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Whitewavedarling's Winding Path as of 2019

2019 Category Challenge

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Nov 21, 2018, 11:35am Top

This is Quinn. We met her last year on Black Friday—my husband needed a new computer, so we ventured out to shop. When I got overwhelmed by the crowds in Best Buy, I deserted my husband and headed off to look at new dog beds in the Petsmart next store. An hour later, I'd fallen in love with a too-skinny, scared-looking cat whose blurb made it sound like nobody would want her. Four days later, we officially had a fourth cat.

I was see-sawing back and forth over topics for this year, really kind of lost even though I wanted to participate, and then I thought of the strange path that our lives took, and that Quinn's took, in order for her to complete our family (complete for now, anyway!). After a bit more thought, that took me to my own strange career path, and it occurred to me to base this year's challenge off of the strange and varied jobs I've had. They've ranged from the strange to the mundane, and I think they've all part in bringing me to today, so that's what I've settled on.

My hope will be to read 2,019 words in each category, though it'll be just fine with me if a few don't fill up—you'll be able to guess which ones those are as you read. So, here we go…

Edited: Aug 1, 11:30am Top

Our gray cat, Hart, and our English Coonhound mix, Arthur. Despite what this picture suggests, these guys are both guardians of our little house and family. Arthur hates human visitors (though he loves visiting with humans outside of our house, on the beach and at the pet store, etc.), and barks only when they appear. His influence has gotten us to the point where our Hart (that sweet gray kitty you see there) runs to the door growling when the delivery man appears! Hart patrols the house at night, and Arthur mostly sleeps near the door while my husband's at work (I work from home). They do their best to fuss at all of us to remain on schedule and within their much-loved routines, and herd the rest of us around the house like we're sheep—or, they try. This pic was taken when they were young, in 2013; now, Hart is about 14 pounds, all muscle, and Arthur is about 80 pounds, also all muscle. Both of them are hard to get pictures of, hence me pulling them together in this post--Arthur tends to run for the camera, while Hart tries to play with it or nuzzle it!

So, these guys will be my guardians for my organization post, where I do my best to plan my path forward and keep on track with expectations. We'll see how it goes, as I've once again got ambitious plans when it comes to the challenges.

Personal Alphabet Challenge : where I try to build the alphabet over the year, with author names AND title initials.


A B C D E _ _ H I J _ L M _ O P _ R S T _ _ W _ _ Z


A B C D E _ G H _ J K L M N _ P Q R S _ U V W _ _ Z

Currently Reading:
The Silver Wolf
Nicholas: Lords of Satyr
Ring of Swords

Goals: (books/challenges listed in order of priority)

July: Ring of Swords (space opera SFFFKit)
August: House of Dead Trees (RandomCat), What Might Have Been Volumes I & II (Alternate History SFFFKit), Stealing Fire (SeriesCat #2 & TBRCat #2), Skin Shows: Gothic Horror and the Technology of Monsters (Gothic ScaredyKit & TBRCat #1), A Bend in the River by Naipaul--born in August (CalendarCat & N AlphaKit), In the Woods (I AlphaKit & SeriesCat #1)
September: RandomCat, Series SFFFKit, next book in the Southern Ghost Hunter Mystery series by Angie Fox (mystery SeriesCat & F AlphaKit & ScaredyKit book), The Woman in White (classics TBRCat & W AlphaKit), September (CalendarCat)
October: RandomCat, comedy/humor SFFFKit, The Wild Rose (historical series SeriesCat), A Hologram for the King (visual appeal TBRCat), Monsters & Creatures ScaredyKit, October Dreams: A Celebration of Halloween (CalendarCat), G & T AlphaKit
November: RandomCat, award winner/nominee SFFFKit, Anita Blake Vampire Hunter Book (female protagonist SeriesCat), given-as-gift TBRCat, Stephen King & Family ScaredyKit, Shooter: The Autobiography of the Top-Ranked Marine Sniper (CalendarCat & S AlphaKit), Y AlphaKit
December: RandomCat, wrap-up 2019 SFFFKit, series-that's-new-to-me SeriesCat, Ghost Country (bought-on-the-cheap TBRCat), Small Press/Indie/Catch-Up ScaredyKit—HOST MONTH, Wolfbane and Mistletoe (CalendarCat), E & R AlphaKit -- R Possibilities: Report to Megalopolis and The Lives of Norman Mailer

Success/Tracking Progress… (Listed by Order of Priority in any given month...)

RandomCat: January (1), February (1), March (1), April (1), May (1), June (1), July (1)
SFFFKit: January (2), February (1), March (1), April (1), May (1), June (1)
SeriesCat: January (1), February (2), March (1), April (1), May (1), July (2)
TBRCat: January (1), February (1), March (1), April (1), May (3), June (1), July (2)
ScaredyKit: January (1), February (1), March (1), April (2), May (1), July (1)
CalendarCat: January (1), February (1), March (1), April (1), May (1), June (1)
AlphaKit: January (2), February (2), March (2), April (3), May (3), June (2), July (4)

Edited: Jul 18, 7:01pm Top

"Job" #1… Volunteer.

Yep, I'm calling this a job because I take it that seriously. It began when I was in middle school, volunteering at the local library to help with the summer reading program. In college, it expanded into volunteering tutoring time, running creative writing lessons for kids at community centers, and, more recently, volunteering to help with political campaigns and working with a local organization focused on working with teens who've gotten in trouble with the law, but are eligible for this intervention program that tries to help them learn how to make better choices and connect to their community so that they never have to get thrown into the court system.

Predictably, this category will cover all those books that somehow deal with nonfiction where people are working to make the world a better place, whether that's through NGOs, research, or anything else.

A. Volunteer books: nonfiction related to making the world better, or people who are working to do so

(1,261/2,019 pages)

1. Monster of God by David Quammen (437 pages)
2. Isaac's Storm by Erik Larson (273 pages)
3. Blood Diamonds by Greg Campbell (226 pages)
4. Zeitoun by Dave Eggers (325 pages)

Edited: Jul 18, 7:18pm Top

Job #2… Puppet Troupe Actor/Stage Manager

I belonged to a traveling puppet troupe when I was in high school. I mostly stage managed and worked on special effects, though sometimes I helped with singing and acting. I often got paid in food (those with cars got paid in food and gas!), and we were essentially a group of ambitious high schoolers led by an over-achieving college student getting his degree in performing arts, who had a passion for puppets. We mostly performed at libraries and schools (for kids), and occasionally in contests or churches and synagogues. Some of my favorites? We did a 70s/disco-themed rewrite of Cinderella—I remember very few details of that one because the fog machine kept me slightly high almost all the time, but it was a grand time—and a musical about dinosaurs. So, this job will be dedicated to MG and YA work, because only teenagers would have had the energy/stamina for our craziness, and we mostly performed for kids!

B. Puppet Troupe Stage Manager books: YA and MG territory

(1,080/2,019 pages)

1. The House by Christina Lauren (373 pages)
2. Allure (Hoodoo Apprentice) by Lea Nolan (353 pages)
3. Illusion (Hoodoo Apprentice) by Lea Nolan (354 pages)

Edited: Jun 21, 5:36pm Top

Job #3: Librarian Assistant

This was my first regular paying job—it was my work-study assignment at both undergraduate colleges I attended, and I loved it. I remember being behind the library desk at night and looking around in confusion, trying to figure out how I'd gotten there, but it was a good kind of confusion. Those library jobs gave me time to explore all sorts of experiences, not to mention books. Thus, this job/category will be for books that, in some way or another, inspire confusion—mostly by making me wonder, "How did this ever end up on my shelf???"—and then give me a chance to explore territory I wouldn't have expected myself to venture into.

C. Librarian Assistant books: How did this end up on my shelf and/or why am I reading it?

(1,150/2,019 pages)

1. The Witchfinder's Sister by Beth Underdown (310 pages)
2. Shot in the Heart by Mikal Gilmore (403 pages)
3. The Sharing Knife: Passage by Lois McMaster Bujold (437 pages)

Edited: Feb 8, 6:33pm Top

Job #4: Writing Consultant/Tutor

I got pulled into working at a writing center while I was still in my freshman year of college. I was supposed to train for 8 weeks under a senior named Kyle who was another science major, but I actually got put on duty after 3 weeks, they were so short-handed and trusted my instincts/work so much. This job was part of what made me realize I was meant to be an English major instead of a science major, and I guess I've never really left it behind. I tutored all the way up until I began teaching, and even now that I'm an editor, I spend a fair bit of time serving as a writing consultant/mentor for writers who need some extra guidance in getting their books onto paper and completing even a first draft. It's exhausting, satisfying work, and I love it. There's nothing like a publisher getting in touch with me to tell me that someone wants to write a book, and has really interesting stories, but only maybe 20,000 messy words typed up… and then I get to help them take it through draft after draft until it's a full-length, polished book, ready to be published. It's kind of fantastic, honestly, and I work with maybe 4-5 writers a year in this fashion, some through publishers and some who just find me via online profiles or word of mouth. I've come a long way from helping college kids figure out how to write a thesis! So, this category will be all about professional development—books I feel like I need to read, always meant to read and felt I should read, or books that one of the publishers I work with asks me to read.

D. Writing Tutor books: Professional Development books that I either feel I should read, should have read already, or am asked to read (translation: paid to read) by one of my clients

(175/2,019 pages)

1. The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. Le Guin (175 pages)

Edited: Apr 20, 3:15pm Top

If any picture ever communicated both cute and bored, it might be this pooch, leading us to my first "real" job…

Job #5: CVS… (and retail, since I later worked for a while at a clothing store, but we'll just put that here…)

This was the first job I took that wasn't attached to a school or friendship. Originally, it was meant to be a weekend gig, where I'd show up on Saturdays and Sundays mostly to organize & stock shelves, and occasionally watch the register if the cashier needed to hit the restroom. It was a downtown drugstore and fairly dead on weekends, and a manager dropped in to relieve the cashier so she could break for lunch—eventually, I was supposed to train on the register and be the other weekend person, also able to work the register. What they didn't tell me was that part of my job would also be to chase away homeless people who wandered in to get out of the rain, or ask the local homeless population to move on from hanging out around the picnic tables outside of the store. I didn't have the heart for that part of the job. I lasted five weekends after training, only staying around until I could land a different job, as you'll see in the next category was a much better fit. So, this category will be for books that were just enh. Not bad, not good… just fine, and they keep the book carousel going like normal jobs keep the world running, but nothing I could be passionate about and really engage with for better or worse. Any DNFs will likely go here.

E. CVS books: books that are fine, but not anything for me to get excited about for whatever reason… just ordinary, probably soon to be forgotten even if finished

(764/2,019 pages)

1. Planet Blood by Tae-hyung Kim (192 pages)
2. Outside Valentine by Liz Ward (301 pages)
3. Red April by Santiago Roncagliolo (271 pages)

Edited: Jun 5, 2:05pm Top

Job #6: Room Service!

