February Recap

February 2015: I quit. Then I didn’t.

Tl;dr: I overreacted to the feeling that blogging was (is?) an obligation, and, more generally, “information overload.” It turns out my blogsbuddies have experienced similar feelings and have devised a variety of coping mechanisms. Lessons learned:

  1. I should be less dramatic.
  2. I’m not alone in feeling overwhelmed at times by my digital experiences, which is heartening.

Am I back? Not quite. I’m figuring out how to manage my online experiences in a way (or ways) that minimizes anxiety and stress. Blogging is secondary to that. But I won’t rule out the possibility of continuing to blog if and when the muse strikes. (I quite admire From Couch to Moon’s schedule, consisting as it does of weekly posts, with occasional increased frequency, usually dependent upon awards schedules.)

I haven’t posted a review for some time, but I have been reading. I plan on writing longer reviews of Signal to Noise and Half the World, but I’m listing here some “flash reviews” of the books I’ve finished over the past few weeks.

Yellow Blue Tibia, Adam Roberts. I knew after reading Jack Glass that I needed to read something else by Adam Roberts. Yellow Blue Tibia begins in the USSR, 1947. Stalin calls leading Soviet sci-fi authors together to imagine an alien threat that might unite humanity. The project is canceled without explanation, and, decades later…the narrative imagined by Stalin’s writers appears to be coming true. I quite liked Yellow Blue Tibia, and would recommend it over Jack Glass. See Catherynne M. Valente’s blog for a very different reaction.

A Scanner Darkly, Philip K. Dick

A Scanner Darkly, Philip K. Dick

A Scanner Darkly, Philip K. Dick. The first PKD I ever read! A dark vision of the future (really the 1990s, imagined in the 1970s) illuminated by PKD’s incandescent prose. PKD questions the nature of identity, and, ultimately, the realities in which we perceive ourselves, via Bob Arctor, an inveterate drug user who also happens to be an undercover police officer keeping tabs on…Bob Arctor. Arctor’s brain is fried by Substance D, and nothing is quite what it seems. Bottom line: I thoroughly enjoyed this PKD, and look forward to reading more in future.

The Gallows Curse, Karen Maitland. A historical mystery with just a dash of the supernatural. I enjoyed Maitland’s previous novels, A Company of Liars and The Owl Killers, both in the same vein, e.g., murder mysteries set in the darkness of thirteenth and fourteenth century England. There are some interesting elements here–for instance, the narrator is a mandrake (!!!)–but, overall, The Gallows Curse is dull. The plot, or plots, involving a villager falsely accused of murdering her child and a French plan to overthrow King John, didn’t quite add up, and the ending was unsatisfying. I don’t know anyone who enjoys this (sub)genre the way I do, but, if you do, you might want to steer clear of this entry.

Hollow City: The Second Novel of Miss Peregrine’s Children, Ransom Riggs. (Young adult.) The follow up to Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar ChildrenHollow City is even darker in tone, with Jacob, Emma, and the other peculiars trekking across England and Wales, 1940, in search of a way to save Miss Peregrine. Riggs’s story is effective, if not particularly compelling, and moves forward at a steady clip. Although narrated by Jacob, a fifteen year old, it reads like someone twenty years older, an effect that is jarring and inauthentic. An entry in an ongoing series, Hollow City, predictably, involves a twist and a cliffhanger ending.

Signal to Noise and Half the World are both for the young adult crowd. Signal to Noise has received quite a lot of buzz, due perhaps to its unique setting, 1980s Mexico City. I found it a sweet if not particularly affecting story, and recommend Abercrombie’s book over it. Reviews forthcoming…when I get around to it.

Update/Forgot to mention: I’ve decided that, for every novel or short story collection I read by a male author, the next I read will be by a female author. (This doesn’t apply to nonfiction, which I handle differently.)


13 thoughts on “February Recap

  1. Rabindranauth

    *cracks knuckles* Okay, time to start from the top.

    1. Nice to see my sage advice concerning blogging responsibilites was helpful O_O

    2. Yellow Blue Tibia sounds really cool. Will definitely be checking it out!

    3. The male female rotation, I take it that’s from Scalzi? Im going to be doing something close; I read far too chaotically to stick to any sort of plan, so from this month forward I’m going to rotate reviews in that order. If I post something by a male author today, in 3 days a female, then in 3 days a male . . . .

    1. booksbrainsandbeer Post author

      1. Hat tip. 2. Let me know what you think. 3. Is it from Scalzi? I know there was a “to do” about it this/last week, and I thought it wouldn’t hurt to incorporate more diversity into my reading, with gender being a good beginning point.

