Archive for the ‘Reading’ Category

Be Jealous of My Box of Books

So, everyone I know is moving this week.

Okay, not everyone, but five people. It’s still a lot. And all at the same time.

One of the things about moving is that you realize how much stuff you’ve wedged into your current place, and how a lot of it you haven’t touched in years. Luckily for me, my family has realized they have a lot of books that they’re never going to read again.

And now they’re mine, bwhahaha.

My grandmother is an avid mystery reader and had a ton of books she’d already read, and my mother was offloading MG/YA science fiction and fantasy that she’d needed to keep up with what her students were reading, but doesn’t need them now that she’s retired.

Here’s my haul:

Box of Books

Mysteries/Thrillers/Gothic:

  • Lion in the Valley, Elizabeth Peters (1986)
  • The Ipcress File, Len Deighton (1962)
  • A Cold Day for Murder, Dana Stabenow (1992) (haha, her name has “stab” in it)
  • The Man with a Load of Mischief, Martha Grimes (1981)
  • Booked to Die, John Dunning (1992)
  • The Missing Mr. Mosley, John Greenwood (1986)
  • Mosley by Moonlight, John Greenwood (1985)
  • Mists over Mosley, John Greenwood (1986)
  • The Mind of Mr. Mosley, John Greenwood (1987)
  • What, Me, Mr. Mosley?, John Greenwood (1988)
  • Smoke in the Wind, Peter Tremayne (2001)
  • “A” is for Alibi, Sue Grafton (1982)
  • Raven Black, Ann Cleeves (2006)
  • Edwin of the Iron Shoes, Marcia Muller (1977)
  • The Haunted Bookshop, Christopher Morley (1919)
  • The Scapegoat, Daphne du Marnier (1956)

YA/MG Fantasy/Scifi:

  • Uglies, Pretties, Specials (trilogy), Scott Westerfeld (2005-2006)
  • The Vampire Diaries (books 1-4), L. J. Smith (1991)
  • Songs of Power, Hilari Bell (2000)
  • Raven’s Gate, Anthony Horowitz (2005)

Other:

  • From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, E. L. Konigsburg (children’s, 1967)
  • Lord of Legends, Susan Krinard (romance/fantasy, 2009)
  • The View from Saturday, E. L. Konigsburg (children’s, 1996)
  • The Wanderer, Sharon Creech (MG historical, 2000)

(I really like E. L. Konigsburg. Or I did as a kid.)

What do you think, squiders? Read any of my new acquisitions? Where would you start if you were me?

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Reading Old Books vs New

A writing friend once, in the middle of a storycraft discussion, declared that if you want to be published, you shouldn’t be reading anything older than about five years. So, for example, if you’re reading anything before 2013 today, you’re only shooting yourself in the foot.

There is something to be said about this advice. By looking at the recent trends, especially in your genre, you can see what’s selling and what’s not, as well as what agents and publishers seem to like. (While something can come out of left field and be a bestseller, most books that are published are “safe” books.)

(Also, said friend is a bestselling author whose book has been optioned for television, so he does know what he’s talking about.)

If you’ve been around here at all, you know I’m terrible at following this advice. (As we speak, I’m wading through an 1896 novel called The Well at World’s End which is fantasy in the 1800s-romantic poetry sort of fashion.)

Is there something to be gained from reading older books?

Well, to be honest, probably not. I mean, not from a marketing standpoint. The publishing industry is not a static thing. Something that was big ten years ago probably won’t fly today. (And you have to remember that, if you’re reading traditionally published books, that the book that comes out today was probably accepted about two years ago, so the industry may have already moved on.)

But, I mean, that’s not why I’m reading them.

I’m reading them because I like to see the evolution of the genre. Because it’s interesting to see how genre conventions came into being and how they’ve changed over time. Because I like reading the stories that influenced the authors that influenced me.

And because, arguably, the things that worked once can be rewoven and reintegrated to work again in new ways.

What do you think, squiders? Do you like the occasional older work, whether it’s over a hundred years or closer to 50? Do you think there’s value in looking where we’ve been, or only in where we are?

Guest Post: The Secret Lives of Royals by Shalini Dua

Happy Tuesdays, squiders! Today I’ve got a guest post on process from Shalini Dua as part of the tour for her YA/NA fantasy novel, The Secret Lives of Royals.

BLURB:

Olivia can’t take it anymore. She’s had enough of the big city and it’s lack of fulfilling her dreams. Then, just when she’s about to give up and move home, out of the blue, she is offered her dream job. Olivia is suspicious but that could just be the New York in her. She decides not to pull at threads. Despite her best efforts to remain blissfully oblivious, the secret to her life upgrade is soon uncovered when she finds herself invited to be part of a secret society.

