4th Quarter Reading, Done!

Here with only a few days left of 2014 I’m proud to report that I finished the last book of the year this morning at 2:45 am. Now I’m not saying that I stayed up reading all night, although I liked the last read enough that I could have – my youngest woke at 1:30 throwing up and I couldn’t turn my brain off afterward. Ahh, the joys of too many ideas and not enough time.

Here are this quarter’s books-

To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee: Somehow I escaped reading this in school, and it’s a shame too because I’ve heard references to parts of this book and it’s characters all my life and never realized it.  If I were to pick a favorite element I would chose the character of Atticus Finch, the father of Scout and Jem and also the town attorney. He is a brilliant example of what it means to lead by example.  His high standards and sense of morality are enviable and something that is lacking from much of the world today.

Dune, Frank Herbert: Ok, I’ll admit, I cheated a little here.  Dune is a massive tome of dense writing that even the most seasoned writer needs to pick through carefully.  It’s fascinating and a good read, but time consuming. I read the first section, which still was over 300 pages and intend to read the rest at my leisure later. This is one of those books that has redefined what is possible in the world of science fiction and is a prime example of how to do world building right. I only wish I would have picked it up earlier, this would have been a perfect example when I was creating my own fantasy world.

A Town Like Alice, Nevil Shute: At first I wasn’t sure I was going to like this, the story didn’t take off right away and for the first twenty or so pages the reader has to wade through the narrator helping a gentleman settle the articles in his will. Not too exciting. Things pick up when we get into the story of Jean Paget, who inherits the estate. We first learn about her experience as a prisoner of war to the Japanese in Malay where she, and a group of women and children, was forced to travel by foot from town to town because no one wanted to take them in. I love stories of survival against the odds, so this was great. The rest of the story is devoted to how she spends her inheritance by first digging a well and washing house for the town that finally took them in at the end of the war, and then making improvements in a derelict town in Australia where her love interest has a cattle station. It is a story of perseverance and grit and one that I truly enjoyed.

a_town_like_alice_large

I had a great time reading these books off of the BBC Book Challenge and hope to find equally good reads for the coming year.

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Did you have a favorite read this year? Tell us about it in the comments!

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Get your Fantasy Fiction Fix

ID-100212922Let’s face it, we are all very busy people. Sometimes that translates to not having time to do the things we love. I love reading. Ever since I was a kid, I found that I would rather hang out within the pages of a great book than with real people.

I really miss having endless hours of reading time.

I never realized that there would be so many demands on my time. From caring for the kids to caring for the house and yard to attempting to become a world class author (hey, we all have dreams), there is hardly time to breathe some days.

This is where I love short fiction, and even better, having it delivered to my inbox like a little present. Here is a list of great places to go to get a mini reading fix during the day.

  1. Tor.com – For those who love Tor books, here is where to find their ongoing series of short stories They don’t have an email service, but their twitter feed @tordotcom will provide you a link when they release a new story. They publish 1-2 stories a week.
  2. Daily Science Fiction – This includes more than just science fiction, they also include fantasy, slipstream, and other speculative fiction topics. When you subscribe they will send you daily stories in you inbox.
  3. Every Day Fiction – Like it says, this is also a email service that sends out daily stories to your inbox. These stories can come from any genre and are a great way to be exposed to different types of writing. They are also all flash fiction, meaning under 1000 words, so they are fast reads.

Where do you go to get your reading fix? Tell us about it in the comments!

Image “U.f.o” by dan courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

Legends and Lore Blog Tour

LegendsandLore_blogtour500pxFresh from my new favorite publisher, Xchyler Publishing, comes another awesome anthology LEGENDS AND LORE. I’m showing my bias here, because I’ve had the chance to work with their editors. These guys know their stuff and find great stories to share with readers everywhere.

Check out the different stories and authors below and be sure to enter the Rafflecopter at the bottom for a chance to win some great swag.

Legends and Lore: An Anthology of Mythic Proportions

Delve into myth and legend, where the Fates force post-modern man into a world of the unknown—a world long since dismissed as ignorant superstition.

The Brother-Sister Fable by Alyson Grauer: a young boy disappears into a realm where only his sister can follow.

Faelad by Sarah Hunter Hyatt: Claire Whitaker didn’t even know she was Irish, let alone The Morrigan, the goddess of war.

By Skyfall by Emma Michaels: a mer-couple from Atlantis find themselves in the middle of a human murder investigation.

Charon’s Obol by. R. M. Ridley: Jonathan Alvey didn’t believe in gods, until he helps a lost child find her all-powerful parents.

