A Successful Trip to B&N

I took a trip to Barnes & Noble the other day and walked out with three new books. This is an unusual occurrence for two reasons. First, because I tend to do all of my book-buying online (whether ordering paperbacks from B&N or Books-a-Million or snagging an eBook while it’s on sale). Second, because I rarely find books or authors that interest me (the YA section excluded).

I’m going to chock my success up checking the B&N website for whether the Maureen Johnson’s new book, The Vanishing Stair, was actually in stock at my local B&N. The other two books were just a bonus: I decided to grab a physical copy of Truly Devious for my re-read and there were autographed copies of An Absolutely Remarkable Thing in stock.

How’s your luck with brick-and-mortar bookstores? Do you have a go-to bookstore or method of finding books?

January Reading Recap

The Goodreads Reading Challenge book-tracker-thingie says that I need to read 3 books a month to hit my 2019 goal of reading 35 books. I managed two, which I think was due to one being an eBook (that I could pick up anytime) and the other being a hardcover (that I could only read when I had the book with me (obviously)).

The first book I finished was Silent in the Sanctuary by Deanna Raybourn. It’s the second in the Lady Julia Gray series, featuring a Victorian widow and a brooding PI. Sanctuary gave me such Miss Fisher vibes and scratched that itch for a historical cozy mystery. I definitely recommend the series.

The other book was The Family Plot by Cherie Priest. I read this book around when it came out in summer 2017, but I’ve been feeling for some time that I rushed through that reading. So I picked it up again. It’s a slow-burn plot and then all of a sudden it isn’t. Part of me is thinking twice about my desire to buy and fix up an old house after this reread.

I started a third book this month: The Lost World by Michael Crichton. I’m about a third of the way through as of writing this post.

What books did you read in January? Anything that I should check out?

My Favorite Books of 2018

With 2018 winding down, it’s time to take a look at the books that I read this year and decide on my favorites. Narrowing my favorites down to atop five is difficult, and feels unnecessary. Plus it means I don’t get to talk about all the pretty awesome books that I read this year.

So without further ado, here are my favorite books from the past year:

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Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson
The tagline says it all: “A funny book about horrible things.” It’s a book about living with mental illness, about taxidermy animals, and about being furiously happy.

 

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Truly, Devious
by Maureen Johnson
A Sherlock Holmes-obsessed main character? An elite private school with an unsolved murder? Sign me up. I’ll be buying book 2 when it comes out.

 

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Let’s Pretend This Never Happened
by Jenny Lawson
I know, another Lawson book. I’ll ready anything she writes. This (mostly true) memoir is about the moments that make us.

 

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Jurassic Park 
by Michael Crichton
Yes, that Jurassic Park. The inspiration for that one series of dinosaur movies. I bought it on a whim and was on the edge of my seat more than once.

 

 

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Into the Drowning Deep
by Mira Grant
I LOVED seeing Grant/Seanan McGuire at ConCarolina this past summer, and this book was on sale. Plus killer mermaids? Yes, please.

 

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Discount Armageddon 
by Seanan McGuire
A cryptozoologist living in New York splits her time between the cryptozoological world and the world of ballroom dancing. Add a forbidden romance and a dragon, and I’m hooked.

 

 

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Lawless Lands 
edited by Emily Lavin Leverett, Misty Massey & Margaret S. McGraw
This is a Western speculative fiction anthology that I picked up at ConCarolina. Anthologies are my favorite way to find new (to me) authors.

 

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Clockwork Boys 
by T. Kingfisher
A dark, funny fantasy book where a crew of criminals (plus a scholar) are sent on a suicide mission? Totally worth reading. And worth picking up book 2.

 

I recommend checking out any/all of these books in 2019. They were certainly the best I read in 2018. What’re some books you read in 2018 that I should check out?

The Pros & Cons of Reading on My Phone

There’s an old school Nook tucked between paperbacks my bookshelf; I can’t remember the last time I used it, and I’m pretty sure the battery is dead. I like it … though it’s not exactly the most convenient. Especially since the battery doesn’t hold a charge for long anymore. I’ve given thought to replacing it with a tablet of some kind, but that’s not in the budget right now.

So I decided to download the Kindle and Nook apps on my phone. After reading a handful of books on them, I’ve come to the conclusion that reading on my phone has both pros and cons.

Pro ~ It’s Convenient as Hell
My phone goes wherever I go. At the store? It’s in my pocket. Work? In my purse. At home? Probably within arm’s reach. That means instead of popping on Facebook or Twitter while I’m waiting for something or need to fill a bit of time, I can read. And there’s no need to make sure that I’ve packed a book or worry that said book hasn’t been bent and crushed by whatever else is in my bag. I just grab my phone, click on the app, and I can pick up right where I left off.

Con ~ I Can’t Hold the Book
Paperbacks and hardcovers have a certain feel to them. There’s the weight of all three hundred or four hundred pages; there’s the smooth feel of the cover and sometimes even the raised lettering; there are the lines of black text dimpled with the imperfections in the page; there’s even accidentally catching a glimpse of the last page and trying to figure out what those lines mean. That’s all missing with a reading app.

