Archive for the ‘Reading’ Category

Bogged Down in Books

I worked the Scholastic Book Fair at my older mobile one’s school this morning, which was actually really fun! And I only walked out with one book and it wasn’t even one for me, which is kind of a victory. (I bought my smaller mobile one Kate Beaton’s The Princess and the Pony. I have both of her Hark! A Vagrant collections and the mobile ones really enjoyed King Baby, so I figure it’s a good bet.)

Also! I discovered Mary Downing Hahn is still publishing! She was one of my favorites when I was a kid. I re-read Wait till Helen Comes fairly recently and it held up pretty well even as an adult.

I seriously considered picking up one of her books (for me, my mobile ones aren’t old enough, and the older one is a bit sensitive about scary things anyway), but I didn’t because I’ve reached that state where I’m in the middle of too many books and hence am making no progress on any of them.

I’m in the middle of…six books right now. They are:

  • A Dweller on Two Planets, Frederick S. Oliver (1905) — this is a book the author claimed was written through him, and deals with Atlantis and re-incarnation and whatnot. I’m about halfway done, and it is pretty impressive work for a late nineteenth century homesteader.
  • The Well at the World’s End, William Morris (1896) — early fantasy, a lot of emphasis on chivalry and knighthood and all that jazz. Still working through all the public domain books I downloaded years ago when I first got my Kindle and Amazon was giving them away from free. This book must be really long because I spend half an hour reading it while reading the exercise bike and only move 2% at a time.
  • Thrice Upon a Time, James P. Hogan (1980) — At MileHiCon, there was a man selling old scifi and fantasy paperbacks for $2 each, and I bought four. This is one of them. I bought it because I thought Hogan’s Inherit the Stars was excellent science fiction. This is also scifi and the story takes place now-ish, and is a fairly common mix of overshooting on technological achievements and somehow missing all the societal changes that have happened.
  • Heirs of Power, Kate MacLeod (2017) — Reading this for a review group on Goodreads. Fantasy. So far so good!
  • One Man’s Wilderness, Richard Proenneke (1999) — nonfiction about a man who built a cabin by himself in the wilds of Alaska and lived there for 30 years.
  • First-person Singularities, Robert Silverberg (2017) — I’ve probably had this book since it came out. Whoops. But in my defense, nobody else is requesting it from the library. Science fiction short story collection, all told in first person. I always find short story collections a slow wade, because I like to digest a story before I move on to the next one.

One Man’s Wilderness and Heirs of Power should probably be my top priorities–the first is due back to the library in a few days (and there’s a hold request on it) and my review for the second is due Saturday–but when you’ve bogged yourself down, don’t you find it hard to read at all? Too many stories vying for attention.

And it doesn’t help that I re-read the second half of City of Hope and Ruin yesterday to remind myself of the ending/characterization so I can start working on the sequel.

But yes. Too many books. Must stop picking up more. The first two are slow going and I don’t read them very often, but I should probably just power through them and get them out of the queue. And also read more recent books. But I hate looking at those unread books on my Kindle library…

How many books are you reading right now, Squiders? Any recs (not that I need them)?


Happy Book Birthday to In the Forests of the Night by KD Sarge

Happy Thursday, squiders! Today’s the launch of the second book in KD Sarge’s fantasy series, In the Forests of the Night.

If you guys know me at all, you know I adore fantasy forests, so the title alone is exciting.

(Fun story: I had a short story that was published last year called The Night Forest, but I’d originally titled it Forest of Night. But then KD–who had been referring to this book as “Hiro II”–let me know about the potential for title confusion and I had to change it.)

As a Keeper-Apprentice, Hiro Takai followed his master everywhere. The adept Eshan Kisaragi taught him swordcraft and spellcasting and demon-fighting, but it was only after Hiro’s Kindling that he learned what Eshan couldn’t teach him. Such as what could go wrong in a ritual that tied the soul of a human mage to a creature of elemental power. Or how quickly the Keepers could turn on their own.

Damaged and dangerous, Hiro fled, seeking the one person he knew would help—his teacher and his beloved, Eshan.

Now, though—Hiro found Eshan, in the midst of a battle he could not win and would not lose. Now Eshan’s body lives but lies withering, while his soul clings to the elemental tiger…somewhere. Hiro can feel it to the south, in lands his studies never reached, where demons are unknown but spirits walk the paths of the Forests of the Night—and sometimes wander out.

