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Reading Challenge: R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril (RIP) IX

September 4, 2014 4 comments

Banner for the RIP IX challenge.Hello my lovely readers!  Many book bloggers are already familiar with Carl of Stainless Steel Droppings’ RIP Challenge.  For those who aren’t familiar, it’s a reading challenge, covering the months of September and October, during which you read delightfully creepy / horror books to go along with the feelings of fall.  The books can be in any of the following genres:

Mystery.
Suspense.
Thriller.
Dark Fantasy.
Gothic.
Horror.
Supernatural.
Or anything sufficiently moody that shares a kinship with the above.

There are multiple different ways to participate, including reading short stories and watching movies, plus there’s now a readalong you can participate in.  I’ve participated twice before purely in the book reading portion of the challenge, and that’s what I’m going to be doing again.  I’ll be doing Peril the First, for which you read four books that broadly fit in any of the categories above.

Books I already own that I could select for the challenge are listed below.  I’d love to hear from you in the comments if there’s one you’d particularly like to recommend to me from my list!

  • A Banquet for Hungry Ghosts by Ying Chang Compestine
  • Barely Breathing by Michael J. Kolinski
  • Beverly Hills Demon Slayer by Angie Fox
  • Brains: A Zombie Memoir by Robin Becker
  • Breed by Chase Novak
  • Cycle of the Werewolf by Stephen King
  • Deadtown by Nancy Holzner
  • Disclosure by Michael Crichton
  • From a Buick 8 by Stephen King
  • I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead by E. A. Aymar
  • The Keep by Paul F. Wilson
  • The Kitchen Witch by Annette Blair
  • Nightmare Fuel: Volume 1 by Bliss Morgan
  • The Shimmer by David Morrell
  • Smokin’ Six Shooter by B. J. Daniels
  • A Spell of Winter by Helen Dunmore
  • State of Decay by James Knapp
  • Still Missing by Chevy Stevens
  • The Strain by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan
  • Tales of the Chtulhu Mythos by H. P. Lovecraft
  • Unshapely Things by Mark Del Franco
  • The Veiled Mirror: The Story of Prince Vlad Dracula’s Lost Love by Christine Frost
  • The Walking Dead, Volume 16 by Robert Kirkman
  • Wanted Woman by B. J. Daniels

I think I should be able to find four books from a list that large, don’t you?

PS If anyone is doing the short story challenge, I have two short stories published that fit within the parameters (and are free!).  Also, my published novel fits into the challenge too.  Check them all out on my publications page.

 

Book Review: The Time Machine by H. G. Wells (Bottom of TBR Pile Challenge)

September 7, 2013 6 comments

Simple cover image containing a broad off-white background on the top third of the cover and a red background on the bottom two thirds.  The book's title and author are printed on the background.Summary:
Nobody is quite sure whether to believe their eccentric scientist friend when he claims to have invented the ability to travel through time.  But when he shows up late to a dinner party with a tale of traveling to the year 802,700 and meeting the human race, now divided into the child-like Eloi and the pale ape-like ground-dwelling Morlocks, they find themselves wanting to believe him.

Review:
I was always aware of this scifi classic but oddly had managed to never hear any spoilers.  When I saw it available for free on the kindle, I decided I should download it for when a classic scifi mood struck me in the future.  I’m glad I did because it was there and waiting for me when that mood did strike, and it was completely satisfying.  Like when you eat a food you’ve been craving for days.

The structure and writing style are typical for the late 1800s.  An unnamed narrator tells us of a strange person he met who then takes over the narration to tell us about an event that happened to him.  In this case, that second narrator is the Time Traveler.  The Time Traveler then expounds quite eloquently and philosophically on everything that has happened to him.  I enjoy this storytelling method, because it gives space for the narrator of the strange tale to do this philosophical thinking.  It makes sense to think about what you’ve learned when you’re talking about a past event.  The events are exciting, but they don’t happen at such a break-neck speed that the reader doesn’t have time to think on what they might mean.  After reading a lot of more modern dystopias, it was interesting to read a slower paced one.  Both storytelling techniques work well, but it was definitely a nice change of pace for my reading personally.