My second college job… working room service in an upscale downtown hotel that was down the street from my university. I loved this job—it was hard work and long hours that went well into the night, but I loved my colleagues and the money was incredible. Plus, I got to meet strange and interesting people, the work kept me in shape, and the hotel fed me for free and got me away from school cafeteria food. Eventually, management changed over and the job became more frustrating than it was worth, but I still look back really fondly on that job. So, this category will be devoted to orders, just like that job. Just like all those customers ordered food and drinks, so also do I now take requests/orders for reviews through ARCs sent my way. A different type of assignment/order all-together, but also hit and miss, and also with an expectation of return. So, whether they're LT Earlier Reviewer Giveaways or come from elsewhere, this category will be devoted to assignments/orders!

F. Room Service books: books sent to me for free, with the assignment/expectation of a review in return

(796/2,019 pages)

1. Beneath the Mountain by Luca D'Andrea (387 pages)
2. The Bug Boys by Stewart Hoffman (183 pages)
3. Report to Megalopolis by Tod Davies (226 pages)

Edited: Jul 21, 5:59pm Top

Job #7: Stagehand

This is Gypsy. After living on the streets for years, she's all about enjoying the easy life. Now one-eyed and about eight years older than she was in this picture, she's still our teddy bear, and is about as lazy as can be--yet, she had a rough life before she found us, and has had some medical emergencies since, so how rough & tough she is actually matches up pretty well with this job section. But she's also about as strange and wonderful and weird a creature as I've ever known, and not a little bit other-worldly, so she's going to represent Job #7… me as a stagehand.

In this job, I worked backstage at a roadhouse, and sometimes at a local coliseum, for about 6 years. It was exhausting, often-dirty work that required long hours and hard work, and I loved every minute. I can't think of anything to better represent the fantasy and sci-fi and speculative books that send my mind spinning.

G. Stagehand Books: the weird and the wonderful and the strange books that make you sit up and take notice of them.

(2,498/2,019 pages read)--FINISHED!!!

1. Terra Nova by Shane Arbuthnott (278 pages)
2. Micah by Laurell K. Hamilton (245 pages)
3. Son of the Shadows by Juliet Marillier (462 pages)
4. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (530 pages)
5. Dance Dance Dance by Haruki Murakami (393 pages)
6. Wisdom Lost by Michael Sliter (590 pages)

Edited: Jul 22, 10:15am Top

This is an image of the Lipizzan stallions—I've had the honor and pleasure of seeing them perform twice, and the way they dance and move is so incredibly graceful. To the point here, aside from being a reminder of gorgeous grace, they react to each other's and to their trainers' smallest, most miniscule movements, always on their toes…

Job #8: Writing/Literature Teacher

I taught for ten years—more, if you could my time teaching creative writing in summer camps—and loved it. I spent five years at Clemson teaching Freshman Composition, Contemporary Literature, and STS (Science, Technology, and Society—it's a long story how I ended up in those classrooms!). After that, I spent six years at Duquesne, and while I didn't enjoy my time there nearly as much, I did have a lot of great students in my writing classrooms, as I taught both Freshman Composition (writing focused & lit. focused) and Creative Writing. Eventually, Duquesne scared me away from Academia, but not before I developed a love of teaching creative writing in summer camps, which I did from 2009-17. That's the one side of teaching I hope to get back to, if only as more of a hobby/part-time gig than anything. And, though I probably don't have to say it, it's worth noting that something unpredictable is Always happening in an arts classroom, either creative writing or drama…

The thing about teaching? If you're a good teacher, you're always on your toes, ready for anything, trying to stay one step ahead of your students. This category will be for the twisty-turny books that keep me guessing, keep me thinking, or generally keep me a little bit on-guard…

H. Writing/Literature Teacher books: books that kept me guessing/on guard…

(1,637/2,019 pages)

1. I Am Legend by Richard Matheson (317 pages)
2. Rogue Lawyer by John Grisham (388 pages)
3. The Last Policeman by Ben Winters (318 pages)
4. Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer (195 pages)
5. Soft Apocalypse by Will McIntosh (239 pages)
6. The Inhuman Condition by Clive Barker (180 books)

Edited: Jun 21, 2:33pm Top

Job #9: Drama Teacher

RJ was the first cat I adopted on my own, to be brought back to my apartment vs. my family's house. I got her in 2003, and although we lost her to cancer in 2013, far too early, I'll always miss her. But if you can tell from the look in her eyes… she was incredibly dramatic. Do you have a drama queen kitty in your life? That was my RJ, so here she is, representing Job #9… me as a Drama teacher. And what could that represent but Drama and Poetry? Sadly, I neglected both last year, so RJ will help me remember to keep up with them this year.

I. Drama Teacher books: Drama and Poetry:

(573/2,019 pages read)

1. January Thaw by William Roos (174 pages)
2. The Creation of the Night Sky by Nicholas Christopher (99 pages)
3. Arcade by Erica Hunt (51 pages)
4. The Tulip-Flame by Chloe Honum (51 pages)
5. Traveler in Paradise by Donna Hilbert (86 pages)
6. Exiles by James Joyce (112 pages)

Edited: May 8, 6:43pm Top

Job #10: Book Editor

This is my favorite picture of Ziva, who we adopted at the same time we adopted Hart, back in 2013. She hates me working or reading because it means I'm not fully focused on her (when she's awake), and this is my favorite picture of her, taken when decided to fall asleep on a book I was editing at the time. Of course, she here represents the job I'm still (self-)employed at: #10: Book Editor. This category will be for those books that needed a bit more work when it came to editing… or perhaps their author and editor were too distracted by their own version of Ziva to finish editing?
For the record, this is the one category that I hope does not get filled in 2019!!!

J. Book Editor books: the books that, at least in my humble opinion, needed a bit more work when it came to the writing and editing…

(879 pages/2,019 pages)

1. The Boatman by Kat Hawthorne (109 pages)
2. The Lair by Emily McKay (424 pages)
3. Mouths Don't Speak by Katia D. Ulysse (208 pages)
4. Devil May Cry by Sherrilyn Kenyon (138 pages before I DNF'd)

Edited: Jul 19, 7:35pm Top

Job #11: Writer

This is a picture of me and my husband, Joel. When I wanted to quit academia in order to have more sanity and more time to write, he supported me even though he didn't know what I'd end up doing, waitressing or jobless or what. His support is what's allowed me to get paid to do the job I've been working toward forever and ever: being a writer. So, although I'm still an editor, this final job post is due to him. I'm also a writer! This category will be dedicated to those books which I can't put down, which I love and which remind me of my passion for writing—the best of the best for the year.

K. Writer books: the books that become favorites, that remind me of why I love to read and write

(2,153/2,019 pages read)--DONE!!!

1. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon (487 pages)
2. Shadows by John Saul (374 pages)
3. Wolfskin by Juliet Marillier (489 pages)
4. The Summer Children by Dot Hutchison (292 pages)
5. A Catskill Eagle by Robert B. Parker (311 pages)
Bonus Books beyond Expectations...
6. Patriot Games by Tom Clancy

Nov 21, 2018, 2:04pm Top

This is a great setup and thank you for giving us a glimpse of the RL behind the Whitewavedarling! Looking forward to following along.

Nov 21, 2018, 2:15pm Top

Excellent setup. I'm still looking for the answer to the question in >6 whitewavedarling:!

Nov 21, 2018, 2:26pm Top

>15 Helenliz: lol, on one hand, I feel the same way, but I know I'll never leave behind the careers I have now--they're too addicting!--so, at most, I'll just be adding :) Thanks for dropping in!!! I never feel like I'm totally and officially set up till someone has come around and left a comment!

Nov 21, 2018, 2:34pm Top

What a fabulous setup!

And here's hoping that 2019 is a really excellent writing, as well as reading, year for you!

Nov 21, 2018, 2:56pm Top

What a fascinating path! Love how you were able to match that up to your book categories. Here's hoping you don't have too many CVS books. :)

Nov 21, 2018, 6:54pm Top

>17 Jackie_K:, Thanks :) I wanted to fit in pictures of all my creatures this year, and pull together more manageable categories--we'll see if I managed to do so and still leave enough time for writing!

>18 LittleTaiko:, Thanks :) It was fun pulling it all together! I am hopeful that, now that I've actually carved out a space for the CVS books, there won't be many of them showing up--murphy's law and all that!

Nov 21, 2018, 7:51pm Top

What an awesome idea! Love the pictures of your furry family too :) Have a great reading year!

Nov 21, 2018, 8:38pm Top

This was a great theme! Some interesting jobs for sure. Will be watching for BBs.

Nov 21, 2018, 9:38pm Top

Wonderful categories! (and pets!)

Nov 22, 2018, 4:25am Top

What an amazing variety of jobs and furry friends! Thanks for sharing and here's to a year of many writer books.

Nov 22, 2018, 10:24am Top

I love your setup! Anything with cat pictures makes me drool!

Nov 22, 2018, 11:57am Top

Thanks, everyone :) Once I came up with the set-up, I was really excited, so I'm glad it's entertaining everyone! And, of course, I love showing off our furry family!

Nov 22, 2018, 5:02pm Top

>10 whitewavedarling: The Lipizzan's are my husbands favorite horse group. Whenever they are within 200 miles, we go to the show. We even got to tour the barn and pet them once when they were in Florida. His 2nd fav are the Clydesdales.

Nov 22, 2018, 5:39pm Top

>9 whitewavedarling: I love the stagehand idea! I worked as a stagehand too, for about three years. Backstage at a local college auditorium, and some other "calls," but I was not a member of IATSE, so did not usually get the union calls. I did this part time (sort of) when I was still teaching in a brick and mortar public school. I loved being a stagehand--I could not believe I was getting paid to do it. I usually worked the follow spot, but also sound board and whatever other general stuff needed doing.

Nov 23, 2018, 11:17am Top

>26 tess_schoolmarm:, they're so beautiful, I do just love seeing them! I've seen them only twice, but hope to go again the next time they're even within a state or so of me.

>27 LadyoftheLodge:, Yep :) I worked at a roadhouse attached the university where I first went to school and then taught. Though, I was the opposite--I didn't enjoy working the spot, and never really got trained on our sound or light board beyond the basics. I just loved being backstage to help with everything that needed to be done, and to troubleshoot when something went wrong. I remember one time in high school when I was up in the light booth and something went wrong backstage--I felt so frustrated and helpless, not being able to help them figure it out! Our high school had a really good theater department--our shows were more on the level of college shows when it came to sets and props, so we took our reputation seriously. Anyhow, it set me up well for what came after, but that was the last time I ever let myself be up in the booth during a show! (Well, except for running sound for some dance shows up in Pittsburgh, which I'd actually totally forgotten about till just now!)

Nov 24, 2018, 4:24pm Top

>26 tess_schoolmarm: My first acquaintance with those beautiful horses was when I read Airs Above the Ground which was many moons ago, when I was in junior high school.

