friend and I did our hiking and came back to camp later than we planned to cook dinner but, no big deal, right? Well…we weren’t alone. Remember all those lovely big trees with a moist bushy understory surrounding our site? At dark  we quickly realized that there was a meso-predator who called the site home and he wanted something besides the numerous cricket frogs in the moist spots to eat. A raccoon wanted in on dinner and was  quite bold about saying so. It was clear that people had fed him. This raccoon approached the picnic table even though we were there and started chewing on the tied up garbage bag before my friend shooed him off.

As we sat at the picnic table eating our campfire food (delicious baked stuffed onions and cakes in oranges), the raccoon kept creeping up. I have no doubt that if we had been less antagonistic in waving our lanterns at him, that he would have felt comfortable sitting at the table and helped himself from our plates. Being us, we disapprove of such shenangins, wildlife should be wild thank-you-very-much, and were careful to clear everything edible up and away in the car for the night. I rather thought that, without anything in sight anymore, that the raccoon would put his energies toward other foraging and leave us to ourselves.

We pulled our camp chairs to the fire and settled in to relax. I had a cup of tea, my lantern, and my book. I even took a picture of the first page of my story for posterity because why not. There were stars gleaming above between the tree-tops, more stars densely packed in that one clearing of sky than you can easily see from my whole backyard, and it was a lovely quiet night.

 

Then my friend saw the raccoon, driven by curiosity to explore our picnic table. He trundled off after we snapped some pictures. The pictures were not terribly good but it had been worth a try. Again, I figured that he would move on and went back to reading my story.

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Raccoon on the table by E.A. Schneider

As I read my story, getting drawn into the suspense and keen to see that the copy was clean, I was startled by that elemental pricking at the back of the neck one reads about in books occurring on my own neck. I heard paws treading into camp. The raccoon was back again to verify the absence of goodies. This time I snapped a decent picture of the interloper, he scampered off, and that’s it, right? Nope.

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Yeah…I’ve been having fun with the Make It Stranger font generator. I love the show “Stranger Things,” and the font definitely captures the suspenseful feelings of the night with some humor.

Again, I was roused from concentrating on my own story, during a chase scene no less, by the shuffling paw steps of the raccoon coming toward our fire from the other wooded side of camp than the picnic table. I could hear the raccoon’s paws moving through the underbrush and leaf litter. I don’t know if he was that loud, it was that quiet, or my hearing is that much keener than I thought. I couldn’t see him, my eyes were dazzled from the whiteness of my page, which only added to the primal anxiety aroused by the situation. My friend and I both jumped, startled from our separate pursuits by the raccoon’s intrusion. Why would he come back? We had no food left out, we were just sitting there. This was incredible. In all my time in the woods over the years I had never before felt the scrutiny of an interested predator, albeit a small one, in my movements, environment, and objects. Feeling encircled and studied by a wild animal bent on exploring our space and stealing our food definitely added an extra dimension to reading my story.  All the suspenseful bits of “Kitsune Tea” had an extra edge to them than there would have been if I had elected to read the story in an armchair at home.

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My favorite picture of the raccoon by E.A. Schneider

I was able to finish reading my story without further interruption by the raccoon and I was happy. “Kitsune Tea”  was as I remembered with a clean copy having nary a typo in sight. I was both pleased and impressed. Going to sleep that night was tough. For one thing I was still excited by the day and having read my story in a book. For another, the night was teeming with sounds from owls, crickets, cricket frogs, cicadas, the murmur of other campers at other campsites, and other unknown rustlings in the woods.

I also kept thinking about the raccoon. How many calories did he get from campers? How did he choose which campers to pursue and which to avoid? From a raccoon perspective, the site was perfect habitat with those trees, water, and frogs so the human element might just be the cherry on top rather than the main draw. It was fun to ponder. I have always been fond of urban wildlife and the ways in which they thrive. A raccoon living in a well attended state park might not be exactly urban but he certainly knew the perks of the human herd. I don’t know if there is a sequel to “Kitsune Tea” in my brain yet or not but, after my experience with that bold little raccoon, I think there very well might be another adventure set in my imagined Maintou State Forest in the not too distant future. We’ll see.

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Trees in the dark by E.A. Schneider                                                                                                                I freely admit that this is not a good picture but I like the different tones of green and I like remembering just how densely packed with stars that little spot of blackness was.

All in all, I have to recommend reading in the woods generally and particularly reading my “Kitsune Tea” in the woods if at all possible. It was fun. I hope that my encounter with a raccoon made you smile, dear pond readers. Do you have a raccoon anecdote? Do you  have a comment or question? Please, leave a comment below and thanks for stopping by the pond today, dear readers.

 

 

P.S.: I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. If you buy this lovely ROAR 7 anthology published by Furplanet publications through this amazon link: ROAR Volume 7, I will get a small advertising fee. I hope that these fees will help support me as I continue writing and doing creative things here at Technicolorlilypond. Thanks for your support!