The dystopia is really enjoyable.  Instead of getting hung up on politics or climate change, the dystopia revolves entirely around evolution.  The Morlock/Eloi split happened because of the ever-increasing gap between the haves (the future Eloi) and the have-nots (the future Morlocks).  The Eloi are childlike in both stature and behavior.  They are the ultimate end result for what happens when people have no responsibilities and everything done for them, which is clearly how Wells sees the then modern-day elite functioning.  The Time Traveler talks about the ultimate evolutionary faults of a living that is too easy at multiple times.

Strength is the outcome of need; security sets a premium on feebleness. (page 30)

In contrast, the Morlocks live underground in old industrial tunnels.  They are physically strong but have lost their humanity due to a lack of the finer things.  They have no contact with the natural beauty of the world and so have turned into these ape-like, cannibalistic creatures.  The Time Traveler expounds on this:

Even now, does not an East-end worker live in such artificial conditions as practically to be cut off from the natural surface of the earth? (page 50)

I really like that this dystopia is so well thought-out but simultaneously so simple and easy to understand.

The plot itself kept me on the edge of my seat and constantly surprised at what happened.  Although it’s obvious the Time Traveler makes it back from his first voyage, there are other threats and dangers that are sufficient to keep the reader engaged.  The ending actually surprised me as well.

This book has withstood the test of time extremely well.  It has not yet saturated pop culture to the extent that the potential reader is unavoidably spoiled for the details of the plot or the ending.  The dystopia is unique and interesting, in spite of the proliferation of dystopian literature since then.  The philosophical thoughts of the Time Traveler are still applicable to modern society.

Overall, this is a piece of classic scifi that has aged very well.  It simultaneously entertains and challenges the reader.  In addition, it is a short read for a classic, more similar in length to modern fiction.  It is the ideal read for both hard-core scifi fans and those interested in dipping their toe in classic scifi.  Highly recommended!

5 out of 5 stars

Source: Amazon

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Note: the Kindle edition is free

Book Review: A Room with a View by E. M. Forster (Bottom of TBR Pile Challenge)

August 3, 2013 Leave a comment

Black and white image of Italian countryside as seen through a window with the book's title and author name on it.Summary:
When Lucy Honeychurch goes to Italy, accompanied by her spinster aunt, she doesn’t want or expect much, except perhaps a room with a view.  But she meets George Emerson and his father, two socialist atheists, and they put her world in a bit of a tizzy.  That all gets left behind, though, leaving room for her to meet the man who will become her fiancee, Cecil.  Back in England, her courtship is soon interrupted by the unexpected arrival into their little town of the Emersons.

Review:
I wanted to like this book.  It sounded like an older progressive, feminist romance novel, and that’s something I can definitely get behind.  The romance, though, turned my stomach, and all of the characters left me sour.

This is a slow-moving book.  The scenes it sets are neither rich nor interesting.  I expected to feel more enveloped in Italy, akin to how I felt when reading Adriana Trigiani, but this didn’t happen.  It felt a bit like your cousin who isn’t very good at describing things is trying to tell you all about her vacation to Italy without the help of pictures.  In a book where not very much happens for at least the first 2/3 of it, this is more important of a shortcoming than it might otherwise be.

I cannot name a single character in the book I enjoyed, although Lucy’s brother at least elicited a neutral feeling from me.  They’re all about what you would expect from upper middle class British in the early 1900s.  Lucy is dull and timid. Her aunt is mean and overly concerned about appearances.  One suitor is is an upper-class prick, and the other is a supposed “bad boy,” although only in the sense that if this was a boarding school he might not tie his tie properly.  It all was so predictable and dull.  I was expecting a fiery heroine but instead I got Miss Plane Jane from down the road.

What really swayed me against the book, though, was one of the scenes we are clearly supposed to find very romantic, but which I found problematic at its most basic level.