Olivia learns that there is a thin curtain separating our world from theirs. Just beneath the surface, an entirely different one exists. One that is controlled by those of Royal lineage. The chosen ones, the Royals, hold the fate of the world in their hands. Will Olivia be able to bear the weight of the crown?

Confessions of a Shopaholic meets The Adjustment Bureau, this contemporary fairytale is both relatable and aspirational. Taking a look at the current balance of media and power with a healthy dose of humor, fashion, food and wanderlust.

EXCERPT:

I’m getting a very weird feeling. I consider turning around and leaving, but getting a cab on a cold rainy night before 2AM is going to be tough as they don’t begin frequenting the area until the bars start to close, and the nearest Uber appears to be 25 minutes away. Plus, I did go to all of this trouble to get my lazy self dressed and over here.

There is a crest engraved in brass metal on the front of the red door, an intricately designed crown and some lettering. I tilt my head to read it all the way around. ‘Alea iacta est memores acti prudentes uturi modus operandi’ I read aloud, and below, ‘Posteriori’. I recognize the language as Latin from the three weeks we spent on it during Intro to Languages, which was designed to help us choose one to focus on during our tenure at the university.
—–
Against my better judgment, I push on the heavy door, which creaks open. I enter into a cold stone-walled hall with a stone slab floor, lit by what appears to be a row of fire lanterns on each side. I guess this place is a bit behind the times in converting, or maybe they think it’s super ironic and hipster to not jump on the modernization bandwagon. Or maybe it’s me. I’m not exactly the authority on architectural trends. Maybe converted vintage is over and re-vintaged vintage is back in. Ugh, I can’t wait until I’m old and have an excuse not to be hip.

I walk down a windy stone hallway that seems straight out of a period film. Wow, they are really taking this theme seriously. How cool would it be if this stuff was authentic? I take a few pictures with my phone just in case. I mean as Cultures Editor, it’s always nice to be the one to discover the next big thing, like Connor said.

As I round the corner I hear, before I see, a British male mumbling to himself, apparently in debate.

“It’s so bizarre. But it couldn’t be. Could it? Stranger things have happened.”

I find myself face to face with a short-ish man, though taller than me, with glasses, wearing a sports coat with suede elbow patches. I scream in surprise and jump about five feet in the air. He seems slightly taken aback as well but less jumpy than me, or at least less vocal about it. He’s good looking in an intellectual sort of way and his dark floppy hair is conservatively combed back. I’m not sure if he’s startled by our unexpected encounter or my scream, but he does a bit of a double back.

“Sorry,” he recovers charmingly, “I didn’t see you there.”

“No, me either.” I try to breathe. I feel like I know him from somewhere.

“Stuart Stephens.” He proffers his hand in greeting.

“Olivia Grace Thorpland.” I shake his in return. “But you can call me Gigi.”

“Hello, Gigi. Nice to meet you.” He is impeccably mannered even after our near death collision. Must be the British thing.

“So are you here for the party too?” I inquire. “Do you know where it is?”

“Party?” he asks, confused. “No, I just had a meeting here.”

“Ah, I see,” I say, although I don’t, given the hour. I definitely know him from somewhere. Got it, he’s a comedian.

“Well, care to join me anyway?” I offer politely. After all, he’s British, I’m being a good ambassador. He appears a bit bewildered.

“No, thanks. I best be going.”

“Are you sure? My friends are in there.”

“Really? Your friends are in there?” He seems surprised to see where I’m gesturing.

“Yup,” I tell him confidently.

“Oh, well, thanks for the invite, but I’m completely sure. Thanks anyway,” comes his nervous reply. “But, can I ask you a question?” I nod. “Is this all, um, kosher?”

“I, I, don’t know.” I hesitate. Is he Jewish and British? Is that a thing?

“Well, I’ll let you get on,” he says. “Have a good night.”

“You too. Bye,” I reply. And with that, we walk off in opposite directions.

Finally, I reach a semi-circled entryway that has the option of five doors, one straight ahead and two on either side. These are not your ordinary doors either. They are heavy, arched, rustic, dark brown, slated wooden doors. I’m not really in the mood to crash a wedding reception, murder, or worse, a live band performance; and, given that anything could be behind these doorways, I’m about to give up on this expedition completely, when one of the doors, the entryway smack dab in the center, starts to creak open, apparently of its own accord. A feeling of unexpected dread overtakes me. I brace myself, unsure of what to expect to find behind it.

You can pick up the book here: ( Amazon | iBooks )

AUTHOR:


An international upbringing and a love of stories laid the foundation for wanderlust. Shalini aspires to spend her time country-hopping and consuming pop-culture, comedy and good food but the reality is often frantically downing coffee, meeting deadlines at exactly the last second and working her unglamorous corporate job to fund all of the other pursuits.