2015 Reading Retrospective

Now that spring is almost over, dear readers, I have taken the time to reflect on all the adventures in books that I enjoyed in 2015. In a lot of ways, 2015 was a difficult year for me, the hardest for me since 2013. I faced some highs and I faced some terrible lows of loss. I breathed a sigh of relief when the clock struck midnight on December 31st, eager to start a fresh year here on planet Earth.

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Skeptical baby bunny is skeptical by E.A. Schneider

Per usual, I rode the swells of corporeal existence clinging to the pages of tremendous books. When I think of 2015, so much is a blur that I can’t do my usual seasonal breakdown of books. Looking back, I realize that I spent a lot of time reading series rather than stand-alone novels, which might contribute to the blurred feeling. The year had some standout authors for me including Jim Butcher, Jim C. Hines, Neil Gaiman, Jane Austen, Ursula K. LeGuin, Samuel R. Delaney, Agatha Christie, Lord Dunsany, and Neal Stephenson. Their books pop in my memory the most. I’m grateful that their books were there to read when I desperately needed sanctuary in a good book. Below I have made a list of everything I read in 2015 in no particular order with a short capsule review on my thoughts. Also, you will find some of my favorite pictures from 2016 so far. Enjoy!

  1. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
    1. I can see the appeal of this book. The prose is well written and the relationship between Jaime and Claire is compelling but the book is 250-pages-too-long with excessive sexual violence. By the end, I did not feel invested enough to read more of the series; just relieved the story had reached a stopping point.
  2. The Dispossessed by Ursula K. LeGuin
    1. This book is incredibly beautiful, complex, and utterly fascinating. I will be re-reading this for years to come I’m sure. The way LeGuin depicts marriage, society, and all the bittersweet trade-offs of both is compelling with the sweet tang of truthful reality that good sci-fi can deliver.
  3. Ubik by Phillip K. Dick
    1. Another story where Dick messes with your mind’s perception of life, the universe, and everything. Reading this left me feeling small, powerless, and overall kind of dumb which is rather typical for Dick’s stories. That said, the portrayal of women was not incredibly offensive and I found his exploration of the twilight realm of life vs. death a page-turning experience.
  4. A Knot in the Grain by Robin McKinley
    1. I know that I will re-read this book, that it will be part of the regular rotation of comfort reads for me moving forward. McKinley re-interprets fairy tales and their heroines in innovative ways in this collection. My favorite heroine was McKinley’s Rapunzel with her heroic nature and unabashed love for her foster mother. I really appreciated McKinley’s way of obliquely mentioning magic and leaving so much so tantalizingly off page. That takes a deft touch that I hope to master in my own fiction someday.

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      Lake Michigan wave by E.A. Schneider

  5. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
    1. This book was very readable with a dry, bleak sense of macabre humor. I couldn’t stop reading and even though I finished it a year ago, passages still come to mind occasionally. So it goes.
  6. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
    1. This book is magic. I love the story of Nobody Owens and his graveyard family. Gaiman has a real knack for repurposing monsters without losing sight of their monster nature. I copied out so many quotes from this book. I like the emphasis that Gaiman puts on the way life is defined by making choices, mistakes, and by the possibility of change whereas the dead are over, their story is done and no changes are left. Of course, he does play with that, too. How over can things be when the dead adopt a boy? It is a wonderful fairy tale and this book might be my new favorite Gaiman creation.
  7. The Story of the Treasure-Seekers by Edith Nesbit
    1. A fast, diverting read filled with all the sexism appropriate to the 19th century, especially since the narrator is one of the Bastable family’s boys. I will probably read more of the Bastable’s adventures when I need a light read.
  8. The Man in the High Castle by Phillip K. Dick
    1. Once again, a compelling read with tantalizing, mind-bending moments. I liked the characters of Tagomi and Julianna the most. I don’t know what Dick was speaking to with this story or if he was speaking to any particular thing. Pondering the ending, I feel like Tagomi pondering the pin and seeking transcendental answers to universal questions in a small, physical artifact.
  9. Moon Over the Back Fence  by Esther Carlson
    1. This was an odd story. At times the vignettes between Ellen and her Uncle George are absolutely charming and sweet while at others they are very strange with some disturbing gender/sexual politics. In the end, this is a poignant story of the end of childhood through the lens of magic realism/surrealism and, weird as it was sometimes, I’m glad that I read it.
  10. The Stepsister Scheme  by Jim C. Hines
    1. This book totally kicks all expectations to the curb and is absolutely amazing. I am a big fan of fairy tales and Hines mines all the best old ones to craft incredible heroines with character and humanity. It will take all my self-control to not blitz through this series too fast; I want to savor every page.