      1. Rabindranauth

        Yea, someone’s apparently petitioning for politically correct readers to boycott books written by straight white males for a year. Scalzi wrote up a post about it and basically suggested going half and half, because of his particular circumstances.

        Given I’m exploring fantasy at the moment, a schedule like that seems like a great way to come across fantasy that’s unlike what I’ve read to date, which is my major reason for doing it. I’m not very bothered with political correctness, unfortunately.

      2. fromcouchtomoon

        Scalzi may have thought of it independently of others, but he’s certainly not the first to rotate male/female authors. Ian Sales probably isn’t the first either, but I think he’s been doing it longer.

      3. Rabindranauth

        I’m glad he took the time to suggest it. I honestly doubt I would have considered it; Twitter’s activist crowd tends to look at all-or-nothing measures, and it’s hard to even consider middle ground stuff like that as even a possibility when everyone around you is screaming for extremely dramatic stances right now. Moderation just doesn’t seem like an option.

  2. fromcouchtomoon

    *snorts* Thanks for the link up and the “schedule admiration.” Warning: I will be doing daily posts as we get closer to Eastercon. The goal is to make them shorter than usual, so as not to contribute to the digital overload everyone is feeling. I always feel guilty about that.

    Speaking of, I meant to respond to your digital overload probs last time and didn’t. Remember what I told you about reader fatigue? I have suffered similar issues. It is always a matter of adjusting and readjusting my engagement/boundaries to avoid getting sucked into the Twitter/blog vortex. And, although I only post once or twice per week, my reviewing is part of my daily schedule, for a short time every morning. My work day is hectic, and I just want to read and run in the evenings.

    I think the biggest thing to keep in mind is that none of this is important. This is a giant book club full of interesting, intelligent people who are all reading different books. Daily attendance is not mandatory. If I start to feel overwhelmed, my brain will automatically compensate by giving me a great big zone out session in front of the screen. Like I did today. And yesterday. Grrr.

    And it’s winter, man. You did this last year. I’m feeling it, too. If it ever warms up enough for me to start jogging regularly again, my zone outs will likely subside. Balancing nature and movement with the digital life works for me. I hope you find your balance, too.

  3. nikki @ book punks

    I just got a copy of Company of Liars because I really like reading about the plague times. So I was glad to hear you were into that book. Too bad the one you just read by her not so much. Ah well.

    Also predictably excited that you liked A Scanner Darkly. Looking forward to your future reactions to his work.

    Yellow Blue Tibia sounds awesome to me. You have just won at convincing me to read things, again.

  4. admiral.ironbombs

    Heh, I was going to comment about the weather and now I see fromcouchtomoon beat me to the punch—there’s a reason I read one book a month last winter. When I clock out from my spreadsheet nightmares and find it pitch black and cold out, I want to go into a cave somewhere and hibernate until it’s warm again. When the days are long and happy and filled with sunshine and lollipops, it’s a lot easier to sit around and be socially active, read, blog, be merry and junk.

    Other thing I hadn’t thought of before now but, Matt, aren’t you working on a computer all day? I know from experience that it’s easy to get burned out doing computer stuff at work, then get home to find yourself booting up WordPress to stare, brain-dead, at a blank screen. Not just information overload but tech overload. It’s an easy way to get that backlog of material you feel Obligated to post, or miss out on others posting acres of stuff on social media you feel Obligated to keep track of, and end up with a what’s the point? mentality since there’s no way to catch up.

    So yeah, there’s a lot of factors and a lot of possible reasons that burn out bloggers, and most likely one or more has happened to someone you know. (One in three bloggers has suffered from an inertia-related affliction. Luckily it doesn’t look like you’re suffering from Lack-of-followers-itis, so we may be able to find you a treatment.) Glad to see you back, but don’t feel pressured, and do what you need to do to detox. If you need to step away, it’s not like you can never come back later.

    Also, glad to see you liked A Scanner Darkly—it’s a trip. Probably PKD at his best, balancing that psychosomatic trippiness with readability (whereas some of his later books, e.g. Valis, are all trip all day). And putting Adam Roberts on my buy list.

    1. booksbrainsandbeer Post author

      Thanks, Chris! Good to know I’m not alone. Indeed, not only am I in front of a screen all day, but my job requires me to maintain four (FOUR) inboxes and a customer-management account. Add in Excel and it’s a nightmare. I love following my blogger buddies here and on the Twitters, but I am increasingly trying to draw a line at night, after which I will not sign on to anything. (I fail constantly.) So, not quite giving up on it, but definitely taking a break and not forcing myself to do anything that seems like a chore.


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