Nov 30, 2018, 3:30pm Top

It was so interesting to hear about your career and of course to see all your wonderful pets. What a nice set up! Looking forward to following along.

Dec 2, 2018, 6:44pm Top

>29 LadyoftheLodge:, I think my mom took me to see them when I was in middle school, if I remember right, and then we went again when I was in high school. They really are other-worldly. It's just amazing to see them perform!

>30 LisaMorr:, Thanks :) I look forward to trying to send BBs to you and others--well, I hope my reading is that enjoyable next year, anyway!

Dec 2, 2018, 6:46pm Top

What a fascinating and personal theme! I am always amazed at the unique and unexpected paths one might travel through their work life. thank you so much for sharing your experiences here. Wishing you a wonderful reading and writing year in 2019.

Dec 2, 2018, 7:24pm Top

>32 lkernagh:, Thank you for stopping by--I have to admit, it was kind of fun to run back through the past and think about it all :) And, same to you with those wishes for good reading!

Dec 5, 2018, 1:41pm Top

Wonderful theme! It is so interesting to get to know you better and I love the story about Quinn.

Dec 5, 2018, 4:58pm Top

>34 VivienneR:, Thanks :) True to form, she's sleeping half on top of my feet right now!

Dec 8, 2018, 10:39pm Top

great ideas for selecting your categories!

Dec 11, 2018, 10:33am Top

Cute pics! What a thoughtful challenge.

Dec 15, 2018, 11:31am Top

>36 cyderry: and >37 This-n-That:, Thanks :)

And, now that all of the challenges are known quantities, I've got my reading for January planned! On deck for next month:

The House by Christina Lauren (RandomCat)
The Boatman by Kat Hathorne (SFFFKit)
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon (SeriesCat)
Monster of God by David Quammen (TBRCat & Q AlphaKit)
I Am Legend by Richard Matheson (ScaredyKit)
January Thaw by William Roos (CalendarCat & TBR cat #2)
Terra Nova by Shane Arbuthnott (SFFFKit #2 & A AlphaKit)

Dec 31, 2018, 11:40am Top

Adorable cat! Happy New Year!

Dec 31, 2018, 1:16pm Top

Dec 31, 2018, 2:43pm Top

Jan 2, 11:38am Top

Thanks, everyone!

Meanwhile, I just finished writing reviews for the books I finished New Year's Eve (Illusion by Frank Peretti, which I would not recommend, and Freedom to Speak: National Poetry Slam 2002, which I would absolutely recommend)--full reviews written of both!

I've already jumped into 2019 reading with Terra Nova and The House, so here's hoping we all have a good reading year!

Jan 5, 7:54pm Top

Hey, everyone!

So, my latest news: Under my pen name, I've been invited to participate in an author con this April! As part of my registration fee, I get two free tickets that I'd love to get to LT members (or their friends?) who might be interested, given that I don't know anyone in the area. The con will be in Ann Harbor, Michigan the second weekend of April (April 13th), and there are going to be 30-50 indie steamy romance authors on hand to talk to readers, and sell and/or sign their books. The number isn't definite yet, but they're cutting it off at 50, I know. So, if you or someone you know is around that area and would like the tickets, leave a private comment on my profile and we'll figure out the logistics :) I'll post an update to this message once my free tickets are vouched for...

By the way, this is an invitation-only event for authors, so the authors there have already been reviewed as authors producing professional work. There'll be a mix of authors with giant followings, and then some newbies like yours truly, but all of the books represented should be quality work :)

Jan 5, 9:36pm Top

>43 whitewavedarling:
That's such fantastic news! Congratulations!!!

Jan 6, 10:17am Top

Wow, congrats!

Jan 6, 10:55am Top

>43 whitewavedarling: Wow, congratulations - I hope it leads to big things for you!

Jan 6, 11:20am Top

>44 pammab:, >45 MissWatson:, > 46, Thanks :) I'm really excited, so we'll see how it goes. I thought I'd have to turn it down because of the cost of travel, but it turns out that the nearest airport is such a hub that I can get an ultra-cheap ticket. Right now, I need exposure more than anything, so it should be worth the cost!

Jan 7, 3:43pm Top

>43 whitewavedarling: Awesome! Congrats!

Jan 7, 3:52pm Top

How exciting for you!!

Jan 8, 11:26pm Top

Congratulations and enjoy your time in Ann Harbor!

Jan 11, 9:42am Top

Congrats! If I lived closer (8 hours away) I would take you up on those tickets!

Jan 11, 1:03pm Top

Thanks, everyone :) And the tickets are still up for grabs if anyone comes across these messages and gets interested!

Jan 11, 1:37pm Top

B. Puppet Troupe Stage Manager Books--YA/MG Territory #1: The House by Christina Lauren


Full Review... (rant territory?)

I've got such mixed feelings about this book, but in the end, it wasn't at all what I expected, and I can't say that I'd give the authors another try either, much as I loved the concept and wanted to love this book.

First of all, this is a YA book--and there's no indication of that on the cover or in the blurb on the jacket. The ONLY indication is in small print, running sideways on the inside of the jacket, where it says 'Ages 14 up'--but, beyond that, there's no indication at all that this is YA or a book for teens. The author writes both YA and Adult works (supposedly), so that's also no help. Genre is also something of a surprise. This book is more romance than horror, and while it's meant to be a mash-up of the two, it seems clear that the authors were more engaged with the romance aspect than the horror. Considering that the book looks like a horror book and the blurb makes it sound like a horror book... again, it's a surprise. If I'd gone into the book expecting a YA romance enmeshed with a YA horror book, then maybe I would have fallen in love from the start, but instead I was incredibly put off.

Then again, I love haunted house stories, and have never had any desire to try a YA romance, so maybe I'm just the type of reader that the marketers wanted to draw in. Well, that be the case or not, I was kind of disgusted and dismayed when I first started the book--it wasn't for me, and I wish the marketing had been on point enough to make that clear from the beginning.

The thing is, the concept is interesting, and I wanted to love this book--I kept going, hoping the authors would move more toward horror, balancing things out since the beginning was more focused on romance, but that just didn't happen. I did get more interested in the book as it went on, but the genre never really satisfied. There were some creepy moments, yeah--not scary, certainly, which is what the blurb promised--but that's about it. Making things far worse, the horror element of the plot was wrapped up in one quick chapter that felt like it was over almost as soon as it began, so incredibly easy and happy-ending-ish that it kind of disgusted me... like the writers got to the part of the book that a horror reader would most love to really get wrapped up in, and were either too lazy to write it or just not interested in doing so. I read the last chapter, thinking there'd be more... and it was just an epilogue-ish wrap-up of the romance to ensure that that side of things got its forever-ago predicted happy-ever-after. (And, no, that's not a spoiler because this book is so clearly a romance, from the very beginning, that there's no question at all, ever, that that's where the authors are heading.)

I'd also be remiss, considering the romance element, if I didn't mention that I never did get to like the female protagonist. In the beginning of the book, she simply annoyed me, and as things kept going, I got used to her... but I never really cared. I cared about the male protagonist and the horror element of the book, but both of those were given far less attention than the female voice.

So, yeah, I didn't enjoy this. I'm giving it two stars only because, if I'd known exactly what I was getting into, I might have felt a little bit more generous toward the romance. Then again, if I'd known it was so much more romance than horror, I don't know that I would have bothered picking it up. And I've never read YA romance, so maybe this is a great, spooky read for that audience. But, for a horror reader, who loves both YA and Adult horror, it just doesn't measure up.

I wouldn't recommend it, and I won't be giving the author another try, no matter how spooky r good a book looks or sounds since, quite obviously, the marketing for this book was intent on selling books at any cost rather than actually representing the story written on the pages.

Jan 11, 3:57pm Top

>53 whitewavedarling: Wow. I knew Christina Lauren was a romance author (well, two authors), but I can see how, if you didn't happen to know that already, you'd be super misled about what kind of book to expect! Sounds like the publisher really did not do a good job of marketing this one!

Jan 11, 5:48pm Top

>54 christina_reads:, Nope, not at all :( I looked her up after reading maybe forty pages, and that's when I discovered that she (or they) is known for romance, but the book itself looks like straight horror. Re-reading the blub, I could kind of see the romance being foreshadowed/given away, but honestly, unless you were actually looking for it in the blurb, you wouldn't find it. Kind of like how 'Every Breath You Take' is technically a song about a stalker, but got forever misunderstood as a love song. It kind of goes either way, just like the blurb for this book goes either horror or creepy romance without more context and if you don't look incredibly closely. The cover definitely looks like that of a horror book, though, and the blurbs focus on the horror, which makes me think the publisher was trying to expand her reader base by bringing in horror readers. I've read a few reviews from folks who also got somewhat tricked into reading it and didn't enjoy it. Oh well.

I've already started reading I am Legend to quench my taste for horror, and it's doing a far better job of living up to expectations :)

Jan 11, 6:07pm Top

>55 whitewavedarling: Oh, "Every Breath You Take," and that awkward moment when you hear it at someone's wedding. I'm so sorry this was the bookish equivalent for you! But I'm glad I Am Legend is quenching your horror thirst. I'm a huge scaredy-cat, so I'll stay far away from that one!

Jan 12, 11:34am Top

>56 christina_reads:, Yes! Up-front, I told our wedding DJ I wanted to veto any playing of exactly two songs--"Every Breath You Take" and "Gold Digger"--both of which I'd heard at numerous weddings in the last few years before that.

But, meanwhile, this was a much better book--a fantastic one in fact! (And I am really enjoying I Am Legend still--just not reading it at night, which means it'll take a little while for me to get through it.)

G. Stagehand Books: The weird and the wonderful... #1: Terra Nova by Shane Arbuthnott

Terra Nova is the follow-up to Dominion Shane Arbuthnott's debut novel, and the truth is that it's just as fantastic. This second book focused on Molly Stout is even more magical and action-packed than the first book, bringing her world more alive and giving readers that much more reason to fall into the book and remain enchanted. Parents should definitely be aware that this is a bit darker than the first book--where the first book gave hints of darkness related to the main characters, but in a way that offered more depth for adults and less room for fear in really young readers, this second book offers a lot of both. It's got the sort of darkness that adults will find really horrifying, and children may well just as take as the nature of adventure without giving it more thought, but that pushes the book a bit more toward YA territory than MG territory at a lot of points. But beyond that one caveat, the simple truth is that Arbuthnott's writing and world-building are descriptive, strangely magical, and utterly engaging, right along with his characters.

This second book has a much more conclusive ending than the first book in the series, Dominion, so I'm not entirely sure whether or not the author will give us more books about Molly Stout, but I certainly hope he does. This is going to be one of those books that I adore, recommend, and pass on as much as I can. And I'll certainly be in line for whatever the author writes next.

Absolutely recommended (but do read the first book, Dominion, first!).

