April Reading Recap

With a trip to Myrtle Beach in store for April, I knew that I’d probably read more books than normal. Maybe four instead of my usual two or three. I read six. The Libby app and being able to easily borrow eBooks from the library definitely upped the count.

I read John Scalzi’s Lock In in a little over a day, which is a testament to how good it was. It took a dozen pages or so for me to get a hang of the world, but it wasn’t set so far in the future for me to wrap my mind around it. I can’t say enough good things about the characters, the mystery itself (which I didn’t solve ahead of time), and just the world in general. I’ll be reading book 2, Head On, soon.

While I started Hardwired by Meredith Wild in March, I didn’t finish it until early in April while house-sitting for my parents. It felt dated (being published around 2011 when social media was still gaining traction). I could have overlooked that, but there were other things that bugged me. Where to start: a controlling, manipulative hero; every guy trying to make a move on the heroine; and a sudden venturing towards BDSM (possibly as a way to explain the hero’s controlling nature?)

The next book that I read was Symbiont by Mira Grant. The second in her Parasite trilogy, it picks up with apocalypse in full force. Sal and Nate and all the regular players are still there. But now things are more than a little dicey with a new villain on the scene (and who has no problem with human/tapeworm experimentation). I’m liking the non-zombie apocalypse story whole still touching on those same themes.

I picked up Ashley Poston’s Geekerella from the library on a whim, deciding to give it a try but not giving expecting much. To my absolute delight, it was a sweet, geeky retelling of Cinderella featuring clever spins on the fairy-tale’s touchstones. There’s still an evil stepmother, a pumpkin, and a handsome prince. The sequel has a rather long wait list at the library, but I know that it’ll be worth the wait.

Next up was The Light Brigade by Kameron Hurley, which just came out a few weeks ago. It’s a futuristic, science fiction story with time travel, and it examines (in a heavy-handed way) capitalist society and how it impacts humanity. I enjoyed the time travel elements and found the war sections really well done. I just wish there’d been more of an external plot than fighting against capitalism.

Finally–and finished three days before the loan was going to expire–I read Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire. And I loved it. McGuire is a sure-bet whenever I’m looking for something part whimsical, part dark, and 100% addicting. The story takes place at a home for children who’ve gone through doorways and into magic lands, and it turns into a gruesome mystery pretty quick. I’m kind of glad that it took me so long to read it: I don’t have to wait for the next three novellas.

What did you read in April? What’re you looking forward to reading in May?

 

The Libby App

I’ve become more inclined to read on my phone. It’s more convenient than stuffing a paperback into my purse and hoping that the cover or the pages don’t crease, and it’s far less bulky than sitting with a massive hardcover on my lap.

eBooks are plentiful on Amazon and Kindle, but the cost adds up quick. I shy away from ones priced above $2.99 but sticking mainly to the $1.99 books (aka on sale). I can usually justify such a price, but the budget has gotten rather tight recently.

Enter Libby: an app that allows the user to borrow eBooks from their local library.

Libby let me choose my library and browse its collection of eBooks and audiobooks even before I entered my library card number. Once I entered that bit of information, I could borrow and put holds on books. I’ve already buzzed through one book (Lock In by John Scalzi), have a second one downloaded, and have two holds that should be available in a couple weeks.

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg library is substantial, but I hadn’t gotten a library card until finding Libby. It’s one thing to drive all the way to the library, spend forty-five minutes browsing the stacks, check-out with the librarian, and then drive home. It’s another thing entirely to browse through the Libby app and press a button to either borrow or put a hold on an eBook. Plus there’s the whole difference in returning said books. One involves driving back to the library. The other involves opening the app and pressing a button.

I’m not knocking physical libraries at all; there are few things better than meandering through shelves upon shelves of books. It’s just that I don’t have time in my schedule. So Libby lets me borrow library books without the logistics of going to the library.

Do you borrow books from the library? Do you prefer borrowing physical books or eBooks?

February Reading Recap

I’m seriously proud of how many books I managed to read this month, considering it’s the shortest month of the year and I had so much other stuff eating into my “free” time.

5/35 BOOKS READ IN 2019

I finally finished The Lost World by Michael Crichton. It’s the sequel to Jurassic Park, and once I got over the fact that a certain character was still alive (it was written after the Jurassic Park movie), I enjoyed it. The dinosaur-fact-heavy sections lost me occasionally; but the descriptions more than made up for it.

The next book was The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. I bought the eBook after watching the Netflix show, understanding that the book only loosely inspired the show. Hill House follows a paranormal scholar and three others as they spend time in the nefarious Hill House. It managed to creep me out at points, which is an achievement in and of itself.

My final book of February was Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson. I decided to reread it before reading the second book in the series (The Vanishing Stair, which just came out). Truly Devious chronicles two mysteries at the elite Ellingham Academy: one a kidnapping and the other a murder. And I actually didn’t mind that several loose ends were left to be resolved in the next book (though that’s usually something that bothers me a lot).

What books did you read this month?

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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.