What I’ve Been Reading

The #WritersRead prompt for September was: a book I wished I’d read in school. I’ve written before about books I’d like to see on high school reading lists. It’s a subject I’m passionate about, so I was determined to read something I really, really wished had been recommended back when I was in school.

When I researched current high school reading recommendations, I was pleasantly surprised to find a more diverse list than what I’d expected. Although there were titles I’d replace (ugh, Nathaniel Hawthorne, I both love and hate you), there were several exciting choices. I’d just about settled on The Underdogs by Mariano Azuela when a title farther down caught my eye—A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute.

I was born in Australia but attended high school in the United States. My knowledge of Australian history and culture, therefore, has gaps. I grabbed a copy of Alice from the Free Library of Philadelphia and started to read. Half an hour later, the app I use to read library books posted an alert: The Bridge by Bill Konigsberg was ready for me to borrow.

Continue reading “What I’ve Been Reading”

What I’ve Been Reading

The #WritersRead theme for March was children’s and middle-grade novels. I chose to read one of my daughter’s most beloved books, Holes by Louis Sachar.

I have around 3000 books sorted onto shelves around my home. The books I’ve read are housed in a room we call the library (read: The Library Project). Upstairs, my daughter has two crammed bookshelves, my husband has one, I have another in the bedroom I call my TBR shelf (over 300 titles and counting) and our guest bedroom hosts two bookshelves, one full of books from my childhood and one called the denial shelf. The books on the denial shelf don’t actually exist.

What may surprise you, however, is how few books there are on the children’s bookshelf Before the age of twelve, I didn’t really like to read. What happened when I was twelve? Our family took a vacation to Lake Michigan and over the bed, in the room I shared with my sister, was a shelf of well-read paperbacks. Bored to distraction by the rain that prevented us from swimming, I picked one at random (probably the skinniest) and read it. The book? Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. And so began my love affair with science fiction, dystopias, and by extension, apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction. Forty years later, I’m still going. Continue reading “What I’ve Been Reading”

What I’ve Been Reading

The #WritersRead prompt for February was a book set in the future. I chose to read Consider Phlebas by Iain M. Banks.

I approached the book with a lot of misconceptions. I had expected it to be a long and difficult read, full of stuff I just didn’t get. But while the world Iain M. Banks has created (The Culture) is thoughtful and Consider Phlebas contains many literary themes, it is, at its core, an entertaining novel of high stakes adventure.

I have long wanted to read the Culture novels by Iain M. Banks but kept putting them off for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I started with the wrong book. I tried to read The Algebraist (not part of the Culture series) and had a very difficult time. I didn’t finish the book. Being so long ago, I barely remember anything but being mystified and bored (most likely due to being mystified). But there was something about the book that made me keep trying until I eventually put it aside, figuring I’d try again on audio sometime. Continue reading “What I’ve Been Reading”

What I’ve Been Reading

September 2018 Edition.

With a long summer of revisions and edits behind me, I’m looking forward to reading something other than my own work! I did manage to read a few good books over the past few months, though. Here are the best of them:

 

13486172The Dark Defiles (A Land Fit for Heroes, #3), by Richard K. Morgan

I tried to read The Steel Remains, the first book in this series, several years ago and put it aside after only two or three chapters. I can’t remember why, but the usual reason for putting something aside is simply a lack of connection. It’s frustrating when it’s a book I really want to read, so I’ll often return later, or try it on audio. That’s what I did here and I immediately became invested in the first book, then the second, and finally the third. As soon as I finished, I ordered books two and three to go with the first on my keeper shelf. This is a series I want to revisit and remember.

It’s not always a pleasant read. The violence is brutal and the themes quite dark. But Morgan has a way of drawing you into a story almost unaware, and making you care about characters who aren’t even particularly “nice.” He did it with Takeshi Kovacs and again here with Ringil. If I had a favourite character at the beginning of the series, it would have been Egar, but only because he’s typical. He’s a man meant for more. Arceth’s story is fascinating and she grew on me as the series progressed.

