Audio Books for Jogging

Just realized that I haven’t made a blog post since March. I’ve started a few, but current events seem to go by so fast these days that they’re obsolete by the time I finish them.

I’ve been fairly busy, though I haven’t been doing a lot of writing lately. Since I’ve started doing more for my fitness, it’s just been so difficult to keep my butt in the chair long enough to write more than a few words at a time. I’ve been on a sort of sports kick lately (never thought I’d ever write a sentence like that!). I’ve been doing a lot of jogging, lifting weights, and lately ice skating — which burns so, so many calories and judging by the way my abs feel on the next day, exercises my core. So all this has helped my health if not my manuscript revision.

I’ve also been reading quite a bit, and in my quest to relieve some of the monotony of my workouts have started listening to audio books — something that, as a voracious reader, I never thought I’d ever be into. One of the first audio books I listened to was So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo, and though I really enjoyed it I think I would have enjoyed it more in print so that I could pay it the attention it deserved.

I’ve found that comedy works the best for distraction on my long runs, even if I do look like an idiot when I start laughing my head off for no apparent reason. I also find it easier if I’ve already read the book, so that it’s not such a big deal if I get distracted by something on my run and miss a paragraph or two.

I’ve even found that some books gain a new dimension when I listen to them on audio, something which surprised me. Gustavo Tiberius from How to be a Normal Person by TJ Klune, for instance, gains a lot emotional depth. There were a couple of passages that were much more heartbreaking when read out loud in the narrator’s deadpan style (or maybe it’s just the hormonal changes of menopause? Nah.)

Here’s a short list of some of my favorite audio books so far:

  • Anything by TJ Klune is worth hearing as an audio book. He just hits the right spot.
  • Glitterland by Alexis Hall almost made me pee my pants.
  • The Last Black Unicorn by Tiffany Haddish
  • Lock In by John Scalzi. I have the narration from Wil Wheaton

Now I’m going to hit publish before I get distracted by Twitter again and forget it…

Indie Authors – William Hertling

Singularity Series by William Hertling

To continue spreading the love about indie writers, today’s post is about William Hertling, a completely different kind of author than Jay Bell. William Hertling writes near-future science fiction, and his Singularity series starting with Avogadro Corp: The Singularity is Closer than it Appears has an emphasis on Artificial Intelligence and its interaction with humans.

I’ve read a few cyberpunk/A.I. novels, especially older ones, that seem quaint and funny today (*cough* Neuromancer *cough*), but Hertling is not just a writer with a fairly good grasp on human psychology, but also a software developer who has interesting and realistic ideas about how Artificial Intelligence might come about, how A.I.s might think, and what kinds of motivations they might have. The scenarios he writes are all too plausible, made more so by the future world he has envisioned which is not so far from our own. It’s not a big leap to imagine living in the world that he has created, and his overall message is something we should be thinking about.

His novels are classic science fiction, focusing more on the science than the characters, so although the human characters are realistic, their characterizations don’t go very deep. However, his depictions of the A.I.s are some of the best and most realistic that I’ve ever read, so that the relative shallowness of the human characters doesn’t really matter. They are, after all, not really the stars of the show. I am very familiar with computers myself, so none of the technology is strange to me, but I think he keeps it simple enough that someone with a less technical background could understand what’s going on.

I’ve read the first two books of the Singularity series so far and am looking forward to reading the rest. Avogadro Corp deals with a singular A.I. and its birth, development, and interactions with its creator, while A.I. Apocalypse deals with the development of multiple Artificial Intelligences and the formation of an A.I. culture. I particularly enjoyed the descriptions of the communications between the different A.I.s and the thought processes of the A.I.s while they are dealing with humans.

If you enjoy realistic science fiction, and are interested in Artificial Intelligence, I highly recommend checking out this author and his Singularity series.

Indie Authors – Jay Bell

Something Like … series by Jay Bell

I wasn’t really planning to do reviews on my blog, but a post by Only Fragments about growing up queer at a time when there was little queer representation in media got me to thinking how important it is to continue to share the love and spread the word, even though the world looks much different today than it did when I was a kid.

It’s particularly gratifying to support indie writers, such as Jay Bell. His books have not only won awards, but his book Something Like Summer has even been made into a movie – which is something pretty impressive for an indie writer, especially one who writes about LGBT characters. I also feel a certain kinship with him, since he married a German and lived in Germany as an ex-pat for several years.

I’ve read the first three books of his Something Like … series so far: Something Like Summer, Something Like Winter, and Something Like Autumn, and have been enjoying it very much.  Each book is written from the perspective of a different character, and the first three all follow the same core story. Although each book could probably stand alone, I strongly suggest reading them in order to get the full effect because the story gains depth and layers as you read it from differing viewpoints.

Romantic relationships are central to the books, but I wouldn’t necessarily call them romances, since the story goes beyond the romance part and follows the lives of the characters for several years as they grow up and settle into adult life. They fall in love (with more than one person), have friendships, work on careers, deal with bad relationships, interact with family, and handle grief and loss. The books are not perfect, but I was engaged enough with the characters to look past a couple of plot sins in the first book, and the writing gets better in the next books. I honestly would have ended the main story line a lot differently, but of course every writer is different, otherwise every story would turn out the same, and how boring would that be?

Jay Bell’s characters are real and sympathetic each in his own way, even the ones who were ethically challenged (at least to an old romantic like myself who has been around the block a few too many times). The main characters are gay and bisexual men, but I found many of the themes applicable to relationships in general, since they’re not just about hiding in the closet or coming out. I particularly enjoyed the character of Jace, who was featured as a romantic partner in the first two books and is the main character of the third, Something like Autumn. His character is one of the highlights of the series, even though he gets shortchanged in the broader story, because he’s one of those rare characters in romance fiction (and, unfortunately, in real life) who knows what it takes to make a relationship really work: the central understanding that the relationship isn’t all about him, but also the well-being and happiness of his partner.

Be forewarned – these books tend to the dramatic and are very emotional, so if you’re not into that kind of thing, they probably won’t be your cup of tea. On the other hand, if you enjoy a good cry and emotionally engaging characters, they’re definitely worth a read. Jace’s book in particular reduced me to a puddle of miserable tears, even though I knew how his story ended from the previous books. If you’re the emotional type, and want to avoid having to make excuses about “allergies making your eyes hurt”, it’s better read it in private (not on the subway, like I did. So embarrassing.)