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      Lake Michigan shore by E.A. Schneider

  11. Nova by Samuel R. Delaney
    1. This is a rip-roaring space adventure with terrific prose and a page-turning story featuring colorful characters that were a delight to read. I found the galactic scale of political maneuvering tempered by the close human scale of the ship crew and I loved the ending. It’s a great book.
  12. Star Trek Vanguard #1: Harbinger by David Mack
    1. This was really fun just when I needed something light and fun and Trek. I liked that with Harbinger Mack came up with a new crew and a new station rather than trying to capture and sustain the unique vibe of the Enterprise officers. The Vanguard station crew is amazing with fun characters and I am eagerly looking forward to reading the rest of the series.
  13. Around the World in 72 Days and Other Writings by Nellie Bly
    1. Nellie Bly has been one of my heroines since I was a little girl. I admired her story of pluck and courage but I confess that I was always afraid to read her actual writing. What if she was terrible? How crushed would I feel? Well, come to find out, she’s not a terrible writer or a particularly extraordinary one, but a good writer of readable stories. The book proved to be a great time capsule of America on the verge of greatness from the POV of one of its great characters who reveled in being the star of the story. I found a lot of fun, quotable passages and, despite Bly’s incredible racism typical for her class and time period, there is still much that I can admire in her work. She was so brave and her persistence in the face of emotional and financial hardship is inspiring. I have no doubt that I will re-read the book and, warts and all, Nellie Bly is still my heroine.

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      Spider monkey by E.A. Schneider

  14. Ready Player One  by Ernest Cline
    1. This book is a terrifically fun, entertaining story. I get all the references but the references at times feel like the real star of the story with the narrative a stage on which they can shine. Ready Player One has a lot to say and I feel like I’m going to be talking about it and thinking about it for a long time to come, I will probably even re-read it at some point. It also has some profoundly troubling things to say about race, gender, and identity. Sadly, the future world Cline describes seems all too plausible and very frightening from my POV, I hope it doesn’t come to pass.
  15. Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson
    1. This book is fantastic. I loved it and will no doubt re-read it someday. The prose, particularly the prose to describe the metaverse, is beautiful. The dystopian world is complex and feels so plausible, so real in its slippery slope description of public-private partnerships, that it’s scary. The characters, particularly Hiro and YT, are definitely the best part. I like the fact that no matter how extraordinary our technology becomes, Stephenson thinks that personal relationships are what will really make the difference. I’m inclined to agree.

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      Flying together by E.A. Schneider

  16. Thirteen at Dinner by Agatha Christie
    1. One of the cleverest murders that Christie wrote, this is an old favorite of mine. Captain Hastings helps save the day with his everyday knack for the obvious that makes him a great foil for Hercule Poirot.
  17. Five Little Pigs by Agatha Christie
    1. Hercule Poirot is in his element with this story. No clues, no evidence, and no cigarette ash but rather five different interviews recalling the misty events of 20 years ago. Only Poirot and his little grey cells could make sense of this story and I love it.
  18. Appointment with Death by Agatha Christie
    1. I read this because I had re-read the play based on this novel a few months previously and I wanted to compare the two. I like how Christie plays with the cast of characters even though Poirot lifts right out, and she gets to set it in the Middle-east spots she loved so much.
  19. Elephants Can Remember by Agatha Christie
    1. It’s still fabulous, even with its flaws. I love re-reading this book. I read it again in 2015, after listening to a Radiolab discussion of memory and Agatha Christie. That definitely added another layer to the experience with a slightly more poignant edge. Like Five Little Pigs this story features detective work based solely on recollection and showcases dialogue. Ariadne Oliver steals the show from Poirot, too, which is always a treat.
  20. Tuesday Club Murders  by Agatha Christie
    1. I bought the edition I read because the cover art was fantastic and I was craving some Marple short fiction. This anthology is a treat filled with Miss Marple’s wonderful brand of pessimistic detection based on her understanding of human nature. Terrific stuff.

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      Massasaugas resting by E.A. Schneider