Lucy was playing tennis with a bunch of people, and she winds up walking through the garden back toward the house with George.  George knows she is engaged to Cecil, and Lucy has expressed to him a few times that she is not interested in pursuing a relationship with him.  He grabs her, at which point the following happens:

“No–” she gasped, and, for the second time, was kissed by him. (page 174)

This is the second time, because the first kiss was a mutual one that happened in Italy many months prior.  So what happens is that George grabs her without asking, knowing she is uninterested and engaged to another man, she tells him no, and he proceeds to kiss her anyway.  This sexual assault is supposed to endear George to us!!! It is incredibly offensive, and I was so turned off I wanted to stop reading.  I didn’t so I could write an honest review for you all, but honestly the entire rest of the book was soured for me because we are expected to root for Lucy to estrange herself from her friends and family to marry a man who clearly shows zero respect for her as a person, a man who has sexually assaulted her.  How is that a romance? Putting forward stories like this as the desired norm, as a couple who are deeply in love and should be looked up to and aspired for, isn’t good for anyone reading these books.  Relationships and romance should be based on mutual trust and respect.  It’s ok for a person to make a mistake.  We’re all human.  But these mistakes should be acknowledged as mistakes and apologized for, never to be done again.  Not held up as the romantic actions of a person in love.

This reads as a mid-range, late 1800s style British romance, in spite of being published in the early 1900s.  I could see this being for someone else who enjoys that style more than I do, but I cannot in good faith recommend it when the romantic hero of the book sexually assaults the heroine, and we are supposed to root for him to win her heart.

2 out of 5 stars

Source: won from a book blog

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600 Follower Freebie Celebration!!

March 6, 2013 5 comments

Silhouette of woman and cat.Hello my lovely readers!

To celebrate my blog reaching 600 followers, I’m offering up ebook copies of my novel, Waiting for Daybreak, for FREE for three days!  And that’s an unlimited number to everyone who wants one!!

What is normal?
Frieda has never felt normal. She feels every emotion too strongly and lashes out at herself in punishment. But one day when she stays home from work too depressed to get out of bed, a virus breaks out turning her neighbors into flesh-eating, brain-hungry zombies. As her survival instinct kicks in keeping her safe from the zombies, Frieda can’t help but wonder if she now counts as healthy and normal, or is she still abnormal compared to every other human being who is craving brains?

Still not sure if you want this bad-ass free book?  Check out the reviews from the blog tour, on Amazon, and on GoodReads.

In order to get your FREE ebook, go to this page, add it to your cart, then put in the coupon code at checkout for 100% off.  You may choose a version compatible with any ereader, computer, and many phones.  That’s right, read it for free on your kindle, iPhone, Kobo, and more!

I’m so excited to have so many followers, and you all definitely deserve some special access to my work.  So are you ready to grab the coupon code and check it out?

Your coupon code is……

LC57W

Again, just go to this site, add the book to your cart, then enter the coupon code at checkout for 100% off!

Feel free to share the coupon code with your friends.  It will expire on Sunday.  And thank you to one and all for being my followers!

<3

2012 Reading Stats!

January 2, 2013 7 comments

To celebrate the new year here on the blog, it’s time to take a look back at my reading stats for 2012.  It’s always fun to compile them and see how my reading changes and simultaneously stays the same over the years.

Last year, I read a grand total of 107 books. In 2010 that number was 70, and the year before that it was 52.  This year I didn’t make it to my goal of 150, but I think I did pretty damn good anyway. :-)