Pro & Con ~ So Many Books
I’ll admit that I haven’t read half of the books on my bookshelves. I happen across interesting-looking books for relatively cheap and bring them home. The difference with eBooks is that I don’t have to leave my couch to find a good deal. The positive side is that I can amass a plethora of books for a reasonable price. On the downside, I’m buying books faster than I can read them and now have a dozen books on my phone that I haven’t touched yet.

Ultimately, the convenience factor trumps all. I can read while lying in bed or while at my partner’s place or on my lunch break or while in a waiting room. All without needing to pack a book. I just need to remember my phone.

My ConCarolinas Book Haul

I’ve added to my bookshelves so much in the past few months that I banned myself from buying any new books. The ban doesn’t work, of course. I’ll see a paperback on sale at Target, add it to my basket, and then remember after I’ve paid that I’m not supposed to be buying anymore books.

But I gave myself permission to consciously lift the ban when I headed to ConCarolinas. It wouldn’t have made any sense to go to a convention with dozens of authors and not buy their books. Though I will say that I surprised myself: I didn’t buy nearly as many books as I thought I would.

Here are the four books I picked up at ConCarolinas:

Creek Walking by Tally Johnson
Tally Johnson was promoting his book as Southern Gothic ghost stories during his panels on the paranormal. He was such a presence on the panels and a great storyteller that I picked up his book without even reading the blurb on the back.

Phoenix Rising: Naked by Alexandra Christian
I saw Alexandra Christian on a couple of panels, the first being “Romancing Your Readers”. I’m a sucker for romance novels, an Christian talking about how she made the heroine an active hero/participant in the novel sealed the deal.

Curious Incidents: More Improbably Adventures edited by A.C. Thompson
The second time I saw Alexandra Christian was on a panel about themed anthologies, and she’d brought Curious Incidents with her as an example of an anthology that she’d edit. It’s a Sherlock Holmes/paranormal anthology. Need I say more?

Perishables by Michael G. Williams
I walked past dozens of authors, and Michael G. Williams was the only one who pitched his book to me. I listened at first just to be polite. And then he said that Perishables was about a vampire at a neighborhood dinner when the zombie apocalypse begins. I bought the first book in the series right then and there.

What I’ve Been Reading… May 2017

7094569Feed by Mira Grant
~Decades after humanity accidentally created the zombie virus, bloggers Georgia and Shaun Mason are following a story that’s the biggest of their careers and could very well get them killed.
Feed was on a list of must-read zombie fiction that I came across at some point, so I grabbed it when I popped into Barnes & Noble back in April. It’s a different zombie story since it deals with twenty-years after the initial outbreak, but I’d recommend it to any zombie-fan. It’s freaking amazing.

25409784Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King
~Retired detective Bill Hodges never forgot the unsolved ‘Mercedes massacre’, and he finds himself back on the case when the culprit sends him a taunting letter.
I finally picked up the first book in the Bill Hodges Trilogy after reading #2 last year. I wasn’t too sure about reading a detective story by Stephen King, but this surprised me. It reminded me of old-school Patricia Cornwell from the 90’s.

12899734The Iron Wyrm Affair by Lilith Saintcrow
~In an alternative London, Emma Bannon must do more than protect failed mentath Archibald Claire; she must unravel the conspiracy threatening her Queen.
This is very much a steampunk alternative history that I’d absolutely love to see turned into a TV series, if just to see the world come to life. Though I loved the complex world, it did get to be a lot for me. It’s a fantastic story, and a reader who loves deep world-building will really enjoy it.

 

What I’ve Been Reading… April 2017

30753630Pet Semetary by Stephen King
~All of the kids in Ludlow, Maine know about the Pet Semetary behind Lou Creed’s house, and more than a few of the adults know the dangers that lurk beyond it.
It’s been a while since I read a Stephen King book, and I picked this one up at the airport in Charlotte. It gave me slow creepiness that I was craving, along with a terrifying, fantastic story.

7898018The Zombie Autopsies by Steven C. Schlozman, MD
~Dr. Stanley Blum volunteered to join the medical team that may be humanity’s last hope for a cure to the zombie epidemic.
I decided that in order to get into the head space to revise my zombie novella, I needed to read a zombie book. The Zombie Autopsies certainly got me into that mindset. It’s a scary, realistic medical-type journal of zombie research.

9253894Take the Monkeys and Run by Karen Cantwell
~Barbara Marr is just a typical suburban mom going through a separation with her husband when monkeys suddenly appear in the trees of her suburban Virginia home.
I didn’t know what to expect with a title like Take the Monkeys and Run. It turned out to be a fun, cozy mystery with a funny protagonist. The climax did run a bit long, but overall I enjoyed it.

