Books, Critical analysis and reviews

Gave up: “Zodiac” by Robert Graysmith

My first defeat in my reading challenge comes in the form of Robert Graysmith’s Zodiac. It’s taken a while to write about it on account of being busy reading things I’m enjoying (more on that later). But at the start of February, I gave up on my next read after Black Sunday.

Breaking my own rules

Now, in the rules for this self-inflicted reading pile challenge, I did say:

I am allowed to give up reading a book if it’s not managed to hold my interest after I’ve attempted to read at least a third of it.

Dear reader, I could not even make it that far. I managed the first chapter and that was it.

I am familiar with the case of The Zodiac Killer, and I have read plenty of non-fiction in the past but this book is essentially a dry accounting of all the evidence that Graysmith collected over the years he investigated the cases at hand.

So, I gave up on the book.

I will be keeping hold of it, but just for writing purposes as a source of inspiration.

Do I change my rules?

Perhaps having my third of the way through rule isn’t entirely helpful. Maybe I should make it less generous.

I do have well over one hundred books to try and get through.

But there are books in the past where I struggled with the first chapter and then finally got into it. My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix is one such novel. And I’m pretty sure it took me a bit to get into This Is How They Tell Me the World Ends: The Cyberweapons Arms Race by Nicole Perlroth last year.

I’m not going to change the wording for now, but I am allowed to change any rule as per the tenth rule in my list.

Is this a sign that the book deserves a zero star rating?

I think I’d just rather rewatch the David Fincher 2007 film adaptation of it, which removes the dryness of the book.

I’m going to say that Zodiac doesn’t need a rating from me. I can tell it has potential, I just can’t get on with the style of how it was written. Plenty of other people over the decades have found it a fascinating read but its style just ain’t my cup of tea.

And that’s okay.

(For the ins and outs of the To-read pile challenge check out the challenge and rules page.)

Books, Critical analysis and reviews

Read: “Black Sunday” by Thomas Harris

Black Sunday by Thomas Harris is a thriller set in the 1970s following a terrorist group and their new American ally in the plotting and execution of a terrorist attack in New Orleans. The novel is Thomas Harris’s first novel.

How I got on

I’ve had Black Sunday kicking about for a while after starting a Thomas Harris kick at the end of 2020 and start of 2021, because of landing in Hannibal fandom. Having read all of Harris’s Hannibal novels, I wanted to see what this early work was like. (His latest novel, Cari Mora is also on my to-read pile.)

You can certainly see in Black Sunday the origins for Harris’s writing style where the plot speeds along as tidbits of characterisation are brought to life in the present or in harrowing flashbacks. And certainly his habit of not necessarily writing characters you should or would want to identify with.

When I found time to read this novel, I would devour chapters quite easily. It certainly works as a thriller, though sometimes I got tired running around in circles over Michael Lander’s misery and psychological disorders. Certainly, Harris does not shy away from the effects a character’s pasts will have on their present.

No one is well adjusted.

Would I recommend it?

If you’re unfamiliar with Middle Eastern politics at the time of the novel’s setting or indeed with them at all, much of the novel will make little to any sense. I’m the kind of person who’s read a lot on the historical situations there and the present issues, and seen and read a lot of news reports over the past 25 years as well as watching series like Homeland.

Should you know a lot about the above then you’re going to get along fine with the story’s main driving forces and plot.


Do not read this thriller if you’re expecting a happy ending.

Will I be keeping Black Sunday on my book shelf?

Seeing as how I now seem to be collecting Thomas Harris novels, I will be keeping Black Sunday on my shelf. If I wasn’t collecting them, I probably wouldn’t.

Final rating for Black Sunday

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

I’m giving Black Sunday 3.5 stars. It’s a little dated and creaky at times but still worth reading at least once.

(For the ins and outs of the To-read pile challenge check out the challenge and rules page.)