Total books read: 118
Average books read per month: 9.8
Month most read: January with 20 (I’d chalk this up to New Year Resolution momentum!)
Month least read: Tie between September and December with 4 each.  (September was part of a very busy month at work with Orientations for the students. December was the holidays plus a wedding I was in, so…..kind of understandable reading got left behind a bit!)
Longest book read: David Goodis: Five Noir Novels of the 1940s and 50s by David Goodis with 848 pages
Fiction: 86 (73%)
Nonfiction: 32 (27%) This was an 11% increase from last year.
Series: 48 (41%)
Standalone: 70 (59%) I think this is a nice balance between series and standalone books.
Formats: 
–traditional print: 34 (29%)
–ebook: 59 (50%)
–graphic novel: 11 (9%)
–audiobook: 14 (12%) (This more than doubled. I thank Audible for that!)
Genres:
–scifi: 19 (Winner for the fourth year running! It’s clear what my favorite genre is.)
–indie lit: 16
–GLBTQ: 15 (This came out of nowhere, but I’m glad I found a new genre I enjoy.)
–historic fiction: 15
–fantasy: 14 (I have found a few fantasy books I enjoy, so I will definitely keep reading, although a bit more selectively.)
–post-apocalyptic: 12
–urban fantasy: 10
–contemporary fiction: 9
–horror: 9
–mental illness: 9
–nonfiction cookbook: 8 (I had hoped to try one new cookbook a month, but I do think 8 is pretty good.)
–African lit: 7 (Thanks to the African Lit reading challenge I participated in.)
–nonfiction memoir: 7
–mystery: 6
–black lit: 5
–nonfiction environmentalism: 5
–nonfiction history: 5
–thriller: 5
–YA: 5 (Realizing I dislike this genre led to it mostly leaving my reading, except for older acquired books on the tbr shelf.)
–alternate history: 4
–dystopian: 4 (Shockingly low compared to previous years.)
–nonfiction lifestyle: 4
–nonfiction science: 4
–erotica: 3
–nonfiction diet: 3
–romance: 3
–steampunk: 3
–military: 2
–noir: 2
–nonfiction Buddhism: 2
–nonfiction relationships: 2
–transhumanism: 2
–American classics: 1
–nonfiction feminism: 1
–cozy: 1 (Given how much I enjoy cozies, I should really read more of them!)
–Cthulhu mythos: 1
–European classics: 1
–fashionpunk: 1
–humorous: 1
–Irish lit: 1
–Japanese lit: 1
–magical realism: 1
–nonfiction fitness: 1
–nonfiction reference: 1
–nonfiction social justice: 1
–paranormal romance: 1 (It seems I am truly over my paranormal romance phase.)
–poetry: 1
–short story collection: 1
–time-travel: 1
Vampires vs. Zombies vs. Aliens vs. Demons:
–zombies: 9
–vampires: 8
–aliens: 4 (I think aliens should get more attention next year.)
–demons: 3
Number of stars:
–5 star reads: 16 (14%)
–4 star reads: 50 (42%)
–3 star reads: 33 (28%)
–2 star reads: 17 (14%)
–1 star reads: 2 (2%)

Looking at my stats, I can see one thing rather clearly.  My number of highly rated reads went down, and simultaneously some genres I enjoy went down while genres I don’t enjoy (generally) went up.  I think it’s important for me in 2013 to focus in more on reads I am fairly certain I will enjoy, rather than books I think I should read.  I also would like to read more in the genres that as a writer I am currently (or intend to) write in.

On the other hand, I have definitely enjoyed adding diversity to my reading.  I’m very happy to see how much more diverse my reading is now than it used to be when it comes to areas of the world and representations of various perspectives.  This is something I would like to hold on to.

I also would like to even out the number of books read per month to a more consistent number.  The difference between 20 and 4 is huge, and I would like to see my reading not fall by the wayside if possible.  Granted, some of that numerical difference was due to reading chunksters versus graphic novels, so I suppose it’s important to keep in mind that a number is just a number. :-)

Overall, this was a great reading year. It was incredibly varied, and I think I learned more about myself and what I enjoy reading (not to mention writing).  For 2013, I hope to read 120 books, an average of 10 books a month.  I also will be doing the Mental Illness Advocacy Reading Challenge again, as well as the Finishing the Series Reading Challenge.  Beyond that, I will continue tackling my tbr pile.  Hopefully, my 2013 will see me finding a few more gems than I found this year.

Happy 2013 everyone!  Any suggestions for my 2013 reading goals?

Book Review: Deadly Row to Hoe by Cricket McRae (Series, #6)

November 29, 2012 Leave a comment

Summary:
Sophie Mae and her best friend decided to join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) as soon as the opportunity popped up in their small town.  One day when they’re volunteering at the farm, a dead body is found in the compost heap.  Sophie Mae is determined not to get involved this time, after all, she’s got enough on her plate with her soap making business and trying to make a baby with her husband, Detective Barr.  But Barr’s boss asks her to help identify the body by talking to the folks in the community , and she just can’t say no.