  21. Cards on the Table by Agatha Christie
    1. Hercule Poirot talks to people to solve an unsolvable psychological murder per usual but the cast of both sleuths and suspects are a delight and I thoroughly enjoyed re-reading this story. I particularly like that my beloved Ariadne Oliver gets to be both a first rate sleuth and the comic relief. Oliver also gets the chance to talk a bit about the hum drum work of writing to dispel some of the romantic illusions people, especially fans, might hold.
  22. The Monogram Murders by Sophie Hannah and “Agatha Christie”
    1. Having re-read some Christie before this book, reading Sophie Hannah’s interpretation of Poirot did spur me to re-read some more Poirot afterward. Hannah’s interpretation was pretty okay. I think she did a good job capturing Poirot but I found the detective he works with, Catchpool, a rather unappealing fellow but I suppose not everyone can be Captain Hastings.
  23. Cradle in the Grave by Sophie Hannah
    1. An entertaining read with good dialogue. I can understand why the Christie estate chose Hannah to carry the dame’s characters forward.
  24. Fatal Enquiry by Will Thomas
    1. I am a big fan of Barker & Llewelyn and this adventure is a splendid read. I could not put the book down except with the most grudging feelings. I believe I finished it in less than 72 hours, which is some kind of record for me given how busy I was at the time.
  25. Codex Born by Jim C. Hines
    1. The second in Hines’ Libriomancer stories, this book really spotlights the incredible character of Lena Greenwood, book born dryad who is so much more than the ink and words that created her. I don’t know what to say about this book without spoiling things but this series is amazing and Greenwood is a complicated heroine who rocks this book.
  26. The Eye of Zoltar by Jasper Fforde
    1. This is third in the Last Dragonslayer series featuring heroine, Jennifer Strange, and the magicians of Kazam. The book is terrific; a page-turner that drew me in and gripped me and then had the temerity to end on a cliffhanger. Fforde had better take his vitamin, that’s all I have to say about that.

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      Whooping Crane portrait by E.A. Schneider

  27. Postcards from No Man’s Land by Aidan Chambers
    1. The book started out strong then took a 90-degree turn into shallow waters and left me feeling rather disappointed. It features interlocking narratives of past and present in the Netherlands. The narrative of the past by Gertruui was wonderful and the prose overall was lyrical with some very quotable passages but the modern narrative left me feeling cold. Maybe it just needed a second draft? It was pretty okay but I don’t need to re-read it or more from this author.
  28. More Valley Cats: Fun games and new friends by Gretchen Preston
    1. A charming book and a great sequel to the first Valley Cats adventure with gorgeous art featuring some fun new characters.
  29. Mangaboom by Charlotte Pomerantz
    1. I heard about this picture book because of the efforts of someone who tried to ban it from a library. It is a charming picture book with a good story about being true to oneself and being able to find others just the way you are. The dope who tried to ban the book missed the entire point of the story but since the person probably stopped reading on page two I suppose that is hardly surprising. I’m glad I’ve read it and that it is in my library now.
  30. Something Rich and Strange by Patricia McKillip
    1. McKillip’s language is lovely, I can only quibble with some of her lack of narrative clarity but I do enjoy her prose to the point that I don’t care so much about a few fudged descriptions. McKillip creates an enchanting world that draws you in and grips your imagination with her imagery.

      IMG_8362-001

      Inca tern by E.A. Schneider

  31. Growing Up Lutheran: What does this mean? by Janet Letniss Martin
    1. I did not grow up Lutheran. I heard a lot of stories of the Lutherans growing up from my mom as well as A Prairie Home Companion. I did marry into a Lutheran family and I feel welcomed by the tribe. Reading this book explains so many of the stories I have heard with so much loving good humor that it was an absolute treat to read. I highly recommend the book to all who love Lutherans or have been curious about their ways.
  32. Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
    1. This is the Austen that I re-read the least. In fact, my re-read this past summer might have been the first time that I re-read it in many years. Yet, I think that will change. Re-reading Fanny Price’s story this last summer, I found so much more to empathize with and admire than I had before. Fanny Price is an underrated heroine with her own brand of implacable courage that I found very comforting to read this past summer. Also, Mrs. Norris is such a terrific villain, she made me laugh when I needed a laugh.
  33. Persuasion by Jane Austen
    1. Second chances, wonderful humor, and a beautiful romance who could ask for more? I have frequently said that Persuasion is my favorite Austen over the years and I know that that will continue to be true. There’s just something about the steadfast relationship between Wentworth and Anne that gets my heart beating every time.
  34. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
    1. Every re-read of this book I notice some nuance that I either never noticed before or am struck anew by some layer to the story that never used to catch my notice. This time, I was very struck by the discussions of mercenary vs. prudential motives for marriage and the double standards we put on the sexes. Reading this after having re-read Persuasion I was struck again by the second chance that Darcy and Elizabeth get against all probability or social expectation. While Pride and Prejudice is not my favorite of her novels it is a nonetheless treasured friend, I look forward to getting to know it all over again the next time I re-read it.
  35. Macbeth by Shakespeare
    1. This is my favorite of Shakespeare’s tragedies. I have read it many times and every time I notice things anew. This time I read a scholarly edition that I hadn’t read before with some fascinating annotations. The tragic end of the Macbeths is still a compelling story that sucks me in and spits me out every time.

