The Posting Schedule

Hey all! Mark and Shannon here. We’re going to talk a little bit about what’ll be happening with the blog this coming year, including our goals and we want to give you some idea of what we’ll be posting when.

We’re planning to kick it into gear this year with a minimum of three posts, two of which will be reviews, every week! It should be fun. It’s a lot more than either of us have done for a sustained amount of time before, so yes, we’re a little bit nervous about things. Yes, we know the plan is a bit ambitious. But we think we can stick to it, and we’re happy that you’re along for the ride.

Our weekly schedule will hopefully look something like this: One review on Tuesday, one “other” post on Thursday, and another review on Saturday. At least one of the reviews each week will be a book review, but we can’t promise that they both will be. As you may have already noticed, I (Shannon) have been reviewing some comic books, and I’m hoping to branch into visual novels as well.

We may also start doing movie reviews, as I (Mark) don’t know if I’ll be able to read a new book every week this year, and have definitely been watching a lot more movies lately than I used to. (I saw Rogue One, Rogue One, Snowden, Collateral Beauty, Dr. Strange, Arrival, Fantastic Beasts, The Secret Life of Pets, Moana, and Independence Day all in the last two months or so.)

We’re not currently receiving any review copies other than ones we happen to get by luck, but we’re hoping to change that eventually, once we have this whole schedule thing down a little bit more. We’ve signed up for a Netgalley account, which I (Shannon) will likely be making the most use of. I (Mark) am not much of an e-book person, so I’m hoping I can pursue physical review copies a bit more.

The “other” posts will be in a wide variety of areas, though we’ll try to keep most of them related to the blog, reading/reviewing, and us. We have a lot of convention reports coming up, including Mark’s report from WorldCon last year, Shannon (and possibly Mark)’s report on ICFA this year, Mark’s JordanCon report, and perhaps we will throw in a report or two on any signings that we go to that end up being particularly fun. I (Mark) reserve the right to write random Sanderson posts when I want to, too.

We look forward to seeing everyone in the comments section in the new year!

Favorite Quotes

I posted a while back about first lines. This time, I’m just going to talk about favorite lines/quotes from books. They’re all my favorites for various reasons. Some encompass the entire series quite well, others just ring so pure and true I can’t deny them, regardless of context. Some of them are just so popular that they can’t be ignored. I hope you enjoy, and leave your favorites in the comments. Be warned of mild spoilers for everything. I’ve included the covers for each book before the quote, so you may want to skim past one if you haven’t read the book/series yet.

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There’s two lines from The Hunger Games trilogy that I want to highlight and talk about, though I tried to keep it down to 1 per book/series.

“I volunteer! I volunteer as tribute!”

This is the line where all of us were hooked, I think. There is little as moving or as heroic as sacrificing yourself for someone else, and when Katniss volunteers… Well, Leevy (Effie in the movie, I think) had it right when she spoke up, saying it was the moment when Katniss truly moved her. It’s a powerful moment, and one that kicks off the entire trilogy, in its own way.

It’s also become, well, synonymous for volunteering for things. Last year, in one of my classes, a student asked for volunteers for his presentation, and another student and I, in perfect sync, without any planning (we didn’t even know each-other), said “I volunteer as tribute.” It was awesome. I’ve also heard stories of people putting Prim’s name of cups of coffee, and when her name is called, volunteering instead when they go to get their coffee. It’s become a very widespread quote that most anyone recognizes.

“May the odds be ever in your favor.”

This one is the epitome of what’s wrong with the capitol, why all of the districts hate it, and why they really want to rebel. The citizens of the capitol are so pampered, so removed from the actual games and the horror of it all, so unaware of what really is going on in the districts. It’s also, rightly so, one of the phrases that the citizens of the districts use to mock the capitol citizens and their accents. I think its repeated use throughout the series really drives home the distinctions, the reasons for the rebellion.

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This one is one of two first lines in the post.

I hope you’re reading this, Mark.

This is literally the only time I’ve bought a book based on the first line. It’s just too perfect. (The books themselves were pretty good, though the last one was… Bleh.)