Review:
Cozy mysteries consist of a mystery (that’s not too explicit or bloody) paired with an unlikely investigator, some sort of crafting, a good dose of humor, and a punny title.  In other words, they were basically made for me.  (Some even come with recipes!)  So when this one popped up on NetGalley, I snatched it up, and I’m so glad I did!  McRae successfully pulls together everything that makes a cozy great.

The plot is excellent.  The murder mystery isn’t too gory, but is also realistic.  The body is found in a compost heap, yes, but it’s just a dead body.  There aren’t slashed off heads hanging out in tea kettles or something.  Everyone is appropriately disturbed by the finding.  There’s no ho-hum just another day element at play.  Although I admit I had figured out whodunit before the end, the why and when were still a mystery.  Plus I never felt that Sophie Mae was being stupid and just missing something.  Why it was taking her a bit to see whodunit made total sense.  I also really appreciate that GLBTQ people are included in the plot without a big deal being made out of it.  They are just another character, which is just how I like my diversity in genre literature.

The characters are fairly three-dimensional for a cozy.  Everyone had something I liked and didn’t like about their personality, even the heroine, which is key to characters seeming realistic.  There were also a wide variety of people present from Sophie Mae’s best friend’s daughter to an elderly friend of the family.  This range is something that is often missing in literature, and I liked seeing it here.

What I really come to cozies for, though, I admit, is the integration of crafting.  In this case the theme is participating in a CSA, so parts of the book are devoted to how a CSA works from acquiring your weekly allotment to figuring out how to use it to cooking with it.  I really appreciated the quips about having so much of a certain produce that they’re coming out your ears.  I also really enjoyed the scenes that discussed taking real time out to cook dinner and what that feels like, such as talking about how garlic smells when you first throw it into a hot pan.  I know not all readers enjoy this, but honestly that’s part of the point of a cozy.  Taking the time to linger on crafts and talents that take time to cultivate but are well worth it, and McRae incorporated this element very smoothly into the book.  I do wish some recipes or CSA tips had been included, but it’s possible I just didn’t see them since I had an advanced copy.

Overall this book has a dash of everything enjoyable about a cozy mystery.  Recommended to cozy fans, particularly those in or considering a CSA.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: NetGalley

Buy It

Previous Books in Series:
Lye in Wait
Heaven Preserve Us
Spin a Wicked Web
Something Borrowed, Something Bleu
Wined and Died

Friday Fun! (Blogger and Writer News, Ahoy!)

October 12, 2012 2 comments

Hello my lovely readers!

Just a couple of quick blogger and writer related updates for you all this week.

First off in very exciting blogger news, you all may remember me telling you about the new initiative called Bookstore Book Blogger Connection, which is all about connecting online reviewers and reviews with brick and mortar bookstores.  Welp. I popped on over there to check in on how things are going and lo and behold there were some photos from a bookstore showing off their new displays with book blogger quotes, and my recommendation for Stand on Zanzibar by John Brunner was one of the two shown off!

Pile of books with a recommendation placard.

Not that this isn’t cool enough already, but what moved it up a level in the squee factor is that this is from a bookstore in the Netherlands! The American Book Center to be exact.  And they look pretty damn cool.  There’s something that’s just extra-exciting about being part of a bookstore that isn’t even in my country.  So thanks, guys, for sending the shots to the Bookstore Book Blogger Connection website. You gave this blogger warm glowy feelings, and I do hope the display helped introduce more readers to the awesomeness that is John Brunner’s writing.

In writerly news, I got to participate in Ang’s blogoversary over on Eastern Sunset Reads.  She gave Waiting For Daybreak her top rating of four paws (out of a possible four), saying, “I was expecting Waiting for Daybreak to be a book mostly about zombies and fighting them, but what I found was more a journey into a survivor’s psyche. I don’t know what was scarier, the zombies or being in Frieda’s mind.”

I also was able to contribute a guest post to her blogoversary where I talked about her theme for the month on where a love of reading came from for me.  My guest post is quite personal, and I really enjoyed writing it.  Big thanks to Ang for inviting me to be part of her special month!

Although my blog tour is not still going on, book bloggers are always welcome to request review copies of both my novel and my novella.  I appreciate any and all signal boosts. :-)

That’s it for the news for this week!  I hope you all have completely awesome weekends. *waves*

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