Peradventure by Sarah E. Seeley: a jinni must choose between the woman he loves and destroying the city that persecuted her.

Natural Order by Lance Schonberg: when Carlos Vasquez is kidnapped, he discovers powers within himself to change the world.

Two Spoons by Danielle E. Shipley: A little girl’s soul meets its match in the family diner’s most mysterious patron.

Grail Days by A. F. Stewart: Living forever has its drawbacks, especially when you spend it clearing away the messes of other immortals.

Downward Mobility by M. K. Wiseman: they say love conquers all, but can it save a Valkyrie when she breaks all the rules?

Legends and Lore: An Anthology of Mythic Proportion
Legends and Lore: An Anthology of Mythic Proportions

Legends and Lore: An Anthology of Mythic Proportions

On the Isle of Sound and Wonder by Alyson GrauerAlyson Grauer

Alyson Grauer is a storyteller in multiple mediums, her two primary canvases being the stage and the page. On stage, she is often seen in the Chicago area, primarily at Piccolo Theatre, Plan 9 Burlesque, and the Bristol Renaissance Faire. Her nonfiction work has been published in the “Journal for Perinatal Education” for Lamaze International. Her short fiction can be found in Tales from the Archives (Volume 2) for the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences and in one other anthology from Xchyler Publishing, Mechanized Masterpieces: A Steampunk Anthology. Alyson is a proud graduate of Loyola University of Chicago and hails originally from Milwaukee, WI. Her debut novel, On The Isle of Sound and Wonder, will be released in November 2014 from Xchyler Publishing.

A Dash of Madness: A Thriller AnthologySarah Hunter Hyatt

Sarah Hunter Hyatt grew up outside of Salt Lake City, Utah. As a child, she kept notebooks of stories that she would share with her little sisters at bedtime. Now, an adult, her stories have matured but still occupy her thoughts (and notebooks). “Faelad” is Sarah’s second short story for Xchyler Publishing, her first being “Stunner” which appeared in A Dash of Madness: a Thriller Anthology. Along with writing, being a mom to three wonderful kids, and a wife to a patient husband, she also dabbles in graphic design.

Emma Michaels

Emma Michaels is a cover artist, blogger, and author of the Society of Feathers series. Her love of blogging started when she created a book blog in 2009 which gave her the courage to finally submit her own novels to publishers. Emma Michaels’ publications now include Owlet and Eyrie (Tribute Books), Holiday Magick Anthology (Spencer Hill Press), and Cirque d’Obscure Anthology, and Cogs in Time Anthology (Crushing Hearts Black Butterfly). To find out more stop by http://www.EmmaMichaels.com

Tomorrow Wendell, Book 1 of The White Dragon Black seriesR. M. Ridley

R. M. Ridley lives in rural Ontario on a small homestead, raising a menagerie of animals, including a flock of sheep and a swarm of foul. He has been writing stories, both long and short, for three decades, the themes of which range from the gruesome to the fantastical. As an individual who suffers from severe bipolar disorder, Ridley is a strong believer in being open about mental health issues because myths should be kept to stories. Ridley’s first short story featuring Jonathan Alvey, “A Case for Custody,” appeared in Shades and Shadows: A Paranormal Anthology (2013), followed by Tomorrow Wendell, Book 1 of the White Dragon Black series (2014). He has two works slated for release in 2015, including Books, Bourbon, and Blondes, an anthology of White Dragon Black short stories, and another full length novel, Book 2 of the White Dragon Black series.

Sarah Seeley

Through two wonderful mentored research experiences, Sarah E. Seeley had the opportunity to work with dead sauropods and ancient odonates while acquiring her undergraduate degree in geology from Brigham Young University. She hopes to study more dead things in the future and contribute to scientific discussions about what makes life on Earth so amazing. In the meantime, she explores the bright side of being human by writing dark fiction. Sarah’s independently published works include Maladaptive Bind and Blood Oath: An Orc Love Story. Another short story, “Driveless,” appears in “Leading Edge Magazine” Issue #66.

You can learn more about Sarah on her writing blog at www.SlithersOfThought.com.

Lance Schonberg

In the middle of lecturing one of his children on the importance of following dreams, Lance began to wonder why and when he’d stopped following his. Gathering up a few salvageable shreds of unfinished stories, he began his first novel. He’s written several novels and many shorter works in the years since, and has had twenty or so stories see publication. At any given moment Lance is working on a novel and at least one short story—probably more—most of which fall into the broad buckets of science fiction or fantasy.

Lance can be found lurking on his blog at www.lanceschoberg.com, on Twitter as @WritingDad, and sometimes even on his Facebook author page.