The Secret Lives of Royals is Shalini’s debut novel. Her other work includes published poetry and scripts only she has read.

( Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Website )

 

 

GUEST POST ABOUT PROCESS:

My writing process is a bit haphazard and involves lots of procrastination. I get really hungry, get creative with my snacks, binge watch Netflix for a while. It’s the only time I clean my apartment. And then, just when I’m about to go to sleep, inspiration hits and I stay up all night writing.

Beyond the daily struggle, The Secret Lives of Royals has been rattling around in my head for years. Inspired by school history lessons, my travels and wanderlust for places I haven’t yet managed to visit, and by my love of food and art. I absorb inspiration from all of my experiences and I’ve been lucky enough to travel to a lot of places.

In addition to my suburban Northern Virginia hometown in the States, I’ve lived in London and New York and visited many wonderful and exciting places around the world. Walking past the eclectic doorways in New York, getting lost in the small back alleys of London’s side streets, enjoying cafes along the cobbled roads in France, sitting in view of the Italian ports and eating gelato, walking Barcelona’s gothic district, with its beautiful historical architecture, and visiting the palaces and mosques of pre-colonial India have all inspired so much of my storytelling.

I always wonder what is going on behind those varied and intricately designed doors as I’m walking past and what amazing things might have happened in the past that shaped our history. I think about the people who have walked these streets before me and imagine what their lives must have been like. Those musings eventually end up sparking story ideas.

Olivia’s story is a culmination of my journey thus far and the daydreaming I’ve done along the way. I tend to fill in the spaces in between my experiences with my imagination and google.

Shalina will be awarding a $50 Amazon or B/N GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.
Enter to win a $50 Amazon/BN GC – a Rafflecopter giveaway

Revisiting Time Travel a New Way

We like science fiction an awful lot on this blog, squiders, and I, at least, also like a good time travel story.

(If you’ve been around here for a while, you’ll know I come back to this topic every few years.)

Time travel can take a ton of different forms, of course, from being the main mechanism in a story to just some flavoring for another type of story (historical fiction, romance, etc.). So I was a bit amused recently when I found myself reading two different books, written almost 40 years apart, that used the same time travel mechanics, and ones that I’m not sure I’ve seen a lot elsewhere.

The books in question are Version Control (Dexter Palmer, 2016) and Thrice Upon a Time (James P. Hogan, 1980).

(I suppose this could potentially be spoiler-y, so read with caution.)

In both, time travel is treated very scientifically, with proper skepticism and with believable limits on how far you can go back and how the mechanism works. As such, we’re not jetting back to the Middle Ages or going back to assassinate Hitler or anything of that ilk. (Version Control deals with a limit of a few years, while Thrice Upon a Time deals in months.)

But both also include the fact that the new timeline overwrites the old timeline. Change something in the past, and the future that did the changing never existed. Not even the time traveler remembers.

(This is handled masterfully in Version Control, and even though I’m a bit sad about the ending–especially since there was another option–I understand why it went the way it did.)

So there’s no hints that the timeline has been changed (unless there’s a purposeful message left–in Thrice Upon a Time messages can be sent from the future to the past, but the act of sending/receiving the message is what erases the previous timeline) and no way for the people in the new timeline to know what happened on the original timeline or what, specifically, has been changed.

So it opens up very interesting questions like: what if you actually made things worse? How can you tell if it’s worth the risk to change the past when your present will no longer exist? If you did change that one event, would you actually accomplish what you meant to?

And no way to test, because the previous timeline is gone and can’t be recovered.

Very interesting take on the concept. Less adventure, more think-y.

I enjoyed Version Control and am not quite done with Thrice Upon a Time, though at this point I’m not sure if I would recommend it. It gets bogged down in long infodumps in the first half of the book, but has improved now that we’re finally using the time travel concept instead of just talking about it.

Know another book that uses this same time travel mechanic, Squiders? Read these books? Thoughts?

Cover Reveal: Fireborn by Erin Zarro

Fireborn, the second book in Erin Zarro’s Reaper Girl series, will be out on August 1! But for now, get a load of this cover.

Fireborn cover

Man, that’s pretty.

Here’s the blurb:

Former Grim Reaper Leliel and her new husband Rick have settled into a routine of normalcy after their life-changing trip to the Underworld. They can finally relax and be married and deal with mundane problems, like money and learning to use all the modern-day technologies that are new to Leliel. But they’re up for the challenge.

Until Leliel starts having frightening visions of people on fire. The fires appear to be suicides—young adults—but something isn’t right. She senses that they were forced to act against their will. This isn’t their time to die. Even though she’s no longer a Reaper, she needs to fix it. Somehow.