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While I have most of the first book memorized, and there are plenty of amazing quotes about friendship and family and the things that truly matter in life, the one that always stuck with me is…

“You could have gotten us killed, or worse, expelled!”

This quote is just so great. It encompasses Hermione’s character so fully and perfectly, her love of school, her rigidity with the rules… It’s just too funny, and yet so true, that I had to include it. And it gives her a great place to grow from, as she realizes through the series that some rules are meant to be broken, and what friends and school are really worth.

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This one… I don’t know. It’s not an incredibly powerful quote, either in or out of context, with relation to Kvothe’s tale, but it struck me the first time I read it.

“In some ways, this is where the story begins.”

In my book, US paperback, this quote appears on page 125. No, not page 12, or even 25, but page 125. This was the moment when I realized that I had been reading the book for 125 pages straight, and heck, maybe the story really hadn’t begun yet, but I didn’t care. It’s daring of an author to put something like this that far into their book. Some books are half over by this point. But Rothfuss is letting you know he’s just getting started, and that you’re really, truly, in for an epic undertaking, and it will be amazing.

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And speaking of epic, it doesn’t get much more epic than the Wheel of Time. (Though I really do need to read the Malazan series…)

The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth comes again. In one Age, called the Third Age by some, an Age yet to come, an Age long past, a wind rose in the Mountains of Mist. The wind was not the beginning. There are neither beginnings nor endings to the turning of the Wheel of Time. But it was a beginning.

This quote (with variations on the location of the wind) open every book in the series. It’s a thread that runs throughout, the idea of an ever turning wheel, of things forever repeating themselves, and it is epic. It also fits perfectly with the final lines of the final book, giving a rare and beautiful symmetry to the series that I don’t see very often.

The Princess Bride, William Goldman

I could quote the whole book–or movie–and it wouldn’t be enough. It’s the most quotable thing I’ve ever seen, and I had a hard time just picking one quote. But, well, here we go.

“Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”

Yeah, that line. It’s what drives Inigo through the entire movie, offsetting the love story with one of revenge. I’ve always found his story perhaps even more moving, though I’m not sure why. But I love that final duel, the way he doesn’t give up, the way he keeps repeating this one line until he is triumphant. I could go on, but then I would end up quoting (and rewatching) the entire movie, then reading the book, and I have schoolwork to get done…

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This book is the definition and, according to some, the foundation of epic fantasy. I had to include it, and since I couldn’t narrow it down to just one, here’s my two favorite quotes from the book:

“Come, Mr. Frodo! I can’t carry it for you, but I can carry you and it as well.”

Anyone who tries to deny that Samwise Gamgee is the true hero of The Lord of the Rings is lying to themselves, and no line shows it better than this one. He’s followed his master to the ends of middle earth, and he knows his master is being consumed by the ring. He knows he’s not coming home. He knows he can’t take the ring for himself. So what does he do? He finds a way to help anyway, to make sure the ring truly is destroyed.

“I am glad that you are here with me. Here at the end of all things, Sam.”

This one falls firmly into the “This. Is. Epic.” category. And after some 900+ pages of epicness, it’s a well earned line. I feel like those who quote it often diminish it–they use it for their own small endeavors, which they’re glad to have finished, but nothing can compare to the epicness of the original journey across middle earth, undertaken by two small, brave hobbits.

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Let’s take a moment for one last funny line before we get into the ones that will kill you.

“Well, when the fear of death seizes you–when the dark thoughts come–you stare the darkness right back, and you tell it, ‘I will not listen to you, for I am infinite Batmans.'”

My first time through this novella, I was listening to the audiobook. This line, and the build-up, where one man is trying to help another confront his mortality and possible impending death, got me perfectly. I literally fell over, laughing, and couldn’t get up for about five minutes. (I’m not joking. I was walking around, listening, while my dinner was cooking, and then this. I fell over and didn’t get up until the food was done. It was just too perfect.)

Mistborn-Trilogy

Warning: This one and the last, especially the explanations, have HUGE spoilers. Read at your own risk. You’re fine for this one if you’ve read through The Hero of Ages, and the last one if you’ve read through A Storm of Swords in Game of Thrones (Or seen the 3rd season of the show.)