      IMG_8699-001

      Vulture by E.A. Schneider

  36. The Absolutely True Story of a Part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie
    1. This book is absolutely fantastic in the most gut-wrenchingly real way. I love it. Junior’s story is powerful, charming, and a poignant look at growing up different. I find snatches of this story popping to mind so often, especially his way of talking about his brain damage when my brain is doing less than awesome things; it has really stuck with me. I look forward to reading more Alexie.
  37. The Old Man and the Sea by Hemingway
    1. At first, I thought this was the dullest book in the world. After awhile, I began to see an austere poetry to the prose and the descriptions pop more because they are so few and far between. I found myself empathizing with Santiago and his need to think everything out step by step and endure everything through good-humored suffering. Still, the macho bullshit about the brotherhood between Santiago and the incredibly noble fish was super irritating to me. While the prose was clear and memorable, I don’t see myself re-reading this book.
  38. The King of Elfland’s Daughter by Lord Dunsany
    1. The language is incredibly beautiful in this book. The prose is lyrical with syntax that just makes me want to seize my fountain pen and paper to write and write and write the most incredibly fabulous tales ever dreamed in my fancy. I can see why this book inspired so many authors. All in all, The King of Elfland’s Daughter is enchanting, succinct, and certainly the most delightful cautionary tale that I have ever read.

      IMG_8644-001

      Portrait of a greater kudu by E.A. Schneider

  39. The Suspicion at Sanditon by Carrie Bebris
    1. Bebris really gets Jane Austen’s dialogue and style more than any other Austen inspired author I’ve read. The story is delightful with an almost Shakespearean comedy vibe to the mystery that is funny even as it is also kind of suspenseful in a gothic way. Now that Bebris has run through everything that Austen left besides the Juvenilia, I’m not sure where she can go next with Mr. and Mrs. Darcy. Personally? I think Bebris and her characters are good enough that she can take them somewhere entirely new and it would be fantastic.
  40. Unbound by Jim C. Hines
    1. A splendid end to a splendid fantasy series, I highly recommend both this book and the Libriomancer series. I particularly like that Hines lets his characters make unconventional, difficult choices. A lot of things in this story surprised me and I feel like that doesn’t often happen to me as a reader anymore. I really like this series and am positive that I will re-read Isaac Vainio’s adventure.
  41. Anatomy of Evil by Will Thomas
    1. A fascinating interpretation of the Jack-the-Ripper case by two of my favorite private inquiry agents, I would definitely recommend both the Barker and Llewlyn series and this book. I sincerely hope that Will Thomas has more of these stories ready to publish because I am eagerly looking forward to the continuing adventures of these enquiry agents. I do hope that Thomas sends them to America in the next book; it would be a treat to see how they would do outside of their comfort zone in London.
  42. The Prisoner of Zenda by Anthony Hope
    1. An adventure of derring-do that had just the right amount of romance, I thoroughly enjoyed this diversion. I kind of bought it for the cover art based on fond memories of watching the movie on PBS with my dad when I was a kid. I honestly had no clue that it was based on a book. Now that I know Anthony Hope apparently wrote a series starring the Rasendyll’s I will definitely have to investigate the sequels.
  43. The Cinder Spires: the Aeronaut’s Windlass by Jim Butcher
    1. A new series by Butcher gets off to a great start with this book. I can hardly wait to see where he goes with this story. I like the eclectic characters that he has assembled and am delighted with the steampunk style of the world of spires he describes.

      IMG_8378-001

      Boat billed heron and Ibis by E.A. Schneider

  44. The Little World of Liz Climo by Liz Climo
    1. This book is whimsically delightful. It is charming, beautifully illustrated, and the humor really speaks to me. Also, there are sloths and honey badgers and snakes. You can’t go wrong with characters like that.
  45. The Codex Alera Series by Jim Butcher
    1. The five books of the Codex Alera series are amazing. I devoured these books and reading them was good medicine when I really needed some. This series has everything: strong characters, amazing heroines, complex politics, fantastical magic, a brilliant love-story, machinations within machinations, and probably the best depiction of non-human species that I have ever read. I will re-read this series I’m sure.
      1. Furies of Calderon by Jim Butcher
      2. Academ’s Fury by Jim Butcher
      3. Cursor’s Fury by Jim Butcher
      4. Captain’s Fury by Jim Butcher
      5. Princeps’ Fury by Jim Butcher
      6. First Lord’s Fury by Jim Butcher
IMG_8441-001

White headed laughing thrush by E.A. Schneider

All told, 2015 was quite a year for reading. I got to spend a lot of nights up late with a good book, I met some incredible characters, and I got re-acquainted with characters that I thought I knew. What about you, dear readers, what stands out to you when you think about the books you read in 2015? Are any books making an impression on you in 2016? Please, leave a comment below with your thoughts and thanks for stopping by the pond today.

