2018 Reading List

While lots of people spend hours, if not days, deciding on goals for the new year. I spend days figuring out my reading list. It’s a very involved process that includes pouring over “Books You Must Read Before You Die” lists, searching through releases by fellow author friends, and finding the lost desperate papery souls on my Goodreads “Want to Read” list.

51jWBJa-X-L._SX345_BO1,204,203,200_Then there’s all the hot new books from 2017 that I probably missed… When you’ve got kids home more often than not, quality reading time is hard to find.

Out of the fifty or so titles making up the preliminary list, only twenty-four can survive the final cut. Twelve fiction. Twelve non fiction. Could I read more? Yes, absolutely. However, the best part of the reading experience is spending time sinking into a story and relishing each page. I can’t do that if I’m stressing out about finishing in time.

January’s selections are Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert and Strunk and White’s Elements of Style – reviews to come, stay tuned!

2018 (Mostly) Fiction Titles. Drum roll, please:

Bel Canto – Ann Patchett
Ready Player One – Ernest Cline
Man from Shenandoah – Marsha Ward
Heroes of the Valley – Jonathan Stroud
A Darker Shade of Magic – V E Schwab
Stardust – Neil Gaiman
Looking for Alaska – John Green
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close – Jonathan A Safran Foer
Forest of Hands and Teeth – Carrie Ryan
Man Called Ove – Fredrik Backman
Never Let me Go – Kazuo Ishiguro

2018 Non Fiction Titles. Kazoo chorus, please:

The Question of God – Armand M Nicholi, Jr
Worlds of Wonder: How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy – David Gerrold
Man’s Search for Meaning – Viktor Frankl
Stiff: Curious Lives of Human Cadavers – Mary Roach
Lucifer Principle – Howard Bloom
Outliers – Malcolm Gladwell
Eats, Shoots, and Leaves – Lynne Truss
Power Cues – Nick Morgan
The Gift of Fear– Gavin De Becker
Rules for a Knight – Ethan Hawke
Be Different – John Elder Robison

3264344How about you, dear reader? What titles have made your “Must be read” list this year?

Have you read any of the books on my list? If so, what did you think?

Let me know in the comments. I’d love to hear from you!

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Genre Talk: Dark Fantasy

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Surreal, bizarre, and ringing with that horror that only Stephan King can produce, the Dark Tower series is most definitely a dark fantasy.

From heroic to epic and everything in between, the fantasy genre has something for everyone who loves a touch of magic in their fiction.  Fantasy is defined as any story, artwork, or film with elements that are scientifically impossible and are often set in imaginary worlds. That which is impossible is explained as magic and includes people or things that can do the extraordinary.

Dark fantasy takes those elements and adds horror.

These works, which include literary works, art, and film, are dark and gloomy and often give the viewer a sense of horror and dread.

There is still a bit of debate between the finer points of what elements make up a dark fantasy. The point where people are divided comes down to the setting. Some argue that supernatural horror set on earth should be considered “contemporary fantasy” and “dark fantasy” should be reserved for supernatural horror that occurs on secondary worlds.

The term gets confused further when writers use the term “dark fantasy” and sometimes “gothic fantasy” it as a less lurid way to refer to horror.

Because the definition is fairly vague, works classified as “dark fantasy” come in every shape and size. There are no elements or tropes that must be present beyond the presence of supernatural elements and a dark, brooding, tone. So yes, there be vampires and werewolves here.

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And everyone knows that these Edwardian vampires wouldn’t dare sparkle.

Popular works that fit in the Dark Fantasy category include: Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles, Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman, and Stephen King’s Dark Tower Series.

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Read more Genre Talk articles:

Book of the Month – The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

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When an author’s name keeps coming up over and over, at book clubs, at conferences, at critique groups, you know there is something special about what they create. Neil Gaiman is one of those authors. This month I explored his book, The Ocean at the End of the Lane.

In this book, an unnamed middle-aged man returns to his childhood neighborhood and finds a mysterious draw to visit an old friend’s house. While he is there he remembers a strange event that happened when he was a boy.

Short on cash, the narrator’s family rents out his bedroom and he must share a room with his younger sister. One of their renters commits suicide in the family car. His death allows a supernatural being to enter the world and strange things start happening.

The narrator goes to his friend Lettie Hempstock’s house at the end of the lane for help. Lettie agrees to help and takes the narrator with her to bind the supernatural spirit back into her own world. In the process, the being sticks the narrator in the foot and anchors a pathway back to the human world in him.

The being returns in the form of the caretaker, Ursula Monkton, that the narrator’s family has hired so that the mother can return to work, proving that the most terrible of terrors is the one that is hiding in your own home and no one believes you about. Ursula is manipulative and soon bends the family into loving her, everyone except the narrator, who she turns the family against.

With the Hempstock’s help, the narrator is able to defeat the villanous Ursula, but it comes at great price. To save the narrator the pain of remembering they alter his memories so that the event is more like a dream that quickly fades.

Every few years he returns to visit, and every few years he is allowed to remember the experience once more only to forget once again the moment he walks away from the house.

There is, of course, much more to the story than this. If you want a more complete synopsis you are welcome to go visit the wiki page.

My Review:

There is a reason that so many people talk about Neil Gaiman’s work, especially around writing circles. He has a talent with language that makes the prose flow beautifully across the page. The ideas that he chooses to weave into each story are unique and intriguing and make the reader question their own realities.

Gaiman’s books are short, making them easy to start and finish in a long evening. Which is a good thing because once you pick one up you won’t want to put it down.

I loved the Ocean at the End of the Lane and can’t wait to pick up another of Gaiman’s books. I recommend this title to those who love well written prose, good vs. evil, and practical magic. Those who don’t like magic, even in small, easy to digest portions, might not like this book.