Jan 12, 8:09pm Top

I. Drama Teacher Books (Drama and Poetry) #1: January Thaw by William Roos

This was a fun diversion, and with few enough characters that it made for easy, humorous reading. A bit old fashioned, some of its charm comes from a full cast of characters who share the stage rather than there being much of a traditional star of the show. Seen on a stage with a talented cast, I'd be willing to bet this would be hilarious.

Jan 14, 2:35pm Top

>43 whitewavedarling: Congratulations! I hope it leads to exciting new happenings for you!

Jan 21, 11:29am Top

>59 VivienneR:, Thanks :)

Meanwhile, that book editor group for books that needed a bit more time on writing/editing has its first inclusion. I suppose it was bound to happen, but since I'm hoping this will be a light category, I'm going to include the book here even though it could have fit into a couple of other categories also (childrens/MG/YA & books sent to me with expectation of a review).

J. Book Editor Books (Books that needed a bit more time spent on the writing/editing, in my opinion...): #1: The Boatman by Kat Hawthorne

This was something of a disappointment for me, as suggested by the fact that it took me more than a week to read a children's book of just 109 pages. The premise and style sounded like so much fun, but ultimately, I think the author would have benefitted from a really good editor--and I'm not talking about proofreading, which also needed some work.

Story-wise, this read as a children's tale that was written by an adult who wanted to deliver a specific set of lessons--in other words, it suffered from feeling like it came from an adult who wasn't thinking about what kids would Want to read, but what they Needed to read. At times, the tone even felt a bit condescending toward the main child character--but kids don't want to read adult writers who are talking down to them or making it sound like their main child characters are immature or silly; they want to read about kids they can relate to, who they'd want to go on adventures with and be friends with. This was a problem that cropped out throughout the book.

This tone issue also goes into the overall set-up of the book. Length-wise and presentation-wise, this feels like it should be a middle grade book, but it reads like something a parent would read to their child at bedtime. Put more directly... if I were old enough and mature enough to read this styling and level of language by myself, I'd probably find myself disengaging and leaving it unfinished. That's another big problem.

On a lesser level, pacing and focus were issues (the focus kept shifting, sometimes awkwardly, and the ending was incredibly rushed), as was proofreading. But, because I liked the concept and rather enjoyed the writing at at least some points, I have to think that a lot of this came down to a lack of editing. I might very well read another work by this author, that being the case, but not if it came from this publisher. That said, I'll certainly give another book from this publisher a shot, and if I love that, then I may grow more skeptical of this writer vs. the publisher.

One way or another, I'm afraid I couldn't recommend this book--to child or adult.

Jan 23, 11:49am Top

I. Drama Teacher Books: Drama and Poetry #2: The Creation of the Night Sky by Nicholas Christopher

Christopher's books--poetry and prose alike--have the flavor of dreams, and this book is no different. The stand-out here is the long sequence which ends the book, "Night Journal: a poem in 35 entries". Readers of his A Trip to the Stars will feel the same lyrical, journeying mode at play here, albeit in much shorter form, but some of its beauty comes in the way that his characters are more figures of shadow and silhouettes than fully-discovered persons or subjects. There's both a distance and an intimacy to them, and the entries are rather magical as they pull together into what he writes (as introduction) is a sort of story in itself that nevertheless became far more personal than a true journal might have.

And that's some of the magic of his poetry and his prose. However fictional or created they may be, they ring as if they're written for the reader, driving at personal truths and delivering up ideas that were only waiting for the right reason to arise.

I nearly always find his worlds and his words a little bit magical. And while I don't adore his poetry quite so much as I adore his prose (such as A Trip to the Stars, which I'll always recommend and recommend over again), this little collection was no different.

Recommended to poetry lovers and to Nicholas Christopher fans.

Edited: Feb 3, 2:29pm Top

I've gotten incredibly behind on both my thread and other folks' threads, I've been so busy with work lately, but here's the beginning of me playing catch-up with January reads/reviews...

I. Drama Teacher Books: Drama and Poetry #3: Arcade by Erica Hunt

I believe I picked this work up because of the art, as some of the woodcuts in this collection really are striking. I'm not often drawn into a work because of illustrations (of any kind), but in this case, they go hand in hand with the poems Hunt has created and truly add a different dimension to the work. That said, for me, the woodcuts actually made the collection. I found that I didn't enjoy the poems half so much as I enjoyed the way ideas were offered alongside the art, and the way they were intermingled. The poems themselves felt sometimes draft-y or unfinished, and sometimes a bit forced or rushed, and I had a difficult time staying engaged with them. There are some lovely turns of phrase... but they didn't pull me in and hold onto my interest for the most part.

Would I recommend this? Perhaps to readers of poetry who want to see it intermingled with and against art. Beyond that, I don't know that I would. I fear this collection won't stay with me for long.

Feb 3, 2:53pm Top

H. Writing/Literature Teacher Books: Books that kept me guessing/on guard #1: I Am Legend by Richard Matheson

I can't think of a better way to open this category than with this book. I put off reading it for years--I was so scarred by the Will Smith version of the movie and the last scene with him and his German Shepherd, which still gives me nightmares, I couldn't imagine ever reading it. And then, by chance, I got to talking about that movie/scene with a horror writer I work with, who told me that that whole storyline really wasn't in the book at all--I'd been avoiding the book for nothing. That was in December, and I immediately slotted the book for reading in January. So, there was the first surprise.

Second surprise: "I am Legend" ends while half the pages of the book are still to come. In other words, I had NO idea that the book contained not just "I am Legend"--which is itself novella length or right on the cusp of being a short novel--but something like a dozen stories/novellas in total. The outside of my copy gives no indication of that, and I'd always avoided reviews for the same reason I avoided reading it, wanting to avoid triggering those nightmares from when I saw the movie, which literally lasted months.

As is, I couldn't be more thankful that I finally got around to reading this wonderful, horror-filled book.

Full Review:

I can't believe it took me so long to get around to reading this book, but I'm glad I finally did.

First of all, I had no idea that 'I am Legend' actually encompasses a number of novellas and short stories--my personal copy gives no indication on the cover or back cover that it's not just a novel, so I was shocked when I realized there were around a dozen stories here. And perhaps because of my familiarity with the title story--through film and tv--that actually wasn't as powerful as some of the other, shorter ones, such as "Prey", "Dance of the Dead", and "The Funeral".

All told, I found every story here to be worth the time and attention--Matheson is a master of horror, and this is such a varied collection that it's impossible to be prepared for what comes with each new story. I'd absolutely recommend each story here to any horror reader, and I have no doubt that I'll come back to many of them for re-reading.

Feb 4, 1:07pm Top

And, the last of the books I finished as January ended...

K. Writer books that remind me why I love to read and write--books that will become favorites... #1: The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

This is such a gorgeous, heady book, it's hard to know how to react to the reading experience--but reading it is just that, an experience. Zafon's words beg a reader to sink into them and wander the halls of the story just like his characters wander their home city of Barcelona, and the characters feel like people you'd run into on the street or through your neighbors--as wonderful as they are flawed, at turns naïve or dangerous or tragic. The way he brought this world together and left it for readers on the page is nothing short of masterful, and I'm only sorry it took me so long to read it. I can't wait to read the other books in the series.

Absolutely, 100% recommended for all lovers of reading.

Feb 4, 1:29pm Top

E. CVS & retail books... books soon to be forgotten that are just sort of enh. A category I'll be glad if I don't finish.... but here's the first book of February, as the first entry in the category, nevertheless: #1: Planet Blood by Tae-hyung Kim

This was a fast read for me, but I wish there'd been more to it. Everything felt a bit familiar and stale--from the characters and the dialogue right on to the illustrations--so that I found myself speeding through it, but not particularly being able to enjoy it or engage. Was it bad? Well, no. Was it good? I can't really say that either. It simply felt familiar, stereotypical in an 'oh yes, of course that's happening or being said right at this moment, and of course the picture focuses in on that, and yes, that's to be expected' kind of way. I guess, when it comes down to it, it just felt a bit elementary in all ways, just based on genre. My favorite part of the book is probably the color illustration, which I find more striking than what's inside the book, and that's obviously damning praise.

So, no, I'm afraid I wouldn't recommend it, and I don't see myself seeking out the next in the series.

Feb 4, 1:39pm Top

2019 has flown by so far, but now that I'm finally caught up on reviews and already a book into February, here's the first wrap-up...

January almost went to plan: I didn't finish Monster of God, which I'm still reading, but I still managed two entries into the month's AlphaCat, even if neither was Q. Somehow, I managed to finish all of my other planned reading for the month (if just barely)!

For February, I've already finished Planet Blood, and my continued plans include finishing up Monster of God, as well as...

Traveler in Paradise: New and Selected Poems by Donna Hilbert (RandomCat)
Allure by Lea Nolan (YA SeriesCat)
The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. Le Guin (Borrowed Book TBRCat)
The Lair by Emily McKay (Corporeal Undead ScaredyKit & YA SeriesCat #2)
Outside Valentine by Liza Ward (CalendarCat & O AlphaKit)

I've already started reading The Lathe of Heaven, which is wonderful, and The Lair, which is driving me crazy already--I read the first book in the series, and it was one of those where I loved the concept, but hated the writing and found too many plot holes. I wanted to give the second in the series a try, but I'm not currently confident that I'll be finishing it. We'll see.

No matter what, this is a much more manageable list than I had set up for January, so hopefully I'll be able to keep up...

Feb 8, 3:59pm Top

I. Drama Teacher Books: Drama and Poetry #4: The Tulip-Flame by Chloe Honum

There are some lovely poems here, especially toward the end, but I really did want more from this little book. Many of the poems have lovely language, but with more focus on sound than depth of meaning--or perhaps the abstractions are so constant that not all of the author's intentions are coming through.

All told, I'm afraid I found this collection rather quick and forgettable, though I really did enjoy some of the later poems.

Feb 8, 4:20pm Top

J. Editor Books that Needed More Editing #2: The Lair by Emily McKay

So, I actually wasn't sure I was going to read this book, the follow-up to McKay's The Farm. The first book in the trilogy had problem upon problem, and was far more frustrating than enjoyable for me. Yet, I'd been so sure that I'd like the series, I'd bought this book at the same time, and it looked like this book would focus on a different character (who was minor in the first book, but who I liked far more than the actual protagonist). In the end, I decided to give it a shot.

Up-front, I was disappointed because it turned out that the blurb was misleading--the book focused mostly on the protagonist who drove me crazy in the first book. Thankfully, it looks like she's out of commission for the third book--which, once again, I have no idea whether I'll bother with. The good news is that this book was, without a doubt, stronger than the first. There were still problems--the main character is whiny, self-absorbed, and melodramatic, and the characters all generally lean toward being melodramatic. The author also has a habit of repeating herself and inflating suspense in an incredibly awkward fashion, often making characters who are supposedly intelligent be so slow to realize something (which the reader realizes right away) that the text is just flat-out unbelievable.