31147672Brimstone by Cherie Priest
~Tomas Cordero dreams of fire after the Great War, and he unknowingly shares these dreams with Alice Dartle, a clairvoyant who believes she can help the shell-shocked veteran.
This is an art deco, historical fantasy that I wasn’t too sure about when I took it off the shelf at Barnes & Noble. But I’m glad that I did. Both Tomas and Alice were compelling characters, and their dueling points of view added a whole lot of tension.

Three Things That’ll Make Me Put Down a Book (For Good)

I used to hate the idea of not finishing a book. HATED it. I’d slog through books that made me want to bang my head against the wall because I thought it was another notch on my bookshelf.

Now, I’m pretty discriminating in what I read. If I’m not enjoying a book, I’ll put it down. Simple as that.

But the writer in me has recently decided that it might be a good idea to figure out what it is about a book that makes me put it down. Then I’ll be able to use that knowledge towards my own stories. And hopefully prevent readers from putting my books down.

While there are a million reasons for me not to like a story, I found three consistent reasons for me to let a book gather dust on my bookshelf.

 

1.  It lacks tension
Tension makes the story go ’round and keeps me turning the page even though it’s well past my bedtime. Tension comes from the uncertainty of a character achieving their goal by the end of the story. When failure’s a very real option and the character has a stake in the story ending a certain way, it drives the reader and the story forward. Without it, the story falls flat.

2. There’re more info dumps than story lines
Sometimes it’s okay to tell readers snippets of the story rather than show them if showing will slow things down. But too much information–whether its background on a particular character or information on a historical event–can bog the story down. It can take the reader out of the story and even bore them.

3. It’s just not for me
One reader is inherently different from another. And while readers will enjoy a number of the same books (that’s how authors sell books to more than just their friends and family), they’re going to have differing opinions on books. Not every book is going to click with every reader. It’s normal. It’s okay.

What I’ve Been Reading… March 2017

I’ve got so many eBooks on my Nook that I planned on ignoring my bookshelves for a month. And…. that didn’t happen. I think my Nook is probably dead by this point and in desperate need of a charge. That’s one thing that paperbacks have over their digital counterparts: I never have to wait for them to charge.

440316When the Smoke Cleared at Gettysburg by George Sheldon
~A look at the experience of civilians before, during, and after the battle at Gettysburg during the American Civil War.
Funny story: I bought a copy of this book in 2013 but it experienced the wrong end of a glass of water. Not only was this book informative about how Gettysburg residents experienced the battle, it told their stories in a way that wasn’t boring as can happen with history books.

11783484Shadow Ops: Control Point by Myke Cole
~Oscar Britton spends his days helping the U.S. Army bring in men and women who manifest magical powers, until he manifests prohibited powers himself.
I’ve been aware of Myke Cole thanks to Twitter for quite a while, but I was leery about his books because they came off as too high-fantasy for my tastes. I’m so glad that I picked it up, though. It had great tension and a beautifully conflicted main character.

30142139Nemesis by Brendan Reichs
~Every two years, a man in a black suit murders Min and Noah on their birthdays, but neither stays dead.
Conspiracy theories? People who don’t stay dead? Sign me up. I also loved how I couldn’t figure out what Project Nemesis was before the characters.

Soulless by Gail Carriger18295869
~Alexia Tarabotti lacks a soul, which tries her gravely but gives her an edge when sparring with vampires and werewolves.
My copy of Soulless is a paperback that’s 370 pages long, and I read it in a day. The humor lightens the story enough that it wasn’t a challenge to binge it. Plus there’s steampunk and a handsome werewolf, so that also helped.

My eBook Haul

When it rains, it pours. Or in the case of my Nook, when I buy one eBook, I buy ten. I went on an eBook-buying-spree at midnight a few Saturdays ago, and now my eReader is chocked full of things to read. Not that I didn’t have plenty to read on there already.

The Marriage of Mary Russell by Laurie R. King ($0.99)
I cannot get enough of Mary Russell and her husband, Sherlock Holmes. So it made sense to get a short story about them getting married.

Squirrel Terror by Lilith SaintCrow ($4.99)
I’ve had an eye on this book for a while and finally decided to take the plunge. I’ve already read it and really liked it.

The Vampire’s Mail Order Bride by Kristen Painter (Free)
The cover got me interested while the summary made me hit “buy”. A mail order bride for a vampire? Count me in.

The Crown & the Arrow and The Mirror & the Maze by Renee Ahdieh (Free)
I enjoyed both The Wrath & the Dawn and The Rose & the Dagger, so I decided to head back into the universe with these short stories.

Extracted by Tyler H. Jolley & Sherry D. Ficklin (Free)
I’ve liked Sherry D. Ficklin’s books, so I figured that I’d give this book a try. The fact that I’ve been on a steampunk kick also helped.

Frey by Melissa Wright (Free)
This book is farther into the fantasy genre than I typically stray. However the cover is pretty freaking cool, and I just get a good feeling about it.

Cappuccinos, Cupcakes, and Corpse by Harper Lin (Free)
Again, the cover got me interested enough to read into the summary. It’s a cozy mystery, which I’ve been craving recently. Plus it’s set in my home state of Massachusetts.