I am, unfortunately, the Hero of Ages.

Best use of “unfortunately” ever. This line, which comes from the first epigraph of the third book in the trilogy, but doesn’t make sense until it’s repeat at the end, well… It’s just such a perfect summation of everything, Sazed especially. It’s so perfectly him, and so emotionally powerful… I still can’t read it without tearing up a little bit.

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A Storm of Swords is one of the most amazing books I’ve ever read, and the second half of the book packs more gutpunches than any other I’ve ever read, except maybe Mistborn. And it’s a close competition. There’s too many incredibly powerful moments to list, but I’ll go with…

“Jaime Lannister sends his regards.”

Yeah, I went there. The Red Wedding. The point where probably 80% of the people reading threw their books across the room, and maybe half of them didn’t pick them up again. The point where you really, truly, realize that nobody is safe. Ever. It’s so perfectly executed, and so… Amazingly horrible. I love it.

So, what are your favorites?

 

Blogging in School

Disclaimer: I’m not going to claim that this is a tell-all blog on the secrets of blogging while under serious time constraints. I don’t have all of the secrets, and of the ones that I do have, many are specific to my particular situation, my particular daily routine, my specific mindset… But I’m going to share what I have here, in hopes that some of it may help you out too.

I’m a full time undergraduate student at the University of Texas at Austin, taking 12-13 hours per semester, double majoring in mathematics and computer science, and working ~10 hours each week as a learning assistant for various math classes (This semester, it’s a probability class.). I love going to school, but the schoolwork in addition to the work work takes up a massive amount of time, probably 80-90 hours per week (All of my classes are upper division), and I place them as my top priority. In addition, for the first time in my life, I’m living in an apartment–with an utterly worthless roommate. This means that I have to make time for grocery shopping, cleaning, cooking, etc. regularly, which cuts heavily into my remaining leisure hours. On top of this, because I’m not satisfied with having even a single free waking moment, I am trying to walk 10k+ steps per day, maintain a vigorous reading schedule, and review and post actively on this blog.

Last semester, I didn’t do a very good job of it. I slacked off on the blog, on the cleaning, heck, on pretty much everything except school and work. And occasionally sleep. It kind of sucked, so part of my project over the break was to get things in order so that I could have a better semester. I’m also taking classes that, hopefully, have a lighter workload, so I won’t be quite as overwhelmed, but that’s not enough for me to stay on top of blogging. Here’s a few of the things I’m doing to stay ahead and be able to write regular blog posts, including this one. While this is written to help find blogging time, it may help with your schedule even if you’re not trying to fit in blogging.

The largest, most obvious piece of advice is to use every waking moment. I make myself do this by writing up a schedule every day, usually the night before, where I list out activities by the 30 minute or hour level, such as right now, 8-9, Bus to campus and work on writing this post. I have found that if I don’t pre-specify what I should be doing at a specific point in time, I’ll just sit around and do nothing, or pick something easy and ignore the stuff that really needs to be done. I will also overestimate the amount of time I’ll have later, and that leads to late nights and very little sleep.

I also have to get enough sleep. I’ve spent several semesters of college operating on a very limited sleep schedule, with perhaps 5 hours of sleep per night, and it just makes me miserable and unproductive. I have found that I’m much happier if I make myself stop what I’m working on and go to sleep earlier, even if it means more activities for the next day. I’ve also found that reading before bed helps with this, and if I can grab 30 minutes of something—recently, LotR—while I’m lying in bed trying to get to sleep, it makes it much easier to fall asleep, calming my mind after a crazy day. I actually find I *save* time by doing this; without the reading it often can take me that much longer to fall asleep, unless I’m completely exhausted.

Once I have enough sleep and a schedule, I also have to find the time in my schedule to write the blog posts. Sometimes, it seems as if schoolwork takes up every hour of the day, leaving no time for non-necessities. I have to consider two more things that make it possible for me to do this. The first is knowing how to schedule efficient study time.