Danielle E. Shipley

Danielle E. Shipley’s first novelettes told the everyday misadventures of wacky kids like herself. . . . Or so she thought. Unbeknownst to them all, half of her characters were actually closeted elves, dwarves, fairies, or some combination thereof. When it all came to light, Danielle did the sensible thing: packed up and moved to Fantasy Land, where daily rent is the low, low price of her heart, soul, blood, sweat, tears, firstborn child, sanity, and words; lots of them. She’s also been known to spend short bursts of time in the real-life Chicago area with the parents who home schooled her and the two little sisters who keep her humble.

Danielle blogs at www.EverOnWord.wordpress.com.

A. F. Stewart

A steadfast and proud sci-fi and fantasy geek, A.F. Stewart was born and raised in Nova Scotia, Canada and still calls it home. The youngest in a family of seven children, she always had an overly creative mind and an active imagination. She favours the dark and deadly when writing—her genres of choice being dark fantasy and horror—but she has been known to venture into the light on occasion. As an indie author she’s published novellas and story collections, with a few side trips into poetry and nonfiction. Stewart’s first published work with Xchyler Publishing, “Our Man Fred,” appeared in Mechanized Masterpieces: A Steampunk Anthology (2013).

SMechanized Masterpieces: A Steampunk Anthologytewart is fond of good books, action movies, sword collecting, geeky things, comic books, and oil painting as a hobby. She has a great interest in history and mythology, often working those themes into her books and stories.

M. K. Wiseman

M. K. Wiseman is a librarian who recently decided that it would be fun to try her hand at the creation of books instead of mere curation. A ‘method’ writer, she likes to first try out the worlds that she builds. This has, admittedly, led to some strange results. (For example, she once elicited funny looks at her daily coffee shop by adopting a British accent for one day. We’re all in trouble once she decides to write a space novel.) Wiseman’s first short story for Xchyler Publishing, “Clockwork Ballet,” appeared in Mechanized Masterpieces: A Steampunk Anthology (2013).

In addition to the dozens of stories currently marinating on her hard drive, she maintains two blogs, Flying the Blue Pigeon and Millicent and Rue.

 Legends and Lore: An Anthology of Mythic Proportions

Don’t forget to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway!

3rd Quarter Reading – Done!

We are swiftly sliding into the last few months of the year and I’m proud to report that I’ve keep up with the goal of reading one book a month from the BBC Book List Challenge.  This last quarter’s reading was both fascinating as it was diverse. The hardest read, due to its sheer length and complex structure, was Cloud Atlas and it still doesn’t hold a candle to Midnight’s Children in terms of how difficult it was to get through.

Here are this quarter’s books –

Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell: Even after finishing this I’m hard pressed to say what it’s about.  There are several story lines ranging in the timeline from the 1800s to an unimagined future.  Each story shares one or two tiny elements from the other so in the end they are all connected in small ways.  I had really hoped that somehow these stories would converge into a single cohesive story, but in my mind they didn’t. That considered, Mitchell is a genius. Each story is so vastly different from the others that had I not known otherwise I would have assumed that there were multiple writers, each a master at their chosen time period and genre.

Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald: I’ll admit having watched the recent movie incarnation with Leonardo DiCaprio might have tainted my experience of reading the book. Instead of seeing the story through the words of Fitzgerald I saw it through the artistic lens of Baz Luhrmann.  This isn’t a bad thing, just unfortunate because Fitzgerald has such a wonderful way with words and being able to envision them myself would have made reading the book a different experience. The book captures the essence of Gatsby, his strengths, his vulnerabilities, his desperation to get what he wants, and paints him through his actions.

A Prayer for Owen Meany, John Irvine: I’ve been looking forward to reading this, after so many people have told me that this is one of their favorite books of all time. I’ll agree that it is a fascinating character study. The reader is shown small pieces of Owen Meany, his oddness, his single-mindedness, his devotion to his best friend.  As the book reaches the end these pieces begin to click together until we see a portrait of this man who is completely different from what we expected. It’s brilliantly written and pulls the reader in as they along with the characters try to learn the truth.

Here are the rest of this year’s picks, feel free to read along with meto-kill-a-mockingbird-by-harper-lee-profile

  1. A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute
  2. Dune – Frank Herbert
  3. To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee

Related posts:

2nd Quarter Reading – Done!

I’m happy to report that I’ve finished the second quarter reading with a few weeks to spare, namely because I fell in love with  The Lovely Bones and read it in four days. The longest read from this quarter clocks in at a mind-boggling six weeks to finish Midnight’s Children.