It was a fast read, and the pacing was better than the first book. It also had fewer plot holes than the first book. BUT, was suffering through the first book worthwhile now that I've read this one? Not a chance. And while I'm a little bit curious about how the author handles the third book, which seems like it will have to finally focus on the characters I actually kind of like rather than the whiny creature she mostly focused on in books one and two, I have a feeling I'm setting myself for a frustrating disappointment if I bother signing up for book 3. So, we'll see.

No matter what, I absolutely do not recommend this series. The books needed more editing, both in relation to plot and character, and I honestly can't imagine a situation where I'd recommend them.

Feb 8, 6:35pm Top

D. Writing Tutor Books that I feel like I should have read ages ago... #1: The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. Le Guin

This is considered a classic, but for some reason I just kept on not getting around to reading it, even though I adore Le Guin's writing. I'm glad to have finally read it, though it's not going to be among my favorites of Le Guin's works.

Full Review:

I love Le Guin's writing, and this short novel was just as powerful as many of her longer works. Revolving around the idea of what would come of a man who could ream things into being, the concept-driven novel is as interesting as it is packed with fear, curiosity, and wonder. Like some of Le Guin's other short novels which are driven by ideas just so much as plot or character, this is denser than some of her other works, but it's also rich and worthwhile.


Feb 13, 6:41pm Top

E. CVS books: books that were fine... but which I'll likely soon forget, and wouldn't recommend: #2: Outside Valentine by Liza Ward

I admire the way Ward pulled together three distinct viewpoints--of children and an adult--in order to explore the repercussions of a wave of murders taken from history, as well as the murders themselves to a certain extent, but the suspense and mystery that the blurb suggests exist in this book are, to a large extent, more imagined than written. As artful as Ward's writing is, this is a literary juxtaposition of viewpoints and ages in relation to a particular set of crimes, and the flat, harsh, ease of the prose actually lessens what might have come across as shocking crimes, making the whole of the book's events feel rather more ordinary than they truly should. I'm also, I admit, not wholly sure where love comes into play--more than love, this book is an examination of apathy and discomfort, and though I hate to say it, I couldn't bring myself to care enough about the apathetic characters to be bothered by the fact that They were at turns obsessed with and at turns haunted by the murders.

I don't think this book will stay with me long, and I can't really see myself recommending it unless someone is specifically setting out to look for literary fiction inspired by true crime. The language just wasn't enough to carry the book for me, lovely as it was, and I often found myself more bored or annoyed with the book than anything.

I don't see myself picking up another of Ward's books.

Feb 21, 6:56pm Top

B. Puppet Troupe/Stage Manager Books: YA and MG Territory #2 Allure (Hoodoo Apprentice) by Lea Nolan

I'm not sure this second book in the series Quite lived up to the magic present in the first book, but I still really enjoyed it. Nolan's prose is vivid and fast-moving, and her characters feel alive on the page. As with the first book, the blend of character-driven plotting, hoodoo, chemistry, and surprising turns made the book a fast and enjoyable read, so that I'm really looking forward to reading the third book and seeing how the trilogy concludes.

Absolutely recommended, but make sure you start with the first book in the Hoodoo Apprentice series, Conjure!

Feb 21, 9:54pm Top

>69 whitewavedarling: That was my first Le Guin novel and I enjoyed it. However, I am glad to know it’s not one of her best. Something to look forward to.

Feb 24, 10:53am Top

>72 LittleTaiko:, My favorite novels of hers are those in the Earthsea series, though I LOVE her short stories just as much, honestly.

Feb 24, 11:10am Top

I. Drama Teacher Books: Drama and Poetry #5: Traveler in Paradise by Donna Hilbert

Hilbert's poems have a simple grace that makes them both approachable and striking. While some few felt more like broken up prose than I would have preferred, most felt like poems that made every breath, syllable, and space matter in a sort of effortless show of beauty and thought. I will say that the ending section of the book, made up of new poems rather than poems taken from previously published collections, was by far the weakest--short as it was, it rather brought down the whole of the reading experience for me, I have to admit. Still, I'm looking forward to reading more of Hilbert's work and picking up some of the collections that were sampled from here.

Feb 24, 6:46pm Top

Well, I managed to finish my planned February reading, and I'm most of the way to finishing Monster of God, and halfway to finishing Isaac's Storm--I have a feeling both will be done by the end of the month.

For March, I've got six books currently on deck to meet all of the challenges I'm trying to keep up with:

Micah by Laurell K. Hamilton
Rogue Lawyer by John Grisham
Plays by Ibsen
The Last Policeman by Ben Winters
Shot in the Heart by Mikal Gilmore
The Witchfinder's Sister by Beth Underdown

I fear I might be being a bit ambitious in planning to read that whole collection of plays, but we'll see how it goes.

Feb 26, 7:45pm Top

A. Volunteer Books--nonfiction related to making the world better, or people fighting to do so: #1: Monster of God: The Man-Eating Predator in the Jungles of History and the Mind by David Quammen

Quammen's exploration of predators and our relation to them is a study in history, observation, nature writing, travel, and conservation. His discussions move effortlessly between our contemporary relationships with predators and their habitats on to history, biology, ecology, and even sociology. With an eye toward bringing these creatures as well as their habitats to life for readers, he blends his understanding of science with a flare for travel writing, and the effect is a brilliant discussion of predators. From the back cover: "As he journeys into their habitats and confronts them where they live, Quammen reflects on the enduring significance of these predators to us and imagines a future without them." It seems clear, though, that a future without them is one of the things this book is desperately fighting against.

Whether discussing bears, lions, tigers, or crocodiles, the work here is impressive. It is not an easy read, certainly--there's research packed into every page, and many of the subjects are serious (potentially nightmare-inducing for animal lovers, too, in some cases), but this is a worthwhile and beautifully written book that honors some of Earth's greatest creatures in a way that deserves notice.

Absolutely recommended.

Feb 27, 12:43pm Top

A. Volunteer Books--nonfiction related to making the world better, or people fighting to do so: #2: Isaac's Storm by Erik Larson

Larson's recounting of the hurricane that struck Galveston, Texas in 1900 is as brilliant as it is horrifying, and in many ways. By blending research from a multitude of sources with a dual focus on the people of Galveston and the other factors that played into making the storm a surprise--from departmental politics to faulty understandings of hurricanes on to science and incorrect assumptions--Larson built a compelling work.

In many ways, this is a horror story just so much as it is history or truth--so many things came together to make for this hurricane being the deadliest hurricane in US history. The idea that unknowns, natural forces, and human pride could come together in this fashion is terrifying in itself, but Larson puts so much work into bringing to life the faces and persons who were directly affected by this storm that the book takes on a larger and more human import. It reads like a novel, and yet it is built entirely of fact--fascinating, deadly facts.

This isn't a book I'll soon forget, if ever, and it's certainly one I'd recommend, though it's not an easy read, the subject is so severe.

Mar 6, 6:46pm Top

H. Writing/Literature Teacher Books that kept me guessing/on guard... #2: Rogue Lawyer by John Grisham

This one surprised me, and by the time I thought I had it figured out, I realized I'd guessed a bit wrong. I really enjoyed it over all.

Full Review:

I can see why some Grisham fans wouldn't enjoy this book as much as others, as it's not quite like anything else I've read from him or in this genre. For the first half of the book, it almost feels as if we're getting day-in-the-life stories and novellas from the main character Sebastian Rudd's POV, vs. getting a single full novel. And it takes some getting used to. There's a lot of territory and voice to be appreciated in the early parts of the book, but it definitely doesn't read as the traditional legal thriller--and if you don't enjoy voice and character-driven narratives that are sometimes more about character than plot, there's a good chance you won't like them. Personally, once I got used to it, I found it a kind of interesting change of pace.

That said, things do pull together into a more centralized, if complicated, plot as the book goes on. Where some books work from various characters' POVs and then follow them as they eventually come together, this book does the same, but with cases--covering the separate cases/clients early on, and then following them as they begin impacting each other and coming together in Rudd's professional and personal life all at the same time. Yet, it's his voice and persona that absolutely drives the book from beginning to end.

So, all told, I'd absolutely read another book in this vein if he comes out with on, but it definitely won't be for every fan of his or every reader of legal thrillers. For something different, though, it's worth stepping into.

With the caveats above in mind, I'd still absolutely recommend it.

Mar 8, 4:28pm Top

Stagehand Books: The weird and the wonderful and the strange #2: Micah by Laurell K. Hamilton

The category better describes how I feel about this series (the Anita Blake Vampire Hunter series) than this particular installment, but it's a better fit here than in any other category.

Full Review:

Although this installment in the series is more focused on character and relationship than any of the fuller mystery plots that you find in most of the series, it's still got a better balance than the similarly focused Jason, and Hamilton's descriptions of magic are so lush that the plot actually feels heftier than it is. The first portion of the book is far more focused on relationship and character, while the second half takes a turn toward plot, magic, and furthering the series itself.

I don't see this ending up as a favorite in the series for Hamilton fans who've been reading from the beginning, but it was a fast and satisfying read, worth the time.

I'd certainly recommend the series, and while it doesn't necessarily need to be read in order at all points (though that certainly helps), I definitely wouldn't start with this one since it's not particularly representative.

Mar 30, 12:46pm Top

So, I've been pretty absent from LT this month. I got my gallbladder taken out on the twelfth, and though the surgery went smoothly, recovery was a lot more difficult than expected, involving quite a bit more time and pain than I'd been led to expect. As a result, I got WAY behind on work, reading, and life in general. This is the first book/review toward catching up on LT/reviewing, anyway...

C. Librarian Assistant Books: How did this end up on my shelf? … #1: The Witchfinder's Sister by Beth Underdown

I don't read much historical fiction. Historical fantasy, yes, but historical fiction? Not so much. And, 90% of the historical fiction I do read is related to WWII and Vietnam. I'm not entirely sure how this ended up on my shelf, as a result. I may have been drawn in by the idea of reading something besides The Crucible that dealt with the witch trials of the seventeenth century. Truth be told, however... after this book, which I had a really difficult time getting through (because of historical content and the reality of it, not story or writing), I doubt that will happen again.

Full Review:

This is a difficult read, but it's also a powerful and incredibly written piece of historical fiction that achieves a great deal.

The difficulty comes from the subject matter, addressing the witch trials that took place in England in the mid-seventeenth century, and from the fact that Underdown does such an incredible justice to the horror and injustices tied up in the history and characters at the heart of such a topic. By taking a side-view of Matthew Hopkins, a documents self-styled witchfinder, and creating a sister for him to serve as the point-of-view for this novel--and he may or may not have had a sister, as discussed in the book's Author's note--Underdown has managed to bring this story to life in a way that is heartbreaking even without the added weight of reality.

And, I'll be truthful here--whenever I let myself remember that the events in this book were for the most part based on real events/persons, I had to step away from the book. Not just for a few hours, but for at least a few days. In truth, this book even made me reconsider The Crucible, which I not only read but acted in, and feel a whole new horror in relation to that work's portrayals and content.