Hiro has one chance to save his beloved. If he can find the tiger, if he can retrieve Eshan’s soul before his body fades, a way may be found to make his master whole.

With a failed priest and a possessed boy as guides, with a mad phoenix in his soul and a growing understanding of just how little he knows of magic, Hiro will follow wherever the tiger leads.

As Hiro searches for his lover’s soul, Eshan, more than half-mad from the sundering of his being, meets a child fleeing both his family and himself. Together, they stagger across the continent, in need of aid that only Hiro can give…if he can find them in time.

It’s currently only available on Amazon, but it should be available on other platforms shortly. An excerpt is also available over at Turtleduck Press.

The first book in the series, if you’re interested, is Burning Bright.

Promo: The Unlikeable Demon Hunter: Crave

Good morning, squiders! Today I’ve got The Unlikeable Demon Hunter: Crave by Deborah Wilde. It’s the fourth in a series of paranormal romances. This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Deborah is giving away a $10 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn winner via Rafflecopter.

What doesn’t kill you…

seriously messes with your love life.

Nava is happily settling into her new relationship and life is all giddy joy and stolen kisses.

Except when it’s assassins. Talk about a mood killer.

She and Rohan are tracking the unlikely partnership between the Brotherhood and a witch who can bind demons, but every new piece of the puzzle is leaving them with more questions than answers.

And someone doesn’t appreciate them getting close to the truth.

Go figure.

On top of that, a demon known only as Candyman has unleashed a drug that’s harming users in extremely disturbing ways.

After a friend of Nava’s is hurt, she vows to take this demon down. But will life as she knows it survive this mission, or will this be the one time she should have looked before she leapt?

Happily-ever-after: barring death, she’s got a real shot at it.

Read an Excerpt:

“I love home delivery.” Malik lounged in his doorway, eyeing me the way the wolf must have with the three little pigs. His British accent was pure sin.

“I love your arrogance that you didn’t bother moving after I almost killed you.”

He laughed, flashing straight white teeth against his bronze skin. He was still the only being I’d ever met who could pull off a Caesar cut, and was still the stuff of billionaire romance cover fantasies in his soft gray trousers that were artfully tailored to the hard lines of his body and navy shirt, carelessly folded back at the cuffs. “Oh, petal. I’d say I missed you, but I didn’t. Now, unless you brought the more interesting twin?” He peered into the hallway. “No?”

He shut the door, but I stuffed my foot in to block it. Not like he politely stopped trying to close it. “Ow.” I pushed my shoulder into the door to keep my poor bones from breaking. “If you weren’t wondering why I was here, you wouldn’t have let security buzz me up or let my toes cross the wards I’m sure you’ve got strung across this door.”

“Ten seconds.”

“That’s not–”

“Five, four…”

“Demons are being bound.” I rushed my words as he made a buzzing noise.

Malik yanked me inside by my collar and slammed the door.

I wrenched free.

His penthouse apartment hadn’t changed. Still to-die-for sweeping views of the city, a massive glass wine storage unit in the open concept space, and a loft bedroom. He pointed at one of the leather sofas, custom made to hug the curved walls. “Sit and talk.”

About the Author:

A global wanderer, hopeless romantic, and total cynic with a broken edit button, Deborah writes urban fantasy to satisfy her love of smexy romances and tales of chicks who kick ass. This award-winning author is all about the happily-ever-after, with a huge dose of hilarity along the way. “It takes a bad girl to fight evil. Go Wilde.”


Buy Link:

Amazon US:
Amazon UK:

NOTE: This title is discounted for up to 60% until midnight February 26 and the entire series is on sale until then as well.

Enter to win a $10 Amazon/BN
GC – a Rafflecopter giveaway


I’m Sensing a Trend

Happy Tuesday, squiders! I just finished reading The Riddle-Master of Hed by Patricia A. McKillip, which is the first of a fantasy trilogy and was published in 1976.

Do you know what the book reminded me of?

The Finnbranch trilogy that we did the disastrous readalong of over the summer last year.

I mean, The Riddle-Master of Hed is a much better book, but it involved a lot of the same elements: young man whose destiny has been determined far in the past, a bunch of supernatural people, shape-shifters from the sea, a lot of wandering around, and a bunch of pretty thick mythology.

(Wikipedia tells me that the book features themes from Celtic mythology, which Finnbranch did as well, though McKillip is not quite so obvious about it.)