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Inca tern in flight by E.A. Schneider

Fantasy and Sci-Fi Books I Love

Recently, someone close to me asked me to recommend them some good sci-fi/fantasy books, preferably ones that were skewed towards adventure. This is definitely one of those requests that falls under the category of “be careful what you wish for,” dear pond readers. When I looked over the list, I realized that given the amount of work I’d poured into it that I might as well turn it into a blog post. This is not a comprehensive list by any means. Some series I love like Harry Potter, Hunger Games, and Lord of the Rings, were left off because the person I was recommending books to had already read them. I didn’t put them back on because I think that they are probably the only three series a lot of people have read and I want to bring some other titles forward. The list is skewed toward adventure and a “If you like Tolkien, you might like:” approach, and it leaves out some of my favorites as a result. But, I hope that it gives you some fun reading ideas as you approach the winter and hopefully some well-earned days off. If nothing else, my one to three sentence reviews/summaries might be amusing in their understatement.

A cuppa floral fun by E.A. Schneider

A cuppa floral fun by E.A. Schneider

  • Jonathon Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke
    • This is written in the style of Regency literature and it is about wizards contributing to the Napoleonic wars. It is a slow starter but absolutely fantastic, extremely well-written
  • The Ladies of Grace-Adieu by Susanna Clarke
    • A charming short-story collection set in the same world as Jonathon Strange and Mr. Norrell. If you like the one, you will probably like the other and it is very short.
  • Changing Planes by Ursula K. LeGuin
    • A splendid collection of short stories with an anthropologic/ethnographer bent kind of sci-fi. This is one of my very favorite books.
  • The Earthsea Trilogy by Ursula K. LeGuin
    • I love these books. A very cool fantasy adventure with a hero’s journey and wizards.
  • The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher
    • This series just gets better and better with every book. Think urban fantasy meets film noir and magic just happens with compelling characters.
  • The Codex Alera series by Jim Butcher
    • I have devoured the first five books this winter. It is a high fantasy series with enough sophistication and political maneuvering combined with great combat to make this an addictive page-turner. When I found the final book,  book six, in the library today I let out an involuntary shriek of joy.
  • Dune by Frank Herbert
    • An epic space opera with great adventure, spice, and sandworms.
  • The Charwoman’s Shadow by Lord Dunsany
    • This is a short book with a poignant fantasy arc and a fascinating female lead.
  • The Well at the World’s End by William Morris
    • An epic tale of romantic fantasy, Morris inspired Tolkien a lot and I found this story to be incredibly beautiful. Also, the character named Ursula is amazing.
  • Brave Story  by Miyuki Miyabe
    • I love this story. It is an incredible adventure, a real page-turner. It was very comforting/inspiring when I really needed it.
  • The Never-ending Story by Michael Ende
    • The book is so splendid, way better than the movie. This is a favorite and I think it really touches a nerve for anyone who just genuinely loves Story.
  • Od Magic by Patricia Mckillop
    • This is my favorite of her books, a really fun fantasy about an incredible school for magic.
  • The Once and Future King by T.H. White
    • A wonderful interpretation of the Arthurian legend with some real poignant moments as wells as action.
  • The Worm Ouroboros by Eric Rücker Eddison
    • Eddison was a contemporary of Tolkien and this book is splendid though the ending was a tad irritating but in a mostly good way.
  • The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury
    • This is a great novel/short story collection that is filled with wonder.
  • The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
    • A sweet, beautiful story of growing up that is absolutely charming and enchanting.
  • Nova by Samuel R. Delaney
    • A rip-roaring space adventure that is just lots of fun.
  • Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
    • A space adventure with a nifty emphasis on tactics with great characters.
  • The Thursday Next Series by Jasper Fforde
    • I LOVE this series. It is an alternate timeline with librarians of action, a book world, dodos, neanderthals, and one of the most captivating heroines I have ever read. Also, it is an action packed page turner for the bibliophile who has a Monty Python-loving sensibility.
  • The Big Over Easy by Jasper Fforde
    • The start of his nursery crime series, this book is a fun combo of fantasy, comedy, and mystery. Even though nursery rhymes feature heavily, it is not a kids bookTurkey vultures in the blue by E.A. SchneiderTurkey vultures in the blue by E.A. Schneider
  •  The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde
    • This is the start of his series for young people, the Chronicles of Kazam. It is a world not unlike our own with magic as part of everyday life and the protagonist is an orphan named Jennifer Strange. I have read all three books and they are fabulous.
  •  Libriomancer by Jim C. Hines
    • This is set in our world, in Michigan to be exact, but with magic based on books. I have read the entire trilogy and they are splendid. Hines does some bold things with his protagonist and it is action-packed without being shallow.
  • The Stepsister Scheme by Jim C. Hines
    • I have only read the first book in his Princess series but it is wonderful and set in a medieval style world. He turns convention around with some no-nonsense fairy tale heroines and uses the original fairy tales to good effect. I am super excited to read the sequels.
  • Shadows by Robin McKinley
    • I am a big fan of Robin McKinley. She writes fantasy books about female characters who do things and this makes me happy. Shadows is set in a world very like our own but there is magic and just a hint of physics.
  •   Sunshine by Robin McKinley
    • This is also set in a world very like our own, but with magic. The heroine is a baker and she meets vampires. A lot of critics call this book the anti-Twilight because it is smart, funny, well-written, and has pretty emotionally healthy characters. I like this a little better than Shadows but they are both good.
  •  The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley
    • The first book McKinley wrote set in her magical fantasy land called Damar. I think this is a good McKinley gateway book and it is considered a classic.
  •     The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley
    • While McKinley writes a lot of books in Damar in no particular chronological order, the Blue Sword is a direct sequel to the Hero and the Crown.
  •     Spindle’s End by Robin McKinley
    • This is my favorite of her novels. It is a re-telling of Sleeping Beauty, which I generally dislike, but she makes it so interesting and thrilling. I also really like her characters and the fact that she lets them make difficult choices.
  •  Dragonhaven by Robin McKinley
    • This is set in our world, more or less, but with dragons. It is written in such a way that I kept wanting to google to see if the Makepeace Dragon Institute were real. I found the protagonist irritating in and of himself but it is a compliment to her writing that that did not put me off reading the book, indeed I couldn’t put it down.
  • The Enchanted Castle by E. Nesbit
    • A classic of children’s literature with a lot of imagination, some adventure, and a charming ending.
  •  The Mrs. Quent trilogy by Galen Beckett.
    • This is a splendid Regency-England style fantasy trilogy that has witches and wonderful prose. It is also pretty short if you are looking for a fast to read series.
My haul from my last used-bookstore crawl. Who knows? Maybe a new favorite is lurking in that tantalizing pile of books.