So, back to the Witchfinder's Sister... This is a striking book. It is worth reading. It is beautifully, expertly crafted. It is also as horrifying as it is breathtaking. There's no doubt in my mind that many readers will begin this book and put it back down again, as the stresses and the horrors of the book are only compounded by the fact that they come from a woman who is, simply due to her position, helpless to stop her own brother from enacting what, from a contemporary perspective, we can only call monstrous.

So, yes, I'd recommend this book. I also, however, would not fault anyone for veering away from it, or reading to the halfway point or thereabouts and realizing that they cannot put themselves through the rest of it.

Mar 30, 1:34pm Top

I hope things are looking up now for you, healthwise!

Mar 30, 6:53pm Top

>80 whitewavedarling: Sorry you had a tough time with the gall bladder. I had mine out on a Friday and went back to work on Monday with no problems, no pain. Glad you got through this and are on the other side now!

Edited: Mar 30, 9:39pm Top

Hope you are getting to the full recovery stage now and are about caught up on the essentials.

Apr 1, 8:22am Top

>81 MissWatson: and >83 hailelib:, Thanks! I'm pretty much back to being myself, and Almost done playing catch-up!

>82 tess_schoolmarm:, I'm impressed--and, congratulations! That's about the turn-around I was told I'd see, but my third day after the surgery was actually the worst when it came to pain! Anyhow, it's nice to know the docs weren't just exaggerating and that that turn-around works for some :) I'm glad your surgery went off without a hitch and was such a fast recovery!

Apr 1, 8:38am Top

And now for a book that, very simply, is a mystery. I have NO idea how this ended up on my shelves. It's not anything anyone would have given me as a gift, there's not enough on the back cover to have driven me to pick it up, and I had to look it up online to figure out exactly what it was about--and that still didn't actually help all that much.

C. Librarian Assistant Books: How did this end up on my shelf? #2: Shot in the Heart by Mikal Gilmore

I'm not exactly sure what I expected in picking up this book--or even how it got onto my shelf. This is the memoir of Mikal Gilmore, brother of the infamous murderer Gary Gilmore who was killed by firing squad in 1977, later being the focus of Norman Mailer's The Executioner's Song. The memoir focuses especially on the childhood of the brothers and their family situation, and Gary's eventual crimes as an adult are only a small portion of the book, though they haunt the earlier text.

This will appeal more to readers of memoir than readers of true crime and books related to crime/violence. Gilmore's a good writer, but has a way of stretching things out, and especially the beginning of the book was a really slow read for me. On a surface level, I suppose one could say that this looks at the psychology of a broken family and how a killer became a killer... but it really is a surface examination. I do think it could be interesting to read The Executioner's Song after reading this work, and plan to one of these days, but I believe this book was really more self-therapy for the writer than anything, and it read as such.

Apr 1, 9:12am Top

H. Writing/Literature Teacher Books... books that kept me guessing/on guard #3: The Last Policeman by Ben Winters

Winters' blend of police procedural and near-future sci-fi, with a heavy dash of the apocalyptic since the world of the book is approaching its end, is masterful.

The book kept me guessing, and even when I thought I knew the killer, it turned out I'd misread the motive; that added to the fact that Winters' writing is fantastic and the characters are fascinating made this a read I had a difficult time putting down, and I honestly can't wait to read the next in the series.

I'd absolutely recommend this, if you're even the least bit curious.

Apr 1, 9:31am Top

Well, April's going to be a full month for me--I'm booked solid with work and still playing work catch-up because of my surgery in March, and I'm also traveling to two author conventions for book signings, one of which will be in my hometown. (So, if you'll be at either the Hanover Book Festival or the Dreaming Dirty in Michigan Author Con, let me know--I'll have a table!)

All that's to say, it's hard to tell how my reading plans we'll go, but here's what I've got planned...

I'm already reading Beneath the Mountain, which is so far fantastic and gorgeously atmospheric. I'm also reading Red April, which hasn't quite picked up steam yet, but it's still early.

Before the end of the month, I hope to finish:

Son of the Shadows by Juliet Marillier
Godslayer by Jacqueline Carey
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
The Silver Wolf by Alice Borchardt

We'll see how it goes?

Edited: Apr 2, 2:36pm Top

>85 whitewavedarling: Just stopping by to say that, even though I don't read much true crime and the book is a doorstop, I really liked The Executioner's Song! Also, I hope your recovery is proceeding smoothly!

ETA: Okay, I just found my review of The Executioner's Song, and "really liked" is a stretch. :) Still, I'm glad I read it!

Apr 3, 6:25pm Top

>88 christina_reads:, Thanks for the well-wishes :) The Executioner's Song IS on my long list of books to get to, if mostly because I've really liked what I've read from Mailer, so I'll get to it at some point. I'm curious how it will read in light of this one... but I need a break from the story first lol. Good to know how you felt about it, though!

Apr 3, 9:14pm Top

>86 whitewavedarling: I'll be interested in hearing what you think of the next books in the series. I'd read The Last Policeman a few years ago and thought it was very good. However, the premise was so depressing that I've not been motivated to pick up the next book, though I am curious about what happens next.

Apr 5, 10:19am Top

>90 mathgirl40:, I'll make sure to post a review when I do. I'm thinking I'll get to it in May :)

Apr 20, 3:16pm Top

E. CVS/retail books that are fine, but not anything to get excited about, and unfortunately forgettable #3: Red April by Santiago Roncagliolo

Parts of this novel really grabbed my attention and held me in, but there were also many sections where I struggled to remain engaged or even interested. There are moments--and brief chapters--where the book is indeed chilling and driven, but more often than not, it's got a sort of heavy, plodding feel to it, and is more mired in a hapless protagonist than pulled along by his investigation. All told, I simply wanted quite a bit more suspense and action, and a bit more depth and focus, as well.

This probably isn't something I'd recommend, though the writing and characterization were strong enough that I wouldn't mind seeking out the author again, particularly if I were in the mood for something quieter than the way this book is actually described. The book jacket definitely exaggerates its momentum and suspense, though I suppose it is a political thriller, for lack of a better term. It's quite a bit quieter than I'd expected, though, excepting brief glimpses of something darker.

Apr 20, 6:13pm Top

And here, a 5-star read... I'll officially be a fan of this writer for life.

F. Room Service Books sent to me in expectation of a review... #1: Beneath the Mountain by Luca D'Andrea

D'Andrea's Beneath the Mountain may not be for every reader of suspense, but I thought it was absolutely breathtaking.

Full of atmosphere and mystery, as well as believable characters who pull the story along just as much as the plot, this is a masterfully crafted novel of literary suspense. It's not the typical suspense novel, it's true--much of the tension comes and goes, and it's undeniably tied to the struggling protagonist, but D'Andrea does such a gorgeous job of building the novel's peaks and allowing the characters to breathe their own lives, I found the book impossible to put down.

For readers who want character-driven suspense and mystery, that characters as much about subtleties of character as it does high-octane drama (though it's got that to spare also), I'd absolutely recommend this book. It kept me guessing, and it's made me a fan of the author for life.

Absolutely recommended.

Apr 21, 12:15pm Top

>93 whitewavedarling: Oh, I love it when one book can bind you to an author for life! This one is going on my wishlist! And ... I just checked and my library has it. :)

Apr 21, 12:21pm Top

>94 DeltaQueen50:, I do, too, and I hope you enjoy it! It looks like he's had other books published which just haven't been translated into English yet, but I'll be doing some impatient waiting for them...

Apr 21, 6:24pm Top

J. Book Editor Books that needed a bit more editing #3: Mouths Don't Speak by Katia D. Ulysse

First, I have to note that the blurb on this book was incredibly misleading. I'd argue that, in some ways, it's simply false. And the truth is, if it had been more accurate, I likely wouldn't have picked up the book to begin with. Much as I respect Akashic Books and have loved their books in the past, I have to think the primary purpose of the blurb was selling books, vs. accuracy.

While some of Ulysse's prose is lovely, this is a somewhat plot-less and unevenly paced novel, and considering how sympathetic the characters Should be (based on what they go through), they're incredibly unsympathetic, to the point where I got more and more tired of reading about them, and could only care about the most minor characters in the book. There's also a real lack of plot, partly because the book spends a great deal of time building and building, and then speeds through what seems to count for a climax and ending. It would be insanely predictable also, if the blurb were accurate.

In general, this feels like a book that was rushed to publication, and perhaps pulled together from a number of short stories that were never destined to be a strong novel. In my opinion, it needed quite a bit more work, this only made worse by the fact that the powerful themes and events which are showcased on the back of the book as being primary to plot and conflict--the earthquake that struck Haiti in 2010 and a vet's battles with PTSD--serve more as backstory and jumping-off points than getting any real depth or focus, to the extent that I can't help half-wondering if they're mentioned so prominently in order to sell books and make this seem more unique than it actually is, vs. being relevant.

So, all told, I would not recommend this book. I feel a bit cheated for having so looked forward to it and then spent time on it, honestly.

Apr 22, 5:34pm Top

Stopping by to get caught up and sorry to learn about your gall bladder surgery. Recovery is never as quick as we would like. Take care of yourself.

Apr 23, 11:08am Top

>97 lkernagh:, Thanks for the well-wishes! Thankfully, I'm pretty much back to normal now. Not something I'd want to do again, though!

Apr 24, 9:50am Top

G. Stagehand Books: The weird and the wonderful #3: Son of the Shadows by Juliet Marillier

This was a fantastic follow-up to Daughter of the Forest, and has left me anxious to read the rest of the Sevenwaters series. Marillier's prose is lush and reverent, and her characters are as believable as they are perfectly flawed. Her blending of myth, story-telling, and drama -- not to mention magic, in just the right doses -- makes these books virtually impossible to put down once they're begun, and although some of the largest elements of the story's arc were somewhat predictable, the novel still pulled me along without fail.

I will say that this book got off to a slightly slower start than the first book in the series, but within a few chapters, it still had me hooked, and so I'd absolutely recommend it. I'll also add that I think this is a series readers absolutely need to read in order if they want the full flavor of the characters, so Daughter of the Forest should be picked up before this installment.

May 6, 11:11am Top

G. Stagehand Books: The weird and the wonderful #4: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

I actually discovered Doerr through his short story collection, Memory Wall, which became a fast favorite of mine. Because of that, I was both excited and nervous about diving into his novels--not all writers can pull off both stories and novels, so I wasn't sure what to expect. All told, I wasn't disappointed, though my preference is for his short stories. Regardless, the truth is that Doerr is simply a fantastic writer, with a flare for bringing settings to life in a way that allows them their own space as characters, and that talent really shines in this novel.