From this, I can only conclude that this was a fairly active fantasy subgenre in the late ’70s/early ’80s. I mean, what are the odds that the two fantasy novels from essentially the same time period (As I said, this one was published in 1976, and the first Finnbranch novel, Yearwood, is from 1980) I’ve picked up in the last six months would be so similar in tone and themes?

(I suppose it could say more about me than the publishing trends of the time. Obviously something drew me to pick up both trilogies, whatever the heck it was. This is what happens when you hoard books for years. You have no idea what you were thinking.)

Does anyone read more of the period of fantasy/remember this period in fantasy? Was this a trend? If so, what would you say is the quintessential book of the “destined young man who is more than he seems with story drowning in mythology” genre so I can get it out of the way? (Or avoid it entirely. Still not sure.)

I wish I’d done this trilogy first. It’s probably way more enjoyable without the Finnbranch flashbacks. I will probably read the next two books, because now I’m invested, and also the third book was nominated for the Hugo and a bunch of other awards.

Read this series, squiders? Thoughts? (No spoilers yet, please!)


Tragedy and Fiction

So, last week, I went up to visit with my mother/grandmother, and I found my grandmother most of the way through All Clear (which is the second half of Connie Willis’ Blackout/All Clear duology and the most recent volume in her time travel books). I was delighted, and we did get to have the conversation I read The Doomsday Book for, as well as talking about the series as a whole.

We got to talking about which ones were our favorites, and I waxed poetical about the humor and romance in To Say Nothing of the Dog and the fantastic research of Blackout/All Clear. My grandmother said her favorite was The Doomsday Book. I kind of paused–if you remember from my post on The Doomsday Book, I thought it was the weakest of the series–and then asked her why.

And she said, “I don’t really enjoy World War II as a setting, but I suppose that comes from having lived through it.”

And it was like: oh. Oh. Of course WWII isn’t going to be an enjoyable setting. She lost siblings in that war, saw the rationing, the friends and family sent home in boxes (or not). It must have felt like the world was tearing itself apart. Why would you want to live through that again?

And I felt terribly guilty, especially for talking about how “real” the book’s setting had felt to someone who had lived through it.

WWII is so removed for so many of us. My grandmother is 95 and would have been in her late teens/early 20s during the war. But to me, it’s like the Big War in my favorite fantasy series. It’s something that happened, something that shaped the world, but it’s almost reached mythology at this point. Especially here in the States, there’s not a lot of reminders of what the war did. That’s not universal, of course–I’ve been to Berlin. I’ve seen the remains of the Wall and seen bombed buildings that have never been repaired. I’ve walked the rows of sarcophagi at the Jewish memorial. But I bet even my generation in Germany doesn’t quite understand.

And don’t we all have those things, those events, that were so traumatic, so tragic, that we don’t want to have our fiction anywhere near them? I know what mine is. It’s Columbine. I don’t think I’ve talked about Columbine here, and I don’t intend to start now, but let us just say that I can remember that day almost 20 years ago as clearly if it had happened yesterday, even as most of my memories from that time in my life have started to fade.

I know I avoid media related to Columbine or school shootings like the plague. Even songs that can be interpreted as being about school shootings I can’t listen to. And, to be honest, it’s not that hard. In the great scheme of cultural zeitgeist, it wasn’t that major. It didn’t affect that many people. Something like WWII that affected entire generations is a lot harder to avoid. (Wikipedia tells me 3% of the world’s population died over the course of the war.)

It’s certainly been a bit eye-opening. Sometimes these big, horrible historical things are a lot closer than most people realize. I mean, we’re only a few generations past when slavery ended in this country.

I’m not sure where I’m going with this. Is it exploitation to use an event that was traumatic to a ton of people for media designed for profit? Is it sad that terrible things happen? Where is the line where something becomes art?

Makes me glad I write science fiction and fantasy, if nothing else.


Readalong: Dream Thief by Stephen R. Lawhead

The title looked really barren for a second, and then I remembered that this was our first standalone readalong, so I normally have the series title as well.

Anyway! It’s the 18th! Let’s get to it.

First, the basics. Dream Thief is an early-’80s science fiction novel about Spencer Reston, a sleep researcher interested in the long-term effects of space travel on people. Stephen R. Lawhead is a name I have heard before–he’s probably most famous for his Pendragon cycle (late ’80s through late ’90s) and his trilogy of Robin Hood retelling (mid-2000s)–but I’ve never gotten around to reading anything of his before.