Here are this quarter’s books –

Midnight’s Children, Salman Rushdie: As mentioned before, I struggled to get through this book, not because it is poorly written or uninteresting but because it is extremely long and the prose is very dense. This isn’t to say there isn’t some fascinating reading in there, only that the reader is required to patiently sift and sort through a mixed jumble of thoughts and ideas that bounce back and forth in the time line of the main characters life.  It’s confusing.  Rushdie does a masterful job weaving different themes in and out of the story so by the time you get to the end you can see the whole picture – that is if you get to the end.

Remains of the Day, Kazuo Ishiguro: Reading this was like watching Downton Abbey from the perspective of the butler.  It is a melancholy and thoughtful read as we are shown the highlights of his life and efforts to become a truly great British butler at the expense of missing out on having a life of his own.  Like Midnight’s Children, it is not exactly a story but rather an experience of someone else’s life experience.

The Lovely Bones, Alice Sebold: After reading these other books, this book was a wonderful breath of life.  Finally, a real story with conflicts and problems to be solved instead of a rambling narrative. The main character narrates her story, sharing her point of view and feelings about what’s happening in her family, but the kicker here is that she’s dead.  The book opens with her remembering the details of her murder and she continues to follow her family as they struggle to cope with her loss.  Riveting, fascinating, and the best book on the list so far.

Here are the rest of this year’s picks, feel free to read along with me!

  1. A Prayer for Owen Meany – John Irving200px-PrayerForOwenMeany
  2. Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell
  3. A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute
  4. Dune – Frank Herbert
  5. The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald
  6. To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee

 

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1st Quarter Reading – Done!

Back in the beginning of the year I set forth to read 12 books from the popular BBC Big Read list.  Now the first quarter is over and three of those books are complete. Here’s  here are my reactions to each book –

A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens: I wanted to like this book, I like the story and have enjoyed the different movies from Patrick Stewarts down to Albert Finneys versions.  It’s a classic and I don’t regret reading it.  What better way to invite a feeling of Christmas than to read about Scrooge and his magical transformation from miserable miser to generous soul. What I do regret is that I couldn’t find quiet alone time to give it the attention and focus it deserves.  Dickens is not the easiest reading even for experienced readers. I wanted to be sucked in and be able to live through the story in the same way I enjoy modern fiction but it wasn’t to be.  The words refused to come alive for me and I didn’t have the patience to force them to do so either. This book is best enjoyed in front of a fireplace with a glass of wine and time for quiet contemplation – not from one’s phone while holding a wiggly toddler who is watching one of their obnoxious TV shows.

Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte – Somehow I escaped reading this in High School and perhaps it was for the best that I did.  Along the same lines of Christmas Carol, this book requires lots of attention to keep track of what’s going on.  I had more quiet time to work on reading this time, which helped, but in the end I can honestly say I didn’t enjoy the experience.  The characters are not likable which makes it hard to empathize with their multitude of plights.

conradjoetext96hdark12aHeart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad – Once again, this was a harder read, although it seemed easier than Wuthering Heights. Maybe I’m finally getting the hang of 18th century literature, who knows? Then again, Heart of Darkness takes place deep within the Congo, a setting I find fascinating.  It also deals with more urgent matters than Wuthering Heights, such as life and death situations and slavery, which I prefer over stories where the main plot question revolves around the question, “Does he really love me?”

So far I’ve been enjoying the challenge of reading books that fall far outside my preferred reading bubble.  The language of these books is distinct and delicious and meant to be savored, like foreign chocolate. I can’t wait to get a taste of the next one!

Here are the remaining books left on my personal list for this year –

  1. A Prayer for Owen Meany – John Irving200px-PrayerForOwenMeany
  2. Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell
  3. Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie
  4. The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold
  5. A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute
  6. Dune – Frank Herbert
  7. The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald
  8. To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
  9. The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro

What are you reading this year?  Share in the comments!

This Year’s Reading List

One of my resolutions is to read more books from the BBC Book List Challenge, specifically one book a month.  As of today I’ve only read 27 of the 100 listed and there are some terrific books on there that I’ve been meaning to read.  Here are the twelve that I’m planning on tackling this year.

  1. 200px-PrayerForOwenMeanyA Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens.  Admittedly I cheated and started this one during the last week of December, but it still counts!
  2. A Prayer for Owen Meany – John Irving
  3. Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell
  4. Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
  5. Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
  6. Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie
  7. conradjoetext96hdark12aThe Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold
  8. A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute
  9. Dune – Frank Herbert
  10. The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald
  11. To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
  12. The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro

What are you planning on reading this year?  Let me know in the comments!