I am a block worker on many, many projects. It will take me a while, perhaps half an hour to an hour, to get into the mindset of difficult subjects, like my advanced mathematics class, and I find that there are simply some subjects where I cannot get anything done in a half an hour or an hour long block. When that’s all the time I have, I have to schedule activities that fit. Things that are self-contained, and perhaps not incredibly taxing. For example, taking a short online quiz for a class, or finding and printing a news article to turn in, or doing a 5 page assigned reading. Or doing part of a blog post. I schedule the more challenging subjects for longer blocks of time, such as when I’m home in the afternoons or over the weekend. This is one of the things that took me the longest to figure out—I have to use my time chunks efficiently, even if that means putting off the most difficult and urgent tasks until I can give them my undivided attention. Your methods may differ from mine, but you have to figure out what they are in order to schedule your time most efficiently.

You also have to learn to multi-task. I’ve started doing this to a large degree this semester by adding a few activities to my chart. My blog posts are done almost exclusively on the bus, with the exception of giving myself half an hour to an hour after they’re written to edit and post them on my blog, something that requires internet access. When walking, I am also listening to audiobooks, which is an immense help with my reading schedule. (Thanks Jessie!) I have to make myself do cleaning while dinner is cooking every day, and usually I’m messaging people and setting up my schedule for the next day while eating dinner. I take books with me to the bathroom, and as already mentioned, reading right before bed does double duty of calming my mind before sleep. Look for the opportunities to always be both physically and mentally engaged. Perhaps the most extreme example I have seen of this was a classmate in my calculus class a few years ago. The professor handed out notes, so it was not necessary to be writing during class, so that the we could pay closer attention to the lectures. The student (whose name slips my mind at the moment) spent the entire class, every time, knitting, and by the end of the semester, she had several scarves and good grades to show for her efforts. It was pretty cool.

Perhaps the best blog-specific advice I can offer is to think and write an outline ahead of time. This post is one of the best resources I’ve ever found for improving my word-count when I have time to do fiction writing, but the advice applies equally well to blog posts. If you write posts that you’re excited about and you’ve outlined and you know what you’re doing ahead of time, the writing will go much, much faster. Take those two minutes in the middle of class when you’ve finished the quiz and you’re waiting for everyone else to make a rough sketch in your mind–or on paper–of what you’re going to write about on the bus ride home that day. It really does help.

Turn the internet off while writing. That one doesn’t need any explanation.

Never lose track of your long-term goals, and at the end of each day, think about them for a few moments. If you’ve done your day right, scheduled in all of the productivity you can, and done your best to stick to the schedule (It’s impossible to do it perfectly and get *everything* done that you want to. Try anyway.), allow yourself to feel proud and satisfied with yourself. I’ve found that when I’ve had a good day, and I sit and reflect on it, even for a few moments, it leaves me in a good mood for the next day, which helps to boost my productivity. It’s a happy feedback loop, and once you get it started, it’s addictive.

Also, take time to enjoy yourself during the day. Yes, I say to schedule every waking moment. And my current schedule looks something like this…

The schedule is a few weeks old, but it's a good representation of my regular schedule.
The schedule is a few weeks old, but it’s a good representation of my regular schedule.

But I have to give myself some moments to relax and enjoy what I’m doing or else I’ll go insane. Lately, these have been my walks, during which I listen to and enjoy audiobooks, but once I get caught up with my schoolwork (I had a bad weekend. Bad days happen, and the best thing you can do is try to make the next day better.), I’m planning to schedule in a little more relaxation time every day so I don’t go from 50% to 100% utterly insane. 😉

This post was more rambling and less-blog specific than I had hoped, but hopefully there’s a few nuggets in here that may help you with your life, even if it’s not as insane as mine. I know that adopting the things I’ve mentioned here has gotten me off to a much better, and more productive start this semester than any in the past, and I’m really hoping that if I can stick with it, the feedback loop will keep me going and I’ll have a good semester.

Also, please comment below, and let me know what your favorite time-saving or productivity hacks are, especially those that help with your blog posts. Or, if you take one of my tips and it works, let me know!

Books That Influenced my Childhood

We all have these books, the ones that, despite the years, have stuck with us. The books that, for better or worse, shaped us into who we are. Here’s seven of the ones that have had a lasting effect on me, ever since I was young.