My haul from my last used-bookstore crawl. Who knows? Maybe a new favorite is lurking in that tantalizing pile of books.

Happy reading, dear pond readers. Thank you for stopping by today and please, leave a comment with what you are reading.

Books from my Summer Days


Rocks and water by E.A. Schneider

Rocks and water by E.A. Schneider

Hello, dear pond readers! I’ve been blazing through my reading list this year and I’ve managed to make a surprising amount of progress. I have already filled the pages of one reader’s journal and have begun a second journal to see me through to 2016.

In rough chronological order, here is my list of 2015 books so far:

  1. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
  2. The Dispossessed by Ursula K. LeGuin
  3. Ubik by Phillip K. Dick
  4. A Knot in the Grain by Robin McKinley
  5. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
  6. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
  7. The Story of the Treasure-Seekers by Edith Nesbit
  8. The Man in the High Castle by Phillip K. Dick
  9. Moon Over the Back Fence  by Esther Carlson
  10. The Stepsister Scheme  by Jim C. Hines
  11. Nova by Samuel R. Delaney
  12. Star Trek Vanguard #1: Harbinger by David Mack
  13. Around the World in 72 Days and Other Writings by Nellie Bly

    Ferns by E.A. Schneider

    Fiddleheads by E.A. Schneider

  14. Ready Player One  by Ernest Cline
  15. Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson
  16. Thirteen at Dinner by Agatha Christie
  17. Five Little Pigs by Agatha Christie
  18. Appointment with Death by Agatha Christie
  19. Elephants Can Remember by Agatha Christie
  20. Tuesday Club Murders  by Agatha Christie
  21. The Monogram Murders by Sophie Hannah and “Agatha Christie”
  22. Cradle in the Grave by Sophie Hannah
  23. Fatal Enquiry by Will Thomas
  24. Codex Born by Jim C. Hines
  25. The Eye of Zoltar by Jasper Fforde
  26. Postcards from No Man’s Land by Aidan Chambers
  27. More Valley Cats: Fun games and new friends by Gretchen Preston
  28. Mangaboom by Charlotte Pomerantz
  29. Something Rich and Strange by Patricia McKillip
  30. Growing Up Lutheran: What does this mean? by Janet Letniss Martin
  31. Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
  32. Persuasion by Jane Austen
  33. Macbeth by Shakespeare

Hopefully sooner rather than later I will start posting capsule reviews of each of the above. Overall, I’ve been very pleased with all of them. My goal on Goodreads was 40 books this year and I’m hopeful that I’m going to make it. How about you, dear readers? Where are you at in your reading ambitions for the year? Leave a comment below and thanks for stopping by the pond!

Feather left behind by E.A. Schneider

Feather left behind by E.A. Schneider

Epic reading: my 2015-2016 Reading List

Epic reading: my 2015-2016 Reading List

Hello, dear pond readers, thanks for joining me here today. This is an exciting day because I am going to reveal my ambitious epic reading list for 2015-2016. Is it long? Yes. Is it highly improbable I will actually read everything? Hellz yes. Is it going to be a fabulous adventure of the mind going to all these fantastic places? Absolutely.