In All the Light We Cannot See, Doerr's movement in time around WWII is all but flawless, and although the novel's structure takes some bit of time to get accustomed to, what at first seems like a rather fragmented read comes together beautifully, and without the heavy-handed force that's often seen in books like this. As in his stories, the characters feel somewhat secondary to the story and writing, and I think that's more apparent than ever in such a long form. It didn't put me off, exactly--they were still interesting and believable, and I cared about them--but the distance that was in place because of that prioritization left me a little bit less emotionally involved than I'd expect from a work like this. If Doerr's writing weren't so masterful, this probably would have been a real problem, but he has such a gorgeous way with words that it wasn't.

For historical fiction and literary fiction readers, I think this is a gorgeous book to sink into, but as an introduction to Doerr's work, I'd probably still recommend Memory Wall and his short stories, which are--for me, at least--somehow more powerful and memorable in many ways.

Recommended overall, for anyone interested.

May 6, 4:02pm Top

F. Room Service Books: Books sent with the expectation of a review #2: The Bug Boys by Stewart Hoffman

I think this is a good example of a book that came from an interesting idea that could have made for a really fun book, but was torn in too many different directions to really feel finished or have much impact. Hoffman's writing carried the book, but the problem came partly in the form of audience--it felt like the author couldn't quite decide whether the book was meant for kids or for adults, and the book suffered for it because, in the end, it wasn't really written for either. Parts of this would amuse only kids, while other parts were clearly more directed to adults, which in the end made for something of an awkward read.

At its best, this book felt like a take on Douglas Adams' 'Hitchhiker's Guide' voice, but the truth is that it just didn't take that tone quite far enough--and I have to think that comes down to the book trying to please too many different audiences rather than going full-throttle toward one angle on the idea.

So, while I was looking forward to exploring this book, the truth is that it was a struggle for me to get through it. I think I'd like to try something else by the author if it were more focused on either adults or kids, but given that this book was lacking in editing and felt like it needed a bit more work, I'd probably only do so if the author's work were published through a publisher as opposed to being self-published.

May 8, 6:45pm Top

I'm going to be generous and say that this book needed a better editor, vs. a different author. From what I've heard, this author starting publishing at an incredible pace, so maybe this was written by a ghostwriter, but that doesn't change anything. Quality-wise, this was sorely lacking. I don't know how this author is a 'New York Times Bestseller', but this is one reader who won't be giving her another try...

J. Book Editor Books #4: Devil May Cry by Sherrilyn Kenyon

And this becomes my first official DNF of the year. I tried, but I just couldn't finish it. At a third of the way through, I'm calling it quits.

I looked forward to reading this book and giving Kenyon a try, but this was a struggle from the start. Although the world-building is clearly extensive, the main characters here are so incredibly stock and cliché takes on EXACTLY what is expected of a paranormal romance, and their portrayals are made that much worse by the fact that each moment that comes even close to romance-driven is itself full of cliché phrases, thoughts, and interactions. When you add in the fact that all of these thousand+-year-old characters speak like they're bored coeds just out of a frat party... "I am so going to come back and kill you." "You are so wrong." … and speak in the exact same fashion as one another... well, the effect isn't a good one.

Honestly, much as I hate to say it, it's hard not to make fun of how heavy-handed this book is, and how frustratingly simple and one-dimensional the writing style is, it's so driven by clichés. And that's not even mentioning the insta-love and the fact that a woman (and I use that term loosely, as she sounds more like an angsty, over-confident teenager) who's remained a virgin for 3,000-some years is suddenly going to give herself to a man without an apparent second thought... because, and I kid you not because the reasoning is written into the book, she's "curious", and "why not?"

Yeah... no.

So, between the unbelievable and annoyingly stock characters, the heavy-handed dropping of tropes and cliches throughout the book, and the incredible lack of depth to anything But world-building and mythology, I have to say that I honestly can't see why readers are such a fan of this author or series. Maybe I've been spoiled by PNR authors like Laurell K. Hamilton and Gena Showalter and Kerrelyn Sparks, all of whom have such great takes on this genre, with great characters and well-developed relationships. Maybe I've just been spoiled by good writing and good books in general.

I don't know, but whatever the case, I don't ever plan on picking up another of this author's books.

May 11, 11:15pm Top

>102 whitewavedarling: - Fabulous review of a DNF! I have never read any books by Kenyon and now I don't feel as though I have missed out on anything... of course, paranormal romance is not my usual cuppa but still nice to be steered away from a potentially frustrating read.

May 12, 7:08am Top

Sherrilyn Kenyon is one of those authors whose real life is stranger than any fiction - she recently alleged that her now ex-husband had been systematically poisoning her for the past few years. I saw on twitter she was getting a huge amount of support from fellow authors.

May 13, 8:34am Top

>103 lkernagh:, Thanks. I was incredibly disappointed, so I do hope the review will be helpful to some. I do like PNR, though. I stumbled onto Laurell K. Hamilton (and I'd say the early books in her Anita Blake series, which I fell in love with, really straddle PNR and horror/paranormal thriller) before I even knew what PNR was, and her writing is absolutely the standard for me. Since then, I've really enjoyed Gena Showalter and Kerrelyn Sparks among others. Kerrelyn Sparks' books have a lot of humor in them, which is a rarity for me to seek out and I have to be in the mood for, but they are fun.

>104 Jackie_K:, That's nuts! I wonder if her earlier books were better, in that case? That's rare, but it definitely happens... I will say that that the writing community on twitter is insanely supportive, so far as I'm concerned. Well, assuming you don't do something to grab negative attention. "Writers behaving badly" is definitely a theme that gains attention when it happens.

May 13, 9:00am Top

>105 whitewavedarling: Yes, that's been my experience of the writing community on twitter too (I'm very much still at the aspiring stage, but have been really impressed with how generous folk are).

May 23, 11:32am Top

Very glad to hear you have recovered from your surgery!

Lots of great reading here - I am reminded to get to All the Light We Cannot See and also to pick up The Last Policeman, which has been on my wishlist for a while.

And taking a book bullet for The Witchfinder's Sister.

May 23, 3:43pm Top

>107 LisaMorr:, Those were all well worth the read!

Meanwhile, I've finished a few more, but haven't had time to write reviews... Hope to catch up over the weekend!

May 30, 7:11pm Top

G. Stagehand Books #5: Dance Dance Dance by Haruki Murakami

Murakami's haunting prose pulls this puzzle of a work into something that feels both utterly ordinary and magical at the same time. His characters in this particular work especially have a sort of out-of-time quality, and somehow the work seems to dive into different genres at different turns, but without feeling even surprising, let alone messing.

Compared to Murakami's other works, this one did start a bit slowly for me, I admit, but then I became wholly wrapped up in it, and had difficulty putting it down. I don't think I'd recommend it as a first read of Murakami's, but certainly for readers who've enjoyed his other works--such as Norwegian Wood and Kafka on the Shore--I'd say this one's well worth the read. I certainly enjoyed the strangeness of it, and his writing is, as always, masterful.

Edited: May 30, 7:30pm Top

K. Writer Books #2: Shadows by John Saul

I discovered John Saul in middle school, and devoured everything I could find him between my late middle school and high school years--yet, I read them so quickly, and read so many books back then, I haven't had many memories of them as an adult. Re-reading this was sort of fascinating and wonderful, though I'm a little bit horrified to think of how young I was when I first read this one.

Saul's writing is fast and dark, and he doesn't shy away from turning real-feeling characters toward unbelievable tragedy in horror. This book in particular deals with everything from child abuse and endangerment to child suicide and animal experimentation, and just when you think it can't get darker... well, yes, it does.

It's true that this story might feel a little bit dated in terms of the story and technology presented, compared to where we are today, but readers who can get past that will be struck with a master storyteller's tale of horror that won't be easily forgotten. And if you like horror and can deal with those subjects above... well then, yes, I absolutely 100% recommend it.

May 30, 7:40pm Top

H. Writing/Literature Teacher Books #4: Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer

Annihilation straddles the line of science fiction and horror, and it's kind of wonderful because Vandermeer walks such a fine balance between them--with plenty of suspense thrown in. The book moves fast, and the characters are disturbingly believable, to the extent that the book feels almost too real more often than not, as if we could be looking at something just in our own future or just on the other side of it. With all of that added into Vandermeer's careful descriptions and uncanny way with words, the book is kind of wonderful.

I'd absolutely recommend it, and I look forward to reading the rest of the series.

May 30, 7:56pm Top

K. Writer Books #3: Wolfskin by Juliet Marillier

Marillier has fast become one of my favorite fantasy authors. Her works are sweeping, her prose masterful, and her characters impossible to ignore. In fact, her characters feel just so real and sympathetic that it's impossible not to care about them and be pulled into her stories. As with the last series I read from her, this series starts with a view into childhood, and moves from there in a careful epic of gorgeous, fluid prose and twists.

I absolutely adored it, and I can't wait to read the next in the series.

May 31, 5:33pm Top

K. Writer Books (that will become favorites) #4: The Summer Children by Dot Hutchison

Hutchison has, without question, become my favorite author--I devour her books within 36 or so hours of beginning them, virtually unable to put them down. Beyond being a talented writer, she creates works which revolve around such real and flawed characters, and marry such brilliant darkness to incredible moments, that the books create their own dark little world of too-believable wonder.

And yet, there's no doubt that these books are too dark, even too terrible, for many readers. They revolve around trauma and despair, focused in on characters who are struggling to help themselves or others to survive, and Hutchison doesn't flinch from exploring the darkest moments, the darkest thoughts. The fast pacing and the carrying of characters from one book to the next also make them distinctive reads--not for anyone who'd want to read them out of order or not be able to stomach the first and darkest of the series, The Butterfly Garden, and certainly not for anyone who'd prefer they be stand-alones. Together, these three first books in The Collector Series are far greater than they would be apart.

So, do I recommend them? Only if you dare. Just make sure you start with the first, The Butterfly Garden. And, if the blurb on back sounds too dark, you're probably better off not starting. Yet, I'll close by saying I absolutely adore these books, their characters, and everything about them, down to the darkest moments, the dirtiest of jokes, and the most dangerous thoughts.

May 31, 5:42pm Top

Well, now that May is ending and I've caught up on reviews, I guess it's time to look forward to June!

My plans for June include:

Report to Megalopolis by Tod Davies
Zeitoun by Dave Eggers (which I've meant to get to for ages and will be starting first)
Soft Apocalypse by Will McIntosh
Illusion by Lea Nolan
Patriot Games by Tom Clancy
Blood Diamonds by Greg Campbell
The Sharing Knife: Passage by Lois McMaster Bujold

That's an awful lot already, so we'll see how it goes, but if all goes as planned, I'll also be pulling something to read for the J AlphaKit...

Jun 2, 4:47pm Top

>113 whitewavedarling: Thanks to your great review, I have added the first Dot Hutchison book to my kindle. The Butterfly Garden appeals to my dark side.

Jun 3, 11:20am Top

>115 DeltaQueen50:, I hope you enjoy it! It's such a dark book, it's absolutely not right for every reader, but I adored it, and simply love her writing!