Pendragon by D.J. MacHale

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I don’t know that my love for this book has any particular meaning. I think it comes from the fact that it has the greatest first line ever. “I hope you’re reading this, Mark.” Overall, it was a fun series, and I certainly got obsessed at one point. I remember taking the 7th book to one of the first summer camps I went to, and completely ignoring everyone else to read it. This book is quite possibly why this developed into a regular habit for me.

Eragon by Christopher Paolini

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I know this book is belittled as derivative. But it had a profound impact on me for several reasons. I loved it for the story–that’s undeniable. I really enjoyed the adventure. I read this one before I was big into fantasy–to me, it wasn’t derivative, it was something I’d never seen before. I’ll probably never re-read it again, because I fear I will find it derivative and boring, but I enjoyed it when I was a kid.

But beyond that, Paolini inspired me. Here was a homeschooled kid getting published at age 16.  His story was the one that inspired me to want to write. It’s probably the original inspiration, and though it certainly isn’t my main driving force today, it was the one that started me on the path that I’m still on–the path to wanting to be published.

Holes by Louis Sachar

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I can’t quite even quantify why I loved this book so much. It was just… A mainstay of my childhood. (I don’t think Sachar quite understands it either. I’ve read some of his other books, and… eh.) It does a lot of things that you’re not supposed to do in YA books, notably flashbacks and non-linear story-telling, but I found it to be just such a good, true story that I reread it many, many times.

Redwall by Brian Jacques

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This book was, and still is, to me, a classic of fantasy. While I feel that the later books in the series devolved into multiple copies of the same formula, the original Redwall will forever remain one of my favorite books of all time. It’s got everything a fantasy novel needs. A bumbling hero, an absolutely evil villain, the peaceful folk who need defending, a beautiful yet capable romantic interest, a mysterious/mystical figure, a magic sword, a quest against the other embodiment of evil to reclaim the sword, the helpful folk of the land, and the great storytelling voice that makes you feel like you’re sitting by the fireside, an elderly storyteller recounting stories. I loved this book, and I still do.

Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer

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Lots of super-genius books are overblown. I honestly feel like Ender, for example, is a great, determined hero, but he does not display the super-human intelligence and brilliance that seems attributed to him. Artemis Fowl is one of the few books that I feel really gets this across. His plans are brilliant, and he always sees so many layers into and beyond what the reader does, and all of the other characters. And he’s also probably my favorite morally grey character of my childhood. Most of my other favorite books feature truly good people doing good things, yet Artemis is something of an antihero, and I loved him anyway.

Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling

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I’ve read my copies of this series enough times that they fell apart and I had to get new ones. Do I really need to say anything else?

My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George

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This book isn’t the most famous of George’s works, but it is definitely my personal favorite. The story of Sam Gribley, a boy who runs away from home to live in the woods, this book simply enchanted me. There’s no overarching evil, no magic, not even truly a plot. It’s more of a journal than anything. And, yet… It captured my mind in a way that no other book has ever done. This is the book that inspired my love of camping, that made me decide to be a boy scout, and is why I still have so many wilderness survival manuals lying around, somewhere. I always wanted to run off into the woods, to try to do as Sam did. This was how I wanted to live my life. Heck, it’s still how I want to live my life. I am still tempted, every few months, to just grab a backpack full of stuff and disappear from civilization for as long as I can, living off the land, having my own adventures. The pull is strong. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go find the time to reread this book again.

Most Anticipated Books of 2015

It’s that time of year again, and I’m going to name my top 5 most anticipated books of 2015, and tell you why I’m so excited about them. I’m going to restrict myself only to books with a confirmed or highly likely 2015 release date. This means that Winds of Winter, Doors of Stone, and Stones Unhallowed, though they would unseat any book on this list, are not eligible.

Before I start the list, I’ve got two books I’m going to talk about. You’ll see why.

First, The Dinosaur Lords. This book didn’t quite make the cut for the top 5, but I felt I had to list it anyway. Even before I read anything about it, just from the title and that cover, I knew I was going to have to buy it. I mean, look at this cover, by Richard Anderson!