Amazingly enough, as a side-benefit to terrific illness this winter, I am actually farther ahead on this reading list than I expected to be. Yay! Without further ado, here is my list in no particular order:

  1. Ubik by Phillip K. Dick<–Done! 🙂

    Shells by E.A. Schneider

    Shells by E.A. Schneider

  2. A Knot in the Grain by Robin McKinley<–Done! 🙂
  3. Dune by Frank Herbert
  4. Slaughterhouse-5 by Kurt Vonnegut<–Done! 🙂
  5. The Dispossesed by Ursula K. LeGuin<–Done! 🙂
  6. Codex Born by Jim C. Hines<–Done! 🙂
  7. The Stepsister Scheme by Jim C. Hines<–Done! 🙂
  8. American Gods by Neil Gaiman
  9. Almanac for the Dead by Leslie Marmon Silko
  10. Landfill Meditations by Gerald Vizenor
  11. Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens
  12. Portrait of the Artist As a Young Man by James Joyce
  13. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  14. Kwaidon translated by Lafcaido Hearn
  15. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

    Trillium by E.A. Schneider

    Trillium by E.A. Schneider

  16. Looking for Alaska by John Green
  17. House Made of Dawn by N. Scott Momaday
  18. Looking Backward by Edward Bellamy
  19. King Lear by William Shakespeare
  20. Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare
  21. A Winter’s Tale by William Shakespeare
  22. Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler
  23. Furies of Calderon by Jim Butcher
  24. These High Green Hills by Jan Karon
  25. The Flamingo’s Smile by Stephen Jay Gould
  26. The Man in the High Castle by Phillip K. Dick<–Done! 🙂
  27. Black Arrow by Robert Louis Stevenson
  28. Bluebeard edited by Heidi Anne Heiner
  29. Cinderella edited by Heidi Anne Heiner
  30. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
  31. Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie
  32. Moon Over the Back Fence by Esther Carlson<–Done! 🙂
  33. 100 selected poems by e.e. cummings
  34. Bully for Brontosaurus by Stephen Jay Gould
  35. Silent Spring by Rachel Carson
  36. Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond
  37. The Prelude by William Wordsworth
  38. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
  39. Once On A Time by A.A. Milne
  40. Lavinia by Ursula K. LeGuin

    Field of lace by E.A. Schneider

    Field of autumn lace by E.A. Schneider

  41. The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals by Charles Darwin
  42. The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton
  43. Bonk by Mary Roach
  44. Gulp by Mary Roach
  45. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
  46. Walden by Henry David Thoreau
  47. Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis
  48. The Story of the Treasure Seekers by Edith Nesbit<–Done! 🙂
  49. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie
  50. Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand by Samuel R. Delaney
  51. Nova by Samuel R. Delaney<–Done! 🙂
  52. A Time for Trolls by Joan Roll-Hansen
  53. Female American by Unca Eliza Winkfield, edited by Michelle Burnham
  54. Frankenstien by Mary Shelley
  55. Ecotopia by Ernest Callenbach
  56. Mangaboom by Charlotte Pomerantz<–Done! 🙂
  57. Star Trek Vanguard by David Mack<–Done! 🙂
  58. Around the World in 72 days and other writings by Nellie Bly<–Done! 🙂
  59. Thirteen at Dinner by Agatha Christie<–Done! 🙂
  60. Five Little Pigs by Agatha Christie<–Done! 🙂
  61. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline<–Done! 🙂
  62. Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson<–Done! 🙂
  63. Virtual Light by William Gibson

    Toad by E.A. Schneider

    Toad by E.A. Schneider

  64. Idoru by William Gibson
  65. Otherland by Tad Williams
  66. Pleasing the Dark by Richard Powers
  67. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman<–Done! 🙂
  68. Lockin by John Scalzi
  69. The Continent of Lies by James Marrow
  70. Fatal Enquiry by Will Thomas<–Done! 🙂
  71. Suspicion at Sanditon by Carrie Bebris
  72. The Eye of Zoltar by Jasper Fforde<–Done! 🙂
  73. The Wonderful Adventures of Nils by Selma Lagerlof
  74. Cradle in the Grave by Sophie Hannah<–Done! 🙂
  75. American Born Chinese by Gene Luch Yang
  76. Prairie Evers by Ellen Airgood
  77. Giraffe by J.M. Ledgard
  78. The Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich
  79. Postcards from No Man’s Land by Aidan Chambers<–Done! 🙂
  80. The Smartest Kids in the world and how they got that way by Amanda Ripley

As you can see, I have included a lot of titles from my 2014-2015 reading list but I did leave off several this year. Unlike in previous years, this reading list doesn’t include too many books that are longer than 600 pages. I’m hoping that I’ll be able to read most of this list over the course of the next two years but I also know that I’m sure to add titles to the list as new books come across my path. Hopefully, I will post some capsule reviews of the books I’ve read so far in 2015 soon. What about you, dear readers? Are you reading anything particularly interesting so far in 2015? Any big reading plans? Feel free to comment below and thanks again for joining me here at the pond.

Still water by E.A. Schneider

Still water by E.A. Schneider