I can see spring on the horizon, but every year about this time I feel like it's just around the corner, only to be disappointed that the warm weather is taking so long to get here. Baby Gruff is about eight months old now, and he likes to get himself into trouble. I read to him most nights, things like Ten Apples up on Top and Are You My Mother? However, he's not a fan, yet. Instead, he prefers to fall face-forward off the couch (Don't call protective services on me! I'm only joking! Really, he mostly tries to smack the book out of my hand, gets bored, and then tries to squirm away or cries).
Later, when he finally goes to sleep, I get to read according to my own interests. So far, I've gotten myself mired deep into a couple of epic series, while tasting something lighter now and again.
The Dark Tower
I just finished The Wastelands, the third book in Stephen King's The Dark Tower series. It's a very interesting series, and I've been driven to not just read it, but also to read about it, scrolling through Wikipedia and Amazon, and flirting with the idea of buying the newish The Gunslinger Born graphic novel. I was surprised to see that the series had connections to so many other of King's works, with shared characters and locations. It's made me wonder how many other authors self-reference as much as King seems to. I may have to write an article about it.
A Song of Ice and Fire
I've just started reading the first book of George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series, A Game of Thrones. Previous to reading it, I'd formed a few of preconceived notions about it, most of them negative, and probably unfair. Some came about because the books seem to share some features with Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time series: Formulaic names (see pic), a long sequence of tomes in need of an end (to be fair, TWoT has 11 books so far, and ASoIaF has only 4). Also, I once read a review of one of my favorite books (Shadow & Claw by Gene Wolfe) on Amazon.com by someone who trashed it and promoted A Song of Ice and Fire as clearly superior. This person came off badly. He came off so badly that I referenced him in my article How Not to Write an Amazon.com Review, and this helped foster in me the notion that the series was beneath me. Then, I had the bad sense to go to Amazon.com and find unfriendly reviews of the series to reaffirm my belief. Yeah, I know that makes me a bad goat. Maybe you can write an article about me titled, "How Not to Read Amazon.com Reviews."
So, what changed my mind? Well, Mrs. Gruff is a big reader of the Penny Arcade forums, and she pointed me to a PA thread filled with praise for the series. I read the thread and found much thoughtful commentary, as well as some readers with similar tastes to mine. After reading this, and remembering that there were lots of positive reviews on Amazon that day I went a-hunting, I decided that I should at least give the series a fair shake. The fact that Mrs. Gruff would occasionally remind me of it helped a lot, too, especially how she kept pointing out to me that as a self-proclaimed recommender of books, I shouldn't be avoiding an industry hit as big as A Song of Ice and Fire. She was right: It would be like purposefully avoiding Harry Potter. So here I am, reading it, ready to criticize, but also ready to praise. I'm only about 50 pages in, but so far, A Game of Thrones is good. It's not nearly as overly descriptive as Jordan's work, and it seems to have a rich history, interesting characters, and an immersive style.
The Absolute Sandman
I received Neil Gaiman's The Absolute Sandman, Vol 1 for Christmas, and I've read a few pages. It's a huge graphic novel, and it has a beautiful cover. Flipping through the book, I was not very impressed with the artwork, but now that I've looked closer, I see that it is very detailed and evocative, even if the style is scratchy. I haven't gotten far enough to even talk about the story, however.
Christmas Reads and The Twits (and my Deprived Childhood)
Over Christmas vacation, I also had a chance to reread The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper, which really got me into the spirit of the holiday. Mrs. Gruff also forced me to read Roald Dahl's The Twits from her childhood collection of books, because she claimed that I had suffered child abuse by being deprived of both Roald Dahl and Mary Poppins (the horror!). However, since the Poppins wasn't easily available, Dahl would have to do the best job he could at healing the wounds to my inner child. The Twits (not even his best work from what I hear), was very clever and enjoyable, and now I am marking up my calendar for a planned Dahl binge.
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