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?

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.

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.

What I’ve Been Reading… February 2017

How the heck is it that February has already come and gone? I know that it’s the shortest month of the year, but it still went by faster than I could blink. I’m okay with it, though, because I’m ready for spring.

I also managed to read more books than I expected this month. Here’s a look at what I’ve been reading:

22318363Dreaming Spies by Laurie R. King
~Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes thought they finished their investigation they for the future Emperor of Japan in 1924, but the appearance of a decorative stone and a dark-haired woman a year later speaks to the contrary.
I haven’t come across a Mary Russell book that I didn’t like, and Dreaming Spies was no different. It was refreshing to see Holmes and Russell on equal footing when it came to learning about Japan and its culture.

11330806Somebody Tell Aunt Tillie She’s Dead by Christiana Miller
~Mara is a witch whose luck just keeps getting worse, even after she inherits a mysterious cottage after her Aunt Tillie dies.
I had a blast reading this urban fantasy romp, even though the GoodReads summary gives away a bit too much. Mara is such a likable character who obviously is doing the best she can with what she has to work with.

23460958Zeroes by Chuck Wendig
~Five hackers are recruited by Uncle Sam to work as cyber spies for the next year, but they soon find themselves hacking the U.S. government.
Zeroes had the right blend of tension, enough to keep me turning the page but not enough to make the pacing frantic. Plus all the characters  had enough personality that I didn’t get confused with who’s who in the huge cast.

18627360Squirrel Terror  by Lilith Saintcrow
~A series of blog posts from Lilith Saintcrow’s website that chronicle the goings-on in her backyard.
I’ve kept up with Saintcrow’s blog during the past six months and absolutely love the stories about the squirrels that frequent her backyard and her dogs. Squirrel Terror is just as much fun, with different squirrels and birds getting into loads of trouble.

What I’ve Been Reading… January 2017

6617104Persuader by Lee Child
~Jack Reacher is tasked by the DEA to rescue their agent from an undercover mission gone wrong.
This was the first Reacher book written in first person that I’ve read. It humanized Reacher, which was a different experience than his “mysterious stranger” aura and raised the stakes. I actually doubted his ultimate success more than once.

15790895The Shambling Guide to New York City by Mur Lafferty
~Zoe Norris thought finding a job in New York City was tough, but surviving her coworkers and the new world of the undead.
I loved how Zoe interacted with the fantastic creatures from the very beginning. Plus the mix of absurdity, humor, and tension made it tough to put this book down. It’s guaranteed that I’ll be reading the second Shambling Guide book.

31423215Taking the Titanic by James Patterson & Scott Slaven
~A pair of thieves pose as newlyweds aboard the Titanic to pull off the biggest heist of their lives.
Despite a slow start, the story eventually picked up to become interesting. There were a number of subplots, and the historical elements felt genuine to the story. My one complaint was that the end was pretty unrealistic.

23308084The Rose and the Dagger by Renee Ahdieh
~After being separated from Khalid, Shahrzad must figure out two things: how to break the curse and get back to her husband.
I knew that I wanted to read this book as soon as I finished The Wrath and the Dawn. It was just as good as the first book, with fantastic romance and plenty of action. Plus the ending was absolutely perfect.

29214703Let’s Play Make Believe by James Patterson and James O. Born
~Divorcees Christy and Martin embark on a wild, romantic game of make-believe that won’t end well.
The best part of this novella was that it didn’t feel like a novella. It was intense from the very beginning, and I didn’t see the twist coming.

23341259Violent Ends by Shaun David Hutchinson (Editor), Kendare Blake, Steve Brezenhoff, Delilah S. Dawson, Trish Doller, Margie Gelbwasser, E.M. Kokie, Cynthia Leitich Smith, Tom Leveen, Hannah Moskowitz, Elsa Nader, Beth Revis, Mindi Scott, Neal Shusterman, Brandon Shusterman, Courtney Summers, Blythe Woolston, and Christine Johnson
~It only took twenty-two minutes for Kirby Matheson to change his high school forever, but it took a whole lot longer than that for him to become a monster.
This book was nearly impossible to put down, and it painted a multi-dimensional picture of Kirby and the others impacted by a school shooting.