Jun 5, 2:05pm Top

F. Room Service Books #3: Report to Megalopolis by Tod Davies

Although this book is advertised as standing on its own, with readers not needing to have read the earlier books in the series, I suspect/hope that reading the earlier books would make a big difference in reading experience here. For me personally, I found it extremely difficult to really engage with the book and remain interested even though there were flashes of content that felt intriguing, and suggested the read I expected to be falling into here.

The book is split into three parts, and that's part of the problem, as there is a fairly disjointed feel to things. The first part actually reads like nonfiction, and although that may be what the writer was going for, I had an incredibly difficult time engaging with it--in fact, the only thing that kept me going was flipping forward enough to see that Part 2 would take up a different style, or I might have DNF'd fairly early. Part 2 was far more readable and enjoyable, with more attention to story, but the narrator's voice--as the book is primarily an extended monologue told in letters--began to get old early in Part 3, and I struggled to finish the book as a result.

If I'd gotten another view of the narrator from earlier books, or if there'd been less reporting and more scene-based storytelling, this might have been a very different reading experience, but as is, I can only say that although the book was well-written, it absolutely wasn't for me and probably isn't something I'd recommend. I would potentially try something else from the writer, but probably not in this series.

Jun 10, 2:09pm Top

I have Shadows on my bookshelf along with one other by him, and I'm not sure if I've read either one. I seem to remember reading lots of his books back in the day, but I don't have them anymore if I did. I'll have to pick this one up sooner rather than later.

Jun 10, 6:09pm Top

Oh - forgot to add that I took a BB for Dance Dance Dance - love Murakami!

Jun 16, 4:43pm Top

>118 LisaMorr: and >119 LisaMorr:, Those were both really good reads, if totally different. I hope you enjoy them!

I'm the same way when it comes to Saul--I'm pretty sure I read most everything he'd written when I was in middle and high school, but I remember very little of it--outside of a general positive feeling towards it. He was one of the authors who got me into horror, without a doubt, though, so I have every intention of reacquainting myself with more of his work!

Jun 21, 2:10pm Top

H. Writing/Literature Teacher Books #5: Soft Apocalypse by Will McIntosh

Although I really appreciate what this author was trying to do, and there were some powerful moments in Soft Apocalypse, I admit that I had a hard time getting into this book and then sticking with it. There were points when the writing was awkward, and then there were also a lot of moments that felt built for shock value--some of which I found far more disturbing than believable even though I generally enjoy really dark reads. Those dips into shock value--which included violence against animals--are probably enough that I won't consider reading more of McIntosh's work in the future, although the world was interesting and the main characters were, for the most part, pretty believable.

Still, I wanted more. It felt like this book was built more on idea/concept and shock than plot, and while I can accept and appreciate that that may be part of the point, given what the book is about, it didn't really work for me. As post-apocalyptic tales go, there's a lot of originality to admire here, but I just can't say it's a book I'd recommend.

Jun 21, 2:33pm Top

I. Drama Teacher Books #6: Exiles by James Joyce

Joyce's writing in this play is sort of wonderfully intentional, and it reminded me very much of those works I'd already read by him--The Dead perhaps especially. This is one of those rare cases where I think I'm glad to have read a play rather than seen it in person, and watching the characters play out of the page uncomfortably intimate and real in a way that can only speak to Joyce's mastery.

Jun 21, 5:36pm Top

C. Librarian Assistant Books #3: The Sharing Knife: Passage by Lois McMaster Bujold

This series is a little bit of a tug-of-war for me. I love the concept, and I actually really like the characters, as well, but I'm really not a fan of Bujold's writing, and the scenes where she delves into romance and the relationship at the forefront of the book feel nothing less than awkward to me. So, on one hand, I enjoy the story... but it's difficult to enjoy the reading experience. For readers who like traditional, clean romance and also like large-scale fantasy novels, this might be just their cup of tea, but I think I'm finally setting aside the series. The romance just feels more and more awkward, and although it may be that I'm being somewhat picky about the writing, the awkwardness just doesn't outweigh what I like about the series anymore.

Edited: Jul 18, 6:42pm Top

I'm so far behind, but here's to a bit of catch-up...

A. Volunteer Books #3: Blood Diamonds by Greg Campbell

Although Campbell's work is in some ways directly tied to the history that was unfolding around the turn of the century, it's by no means so dated as to no longer have relevance. Campbell's examination of the diamond industry--from its beginnings to the more recent history--is a fascinating and in-depth look into the growth of a luxury industry and commercialism, offering real insight into the tangled ways in which politics, warfare, business, natural resources, and criminality can become so enmeshed as to be virtually indistinguishable to a third party.

Whether you read this for the history or out of a desire to begin understanding the socio-economic and natural resources at play behind diamonds and warfare, the book is utterly readable--in fact, the primary difficulty is remembering that some of the horrors involved are fact rather than fiction.

Recommended for all those who are even slightly interested.

Jul 18, 7:01pm Top

A. Volunteer Books #4: Zeitoun by Dave Eggers

Eggers is a master of weaving together various threads and bringing personalities to life--here, in this book set up primarily against the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, his talents are on full display.

In focusing in on a single man and his family, Zeitoun tells the story of a family of New Orleans, taking us through their history, their separation during the storm, and the Kafka-esque days they faced after the storm passed. Pulling together everything from religion to racism, not to mention immigration and the socio-political forces at work at every turn, Eggers manages to bring to life not just the hurricane that ravaged New Orleans (which he does masterfully), but to bring to life a number of men and women who lived through it. The result is at turns heartbreaking and terrifying, though there's a fair bit of humor thrown in, and it's sometimes difficult to remember that this is a true history of a family and a storm, it reads so much like a suspenseful drama.

I don't think this book can be compared to any other piece of nonfiction regarding immigration or natural disaster, because its scope is so wide and its detailing so careful, but there is no question that it is worth reading--perhaps now more than ever for US residents especially, considering the environmental and socio-political obstacles in the future.

Absolutely recommended.

Jul 18, 7:19pm Top

B. Puppet Troupe Stage Manager Books (YA and MG Territory) #3: Illusion (Hoodoo Apprentice) by Lea Nolan

I'm not sure this finish to the Hoodoo Apprentice series quite lived up to the first two books in the trilogy, but then again, it had a lot to live up to. All told, it was a satisfying end to the series even if it did feel a bit rushed at times. I would have liked more, I admit--books two and three just didn't quite have the magic of the first book in the series--but I'm still anxious to pick up whatever Lea Nolan writes next. Certainly, I'd still recommend the trilogy as a whole, though the first book remains my favorite.

Jul 19, 7:14pm Top

K. Writer Books #5: A Catskill Eagle by Robert B. Parker

Although I have to admit this one felt a little bit more dated than I might have liked, I really enjoyed diving back into the universe of Parker's Spenser. Parker has a way of bringing characters and scenes to life even against fast and dialogue-driven scenes, and this was an easy, enjoyable read to sink into while on vacation. It's a reminder to me to go back to the other Spenser novels I never got around to and wander through them as I get the chance.

I probably wouldn't recommend starting with this one if you're not already a fan of this series, but it's worth getting around to once you become a fan.

Jul 19, 7:35pm Top

K. Writer Books #6: Patriot Games by Tom Clancy

I saw the movie years ago, and I suppose that's why it took me so long to get around to reading the book--wanting to be able to take the book as it is, rather than remember the movie too clearly--but I really enjoyed this and wish I'd gotten around to it sooner. Yes, the technology is now a bit dated, but if you can pull yourself into the time of the book and enjoy it for what it is, it's a fantastic, character-driven escape filled with great characters and suspense.

I'd certainly recommend it, and I look forward to reading more of the series sooner than later.

Jul 20, 1:49pm Top

>128 whitewavedarling: I read this one many years ago in my Clancy/Ludlum phase. It was certainly an action-packed read!

Jul 21, 6:02pm Top

>129 rabbitprincess:, I need to read more of his works sooner than later--it really was a lot of fun!

Meanwhile, another piece of catch-up, but one which I HIGHLY recommend....

G. Stagehand Books: The weird and the wonderful #6: Wisdom Lost (Pandemonium Rising Book 2) by Michael Sliter

While Solace Lost was a powerful and brutal introduction to this gorgeously written series, Wisdom Lost picks up where it left off without leaving behind any of the desperation or character-driven drama that made the first book so impressive. Carrying on with the POVs introduced in the first installment of the series, Sliter's talent and careful world-building holds the whole of the narrative together so that there's none of the fracturing which sometimes occurs in mutli-POV works of this nature. Instead, what builds up through the work is a gorgeously crafted tapestry that is both cohesive and complicated. Somehow, however, it all fits together in such a masterful fashion that it's hard to believe this is only the author's second novel.

Fans of epic fantasy and grimdark, and perhaps fans of fantasy in general as long as they can take some darkness in turn, should start with Sliter's Solace Lost and plan to dive immediately into this follow-up. It's beautifully written, fast-paced, and fairly fantastic.

Absolutely recommended.

Jul 22, 10:16am Top

H. Writing/Literature Teacher Books that kept me guessing #6: The Inhuman Condition by Clive Barker

I should say up-front that I'm a huge fan of Clive Barker--his horror novels are some of my favorites, and I also have a huge amount of respect for his talents as a playwright; his play The History of the Devil is one of the most powerful I've seen, and I'll never forget my first experience watching it, though that was about 20 years ago now. As such, my expectations were pretty high coming into this collection....

And I ended up feeling like it was somewhat uneven. The stand-outs in the collection are "The Body Politic", "Revelations", and, to a lesser extent, "The Age of Desire". The two novella-length pieces, "The Inhuman Condition" and "The Age of Desire" felt somehow frenetic and over-packed, and I have to think that either could have been fantastic if allowed to flower out into a full novel, but lost some of their power in this form. One of Barker's undeniable talents is characterization--his writing is brilliant, is concepts are horrifying, and his plotting is spot-on, but it's his characterization and the masterful way he brings characters to life against such a larger background as he paints that really makes his work so powerful. In these two novellas, plot and atmosphere were prioritized over character, and I think they suffered for it. At the same time, they're still great reads, and I have to think that my high expectations of Barker led me here to feel a bit of disappointment, where I would have been impressed otherwise. Still, those other stand-outs I mentioned, shorter as they may be, blew the longer pieces out of the water.

No doubt, Barker isn't for everyone--I'm a hardened horror reader and writer, and it takes a lot to make me flinch, but I cringed at a few spots while reading this collection. He has a way of bringing gore and horror to life so that they feel real--like you're glimpsing a true nightmare rather than wandering into a story--and it's hard not to love that if you're a horror fan. Barker's particular brand of horror also brings in the sacred and profane, religion, and even ethics and free will. The mix, against his gorgeous prose, makes for some wonderfully uncomfortable reading.

In short, I'd absolutely recommend this collection to fans of horror short stories, but I'd caution long-time Barker fans to temper their expectations in comparison to some of his longer works

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