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You can read an official synopsis over here, and even though it’s seven months out, it’s already received quite high praise from no less than George R. R. Martin himself. I’m pretty much immediately sold on anything he recommends. I want to get my hands on this as soon as I can.

I also just received and finished reading an ARC of Gemini Cell by Myke Cole. It was utterly amazing, and I would definitely give it a place on this list (And it may have a place on 2015’s year-end, best-of list.), but it’s not one I was anticipating highly before I read it, and so I’m not going to give it a place on the official list. You should still check it out, because it’s amazing.

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5th most anticipated: Empire Ascendant by Kameron Hurley. (No cover released.)

I read Mirror Empire earlier this year, and I loved it. Oh, I felt that it had rough spots here and there, but the book lived up to a large part of its incredible potential, and I have every confidence that Hurley will continue to improve as a writer. Her world beats out many of Sanderson’s creations for its chilling inventiveness, and that is not praise that I give lightly. I have high hopes that, with the confusing overhead of introducing her characters and world out of the way, the second book in the trilogy will improve on the first and be an incredible read.

4th most anticipated: The Autumn Republic by Brian McClellan

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I read and enjoyed McClellan’s Promise of Blood. I read and loved his Crimson Campaign. As the final volume of the trilogy, this book has a lot of threads to juggle, and some absolutely massive conflicts to resolve. It handles them all very, very well. Yes, I’ve read it already. It lived up to my quite high expectations, finishing out the trilogy in a satisfying way, while still leaving plenty of threads open for the next trilogy in the Powder Mage universe. McClellan, who writes at a rate to rival that of Sanderson, whom he once took writing classes from and is friends with, is an author to watch for years to come. His short fiction is quite excellent as well, but The Autumn Republic is a real Tour de Force.

3rd most anticipated: Firefight by Brandon Sanderson

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You were wondering when the Sanderson would appear, wouldn’t you? Well, here it is. I’ve read this one too, and it is absolutely stunning. Steelheart was good. Someone forgot to tell Sanderson that the second book in a trilogy is supposed to be set-up for the third, and kinda boring. Firefight knocks it out of the park. I can’t say too much more without spoiling this one, but it’s Sanderson, and not only that, it’s Sanderson YA, so hopefully it’ll reach an even wider audience. Okay. I’ll say one more thing. This is the only book on the list (and one of very few ever) where I actually have a ship that I really like. That alone should tell you how good it is.

2nd most anticipated: The Providence of Fire by Brian Staveley

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(Richard Anderson really does some amazing art.)

I managed to get an ARC of Staveley’s debut novel, The Emperor’s Blades, last year, and it was absolutely AMAZING. The pacing was the best I think I’ve ever seen in an epic fantasy novel. This was, perhaps, the hardest book to put down that I have ever read. The sequel promises to be even better, even longer, and it delivers. Yes, I’ve read this one too. I had to go to some lengths to secure an ARC of this one, but it was completely and utterly worth it. While it slows down a hair from Emperor’s Blades, Providence still has some of the best pacing in epic fantasy. The characters grow even more, and even the inconsequential characters become surprisingly relevant. One of my biggest complaints with the first novel, the lack of female viewpoint characters, is remedied in this novel: Adare becomes even more important, as do several other characters you wouldn’t expect. A note: Don’t read the blurb that is on the back of the book. It spoils half of the book. And yes, this book beat out a Sanderson for the 2nd spot on the list. It’s that good.

Most Anticipated: Shadows of Self by Brandon Sanderson. (No cover yet.)

It’s Sanderson. It’s Cosmere. It’s Wax and Wayne, Mistborn world, etc. How can I not want it more than anything else? Let me put it this way. I have received and read ARCs of #4, #3, and #2 on my list, and I’m scheduled to receive one for #5 as well. I think I would trade all of them for an ARC of Shadows. I want it that badly. (If you know of any way to read this early, let me know. I will do whatever it takes.) I’ve gotten even more excited about this one lately, with the announcement of the sequel, Bands of Mourning, for January 2016. It’s amazing how quickly Sanderson writes these things. Also, if you’ve not read the Mistborn trilogy yet, they are absolutely amazing.