I suspect I picked this book up at a thrift store somewhere along the line, but I have had it for a long time, so if nothing else, I’m glad to have finally gotten through it.

Spencer Reston has recently arrived on Gotham, a space station in orbit around Earth. It’s quite an honor to have your experiment chosen by the station, but things have not been going well. Every night Spencer (nicknamed Spence, though it’s somewhat inconsistent throughout what other characters call him) goes to sleep in the lab to have his sleep recorded; every morning he wakes up knowing he’s had terrible nightmares that he cannot remember.

There’s multiple viewpoints through, and there’s some headhopping which is a bit annoying at times but not terrible. The antagonists also have viewpoints, starting maybe halfway, so there’s no great mystery in how the story is going (or at least what they’re trying to accomplish).

There are some good things about the novel–for being fairly massive (and a bit slow in places), it reads pretty fast. The dialogue is good. The sequence on Mars, though it does bog down at one particular point, is quite interesting and some good scifi. There are some interesting side characters that I enjoyed very much.

That said, some other characters are almost walking stereotypes. There is a single female character of any note who is handled fairly badly. The theme of the story is heavy-handed almost to the point of ridiculousness in some places. And then there’s Spence.

Are you familiar with what it means when a story is considered “wish fulfillment”? Essentially, it’s when an author writes about what they wish would happen to them. My husband has recently been reading a novel about a man who’s cryogenically frozen, and when he wakes up, there’s a shortage of men and all the lovely, young, nubile women can’t keep their hands off of him. (My husband gave it an honest go, but eventually the book got too ridiculous and he gave up on it.) This feels like that in some places. All the good guys like Spence immediately, he gains intimate friends through no effort on his part (people who are willing to die for him), important people take care of him, etc. Yes, of course, there is the dream issue which is a problem, but there’s no lack of people trying to help him out.

And, of course, the single female character falls madly in love with him.

And Spence is kind of a jerk, especially through the first part of the book (it doesn’t really start to change until after Mars), which makes it a bit more grating.

(Oh, yeah, and there’s no female scientists. We talked about that already.)

So, let’s see. It’s an okay book. It has its good and bad points, but I don’t think I’d recommend it to someone else. There’s better scifi out there, both in terms of story and scifi concepts, and between the character pitfalls and Spence in general, the good points get somewhat overruled.

Did you read this with me, Squiders? Thoughts? Favorite part? What did you think about reading a single book over reading a series? Which would you prefer to do moving forward?


2017 Books in Review

(Shhh. I’m not really here.)

As you know, Squiders, every year I take a look at the books I read over the last year and run stats. Because I am a giant nerd and I like to keep track of such things.

Here’s the stats for 2017:

Books Read in 2017: 51
Change from 2016: +1

Of those*:
14 were Fantasy
13 were Mystery
10 were Science Fiction
6 were Nonfiction
3 were General Literature
1 was an Essay Collection
1 was Magical Realism
1 was Romance
1 was Science Fantasy
1 was a Short Story Collection

*Some genre consolidation was done here. YA titles went into the general genre. All subgenres of fantasy or romance, for example, also went into the general genre.

Hm. Little less broad on the genres than usual this year. And LOTS of mysteries.

New genre(s)**: essay collection, magical realism
Genres I read last year that I did not read this year: steampunk, superhero tie-in, paranormal, historical fiction, Gothic, chick lit

**This means I didn’t read them last year, not that I’ve never read them.

Genres that went up: science fiction, nonfiction, mystery
Genres that went down: fantasy, romance

26 were my books
23 were library books
2 book was borrowed from friends/family

36 were physical books
15 were ebooks

Lots of library books this year.

Average rating: 3.46/5 (Same as last year! Ha!)

Top rated:
A Man Called Ove (5 – general literature)
Victorian Tales of Mystery and Detection (4.2 – mystery collection)
Creature of Dreams (4 – magical realism)

Not a lot of exemplary books this year, though there’s a bunch hanging out at 3.7/3.8 (such as The Doomsday Book, American Gods, Meddling Kids) including some self-published ones I reviewed (Into the Between, Entromancy, Icarus).

Most recent publication year: 2017
Oldest publication year: 1896
Average publication year: 1997
Books older than 1900: 1
Books newer than (and including) 2012: 26

My average year’s back in the ’90s, har har. (Last year it was 2004.) Even though more than half the books I read this year were published in the last 5 years.

See you Thursday, Squiders!