When she and Rick investigate, they encounter resistance from not only the police but also the families and friends of the dead. Complicating factors are the Tarot cards left at the scenes, the mysterious happenings at the college that all of the dead turn out to have attended, and the disturbing new abilities that Rick is developing.<

And then Leliel’s own Tarot deck turns up the Death card–twice–and she realizes that she’s gotten the attention of something evil…something she must face without Rick by her side.

Meanwhile, the deaths are mounting…

Sound interesting? If so, look for it in a few weeks!

The Sparrow Readalong

Woo, squiders! This is quite a book. Bit rough to read in places. And apparently there is a sequel, Children of God, which starts up almost immediately after the first book ends.

I’m always a bit amused with science fiction books that were written a while ago (this was published in 1996) and were set in a time that has caught up to us. The Sparrow follows two timelines: one, after the mission, and the other going over the events that lead up to it (and the mission itself, later on), which starts in 2016.

Anyway! The Sparrow tells that story of a Jesuit mission to the planet of Rakhat, in orbit around Alpha Centauri. It’s got a lot of deep themes–about God and religion (though I do want to make it clear that it is not a religious book–there’s no dogmas being forced on the reader, and the characters themselves are of varying faiths and levels of belief/agnostics), about interacting with new cultures, about human interactions and how one views one’s self, etc. I can definitely see why it won a bunch of awards.

And it’s a debut novel. Major props to Ms. Russell.

The novel pulls no punches. And it takes the interesting tack of putting the ending first. Father Emilio Sandoz is the sole survivor of the mission to Rakhat, and his name has been drug through the mud before he even makes it home, thanks to a transmission that was sent as he was leaving the planet to return home. He’s a broken man, both physically and mentally. So as the novel starts, you know this mission went bad. You know everyone died.

And then the novel goes about introducing everyone and stepping through the events leading up to the mission, and making you care about people, which is really very evil. I cried at one point when one of the characters died.

I feel like the approach to the species on Rakhat is an interesting choice as well. These are not alien aliens, that are incomprehensible to their human visitors, but more your Star Trek or Star Wars type of alien, where are the body parts are more or less in the same parts and they have conventions along the lines of humans. There can be a connection. There can be an exchange of language and ideas.

Anyway! I hope you read this one with me, squiders. I really enjoyed it. Dunno if I’ll pick up the sequel with any sort of timeliness, so I’m not going to include it as part of the readalong.

Thoughts on The Sparrow, squiders?

A Picture is Worth 1000 Words

To be unoriginal in our titles.

Let’s talk about graphic novels and associated subjects!

You know what I like about comics/graphic novels/manga, etc.? You can get through a 300-page book in, like, an hour. Sometimes less.

What’s not fun is there tends to be a gazillion volumes, which either gets very expensive or drives whoever has to drive the books between the library branches insane.

But this is a rough time of year (school year ending! new school year prep has to be done! summer vacations must be planned! It is alternately snowing or 80 degrees and my yard/garden doesn’t know what to do!) and I seem to be fully into the visual story telling medium at the moment, so I thought we’d talk about it.

(The other issue is that I’m in the middle of three books, all of which were written before 1980 and all of which are various degrees of sloggy. This is a mistake and I should have thought this out better.)

First of all, let’s talk about Saga.

Saga is a series by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples. There’s eight volumes out now, with the ninth due in September. (Wikipedia tells me that the comic comes out monthly, but I like to wait til things are consolidated.)

You’ve probably heard of this. I had certainly heard of this before I picked it up. (And, if I recall correctly, I picked it up after it was listed in a round-up of scifi/fantasy books involving cats.)

(Funny how many stories there are with cats.)

I was a little wary at first, because it’s certainly graphic, both sexually and violence-wise, but by the end of the first volume I was completely invested. It’s a space opera story about a family made up of species on the opposite sides of a long-standing and wide-reaching war.

Just…don’t get terribly attached to anyone.

 

Next there’s Pandora Hearts, which I just started. And, weirdly enough, I picked it up because I saw some character images on Pinterest and thought they looked interesting.

I’m only through the first volume and the series seems to be remotely based on Alice in Wonderland. (“Remote” being the key word.) That may just be a coincidence, but I shall have to read further on to see how true the comparison is.

It’s been a while since I picked up a new manga series, but there’s enough going on here to be interesting–missing memories, secret societies, evil alternate dimensions–and the series is complete, so I don’t have to worry about getting sucked into something that may go on forever (*coughBleachcough*).

And, lastly for today, let’s talk about Comics for a Strange World, which is a collection from the Poorly Drawn Lines comic.

I highly recommend both the collection and the strip itself, especially if one’s humor tends toward dry and existential. I got this for Christmas and it’s probably the best thing I got.

Reading any comics/graphic novels/manga lately, squiders? Thoughts about them or any of the above?