So, that’s what I’m looking forward to in 2015. It’s a very epic fantasy heavy list, but then, that’s what I love. I also apparently love trilogies, as every book on the list is either the second or third book in a trilogy. I have no problem with this; longer forms of storytelling allow for more build-up, more character growth, and, ultimately, more payoff in these stories. I love it, and I’m not ashamed of it.

What are you looking forward to (And by extension, should I be looking forward to) reading in 2015?

Discussion Post: Some Thoughts on Reading

I’m currently participating in Faye’s Cosmere Readalong, and I absolutely love it. As you should know, Sanderson is my favorite author, ever. One of my favorite works of his is actually one of his shorter pieces, The Emperor’s Soul. It comes in at around 164 pages, and it’s firmly in the Novella category. It actually won the Hugo last year (2013) for best novella, a prize I think it deserved.

But I’m not here to talk about The Emperor’s Soul, though I will have a review up when I have a bit more time. [I have a handful of books I need to review. Hopefully I’ll catch up really soon.] I’m here to talk about how I read it–and how I enjoy reading books.

I have read the Emperor’s Soul three times now, and every time, I have read it in a single sitting, a single unbroken reading period, with only the briefest of breaks. It’s easy enough to do this with The Emperor’s Soul–it takes me under 2 hours. I read this way whenever I can. Last summer, I was suffering from a nasty fit of depression and I wanted a way out of this world. My way out was to read books, immersing myself in the lives of fictional characters and their worlds, living and breathing their air. I read a ridiculous number of books–I’m not even sure how many. But I had a few weeks where I was stuck at home with nothing I wanted to do, and I read. I made it through The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear combined in three days. I think I made it through Sanderson’s Alcatraz series in 2 days. (4 books, about 50,000 words each.) I re-read The Way of Kings in a little over a day. This wasn’t just over that one summer, either. Several years back, at the release of the last Harry Potter book, I was at the store at midnight, picked up my copy, went come, and read it cover to cover, pulling one of my first all-nighters. I did something similar with the releases of A Memory of Light and Steelheart. This is how I read, whenever I have the choice.

And I was not skimming these books, either. I was reading every word, absorbing and immersing myself as fully as I could. Last summer was, while still the worst I have ever felt in my life, at the same time an incredible experience. I loved being able to read books for hours on end, without caring about anything else, without having to ever get up and spend a few hours doing schoolwork, or deal with other distractions.

Not everyone reads this way. Some people will speed-read. I’ve never understood that idea, honestly. They’re not getting the full enjoyment of the book, the full content. They aren’t savoring all of the words and the intricacies that can pop up, even on a re-read. I caught a gyorn in my Emperor’s Soul reread that I didn’t see the first two times, and it was a neat easter-egg. [I spotted the main Elantris one on my first read–it’s much more obvious. If you don’t understand what I just said, go read Sanderson’s work. It’s amazing.] I don’t want to miss a single detail. Authors spend time painstakingly deciding exactly what to show us and what to avoid, cutting and trimming. Every word they publish is meant to be there, and I’ve never understood those who would skip over words just to finish more quickly.

Unfortunately, recently, I’ve not even been able to read any books in a single–or even small handful–of sittings recently. I’ve almost exclusively been restricted to reading a handful of pages every night, a chapter or two, and then getting back to the book the next day. I’ve found that this really does lessen my enjoyment–my sense of immersion–in the books I’ve been reading. I know that I’ve been reading some absolutely incredible books, and a handful of not so good ones, but I really feel as if I’ve lacked that sense of immersion. I’m still reading what feels like a book a week, though I may be going a little bit slower than that–or faster, on the best books, the ones where I’m willing to literally lose that precious hour of sleep to find out what happens next.

I’m not sure what to do about it, honestly. I will not resort to speed-reading in order to read the books more quickly, and there’s no way I’m going to just wait until I have time to read an entire book in 2-3 days. I know that a lot of my blogger friends are also busy people–how do you deal with this problem? Do you just get used to reading the books in smaller chunks, or do you have strategies for making more time to read them? Do any of you have a time turner or some bendalloy I can borrow? I want to know!