Books, Critical analysis and reviews, Writing

It’s been a while: NaNoWriMo 2021 and tackling my “to-read pile”…

Feck, it’s been a year since I last updated the blog. So, here’s what happened with my NaNoWriMo 2020 novel, what I’m up to for NaNo this month, plus a new challenge I’m setting for myself. Here we go…

I hated that story

I hated what I wrote and never went back to the story after I passed 50,000 words and “won” National Novel Writing Month 2020.

BUT wait!

I’m doing NaNoWriMo again this year and I’m not hating it this time round.

I’m just over 37,000 words in as of today and happy so far with the draft. Now, I might have seemed positive last year, but here’s the thing: last year’s story wasn’t dear to my heart.

Sunder is an idea I’ve been working on in terms of world building and planning since around 2018, maybe even earlier. I chose this year’s NaNoWriMo to give me the space and motivation to finally make a start on it. I can say even now that once I pass 50,000 words I will still have a ways to go, and that’s fine.

It will need editing but I’m enjoying this story and am positive that for me this will be the first NaNo story of mine I love. (My previous-previous win was in 2013 and again I hated what I wrote, but again it wasn’t a story close to my heart (or imagination) so here’s to hoping third time’s the charm.)

Anyway, all this talk of writing takes me to my next point…

112 books (and counting)

In October this year, my partner and I had a big sort out in our house over the course of a week. There were twelve trips to our local household waste and recycling centre and several more to a local charity shop.

During all this, I checked through my physical book collection and gave a bunch away to charity (though not as many as I did back in the start of 2019).

Anyway, this evening I was itching to fully catalogue the number of physical and digital books that are on my “to read pile”.

And it’s a lot, a 112 books a lot and those are the ones I can find.

Which means I think it’s only fair that I set myself a reading challenge that goes beyond something like whatever you find on Goodreads.

My to-read pile challenge

The challenge is simple, but I’m setting up some parameters that go a bit beyond “read the damn books”:

  1. I may only read books for fun that can be found on my to-read list or my currently reading list, the exception is re-reading previous books in a series in order to understand WTF is going on.
  2. I’m still allowed to take out and read books physically or digitally from my local library.
  3. I may not buy any new physical or digital books until I at least reach 50 books or fewer on the list.
  4. However, I am allowed to be gifted books or win them through competitions but these must go on my to-read list.
  5. I am allowed to give up reading a book if it’s not managed to hold my interest after I’ve attempted to read at least a third of it.
  6. I’m still allowed to read fanfic (though I will be reading with the knowledge that I have over 100 published books I could be reading).
  7. If I don’t want to keep a book after reading it, I should donate it to someone or a charity shop.
  8. I should write about the book on here once I’ve read it, and say how I got on, would I recommend it, and so on (post format yet to be decided).
  9. None of the above applies to books relevant to my role as a senior writer and editor that I need to read to help me stay skilled up for my job.
  10. All of the above is subject to change if I find this to be a completely terrible experience.

But let’s hope number 10 doesn’t come to be.

I’m using The StoryGraph to track my progress

Yeah, I’ve been using Goodreads for a hella long time but you know what? Amazon doesn’t deserve any more involvement in my challenge here than the few titles I’ll be reading via my Kindle.

So, I’m going with The StoryGraph to keep an eye on things. Two of the key reasons for this choice (other than feck Amazon) is that it’s “independent and black owned”.

If you want to add me on there: I’m emkingma.

I’ve also taken my annual reading goal over to The StoryGraph, and I’m hoping by tackling some of my currently reading, I can reach 10/10 for 2021. Currently, I’m at 8/10.

Should I actually find myself really liking The StoryGraph, I’m hoping to take advantage of their plus plan.

It’s late

I have been wanting to write the challenge part of this update for a while, and with no Nerds Assemble recording this week and cataloguing my books instead, I decided tonight was the night to brain dump this and run.

G’night and thanks for reading.