But Ringil. He was hard to love, but once there, impossible to shake off. I adored his caustic wit and unrepentant homosexuality. If ever a character was who he was, it would be Ringil. Society reviles him, his family despairs for him, and yet… and yet. Without giving away too much, Ringil doesn’t bloody care, except for when he does.

I loved the ending, and what I presumed to be Ringil’s fate. Even more, the coda afterward that hinted at Arceth’s epilogue (and maybe the fulfillment of a certain prophecy), and the circumstances surrounding the birth of a certain baby. I shed a few tears throughout. I laughed, too. I stood silent sentry at every funeral. But that last chapter of the coda. I pretty much lost it there, as Morgan tied up every loose end and brought us back to the beginning.

 

31933085Less, by Sean Andrew Greer

I loved this book for a lot of reasons, the first simply being the experience of reading it. I liked how it was written, and the shape of the story. Facing his fiftieth birthday, and an invitation to a wedding he’d rather not attend, Arthur Less books an around the world trip. As he journeys, the story of his life unfolds, and it’s in turns mundane and interesting and funny.

Arthur’s anxiety regarding his career as a writer really spoke to me. He’s not particularly famous and has only ever been nominated for obscure awards he’s never heard of. His feelings regarding these things felt so true. There’s this entire cosmos of being a writer, with bright stars and black holes and all the objects in between that tend to drift according to the rules of universal attraction. It’s… weird, and I felt Greer captured that headspace really well in Arthur.

To me, the story was also about approaching the milestone that is fifty and all the anxiety wrapped up with that. Have I done anything meaningful yet? And, most importantly, am I old now? There was a lot of wonderful discussion about youth and age and the lens we have on others’ lives.

Then there was the love story. It’s pretty obvious from the start that Arthur doesn’t realize, or isn’t willing to accept his heart has been broken. Watching him come to terms with that and accept it was another of those “true” moments in the book for me, because I’ve lived through journeys like this where the breakup wasn’t particularly sensational and it makes no sense that you continue to sink lower and lower until you understand you really did love the person you left, or let go, and then have to grapple with the question of, is it too late?

We get the idea that Less doesn’t think much of himself–and never really has. The surprise, though, is that he doesn’t really seem to know himself that well, which is why the format of this book really worked for me. The story is told through the eyes of someone who knows Arthur extremely well, and loves every part of him, and I took the message of this to be: love every part of yourself, even the awkward and not so nice stuff, because its’ what makes you you.

 

30226770The Lawrence Browne Affair(The Turner Series, #2), by Cat Sebastian

I quite enjoyed the first book in this series, but I loved this one. Georgie was everything I hoped he’d be and Lawrence was endearing. I especially liked that Lawrence was an atypical hero with issues that aren’t often dealt with in romantic fiction. I thought Sebastian handled his “differences” with just the right touch—a correctness of historical attitudes, but also with sensitivity. Allowances might have been made, but this is romance.

My heart hurt for the situation with Lawrence’s “son” and I really loved being able to follow up on that relationship in the next book in the series, The Ruin of a Rake, which I also enjoyed very much.

Georgie wins the day, though. I liked him in The Soldier’s Scoundrel, but loved him in this. It’s rare, I find, to read a sequel where a character you’ve met briefly truly fulfills their potential. Georgie is shameless, and yet he isn’t… giving him a wonderfully complex personality that really shines here. I adored his development and in particular the way he simply seemed to know how to care for Lawrence. Also, this book is funny. I got such a laugh out of the state of Lawrence’s library, and the mushrooms on the Seneca. 🙂

 

1487811Hit Man (Keller, #1), by Lawrence Block

Lawrence Block is rapidly becoming one of my favourite authors. His books are easy to read and always entertaining. What I really adore, though, are his fluffy bad guys. Assassins, hit men, and burglars, all with hearts of gold. And snappy one-liners.

In Hit Man, Keller sets out to retire. He’s done with being an assassin. So he takes up stamp collecting. STAMP COLLECTING. You couldn’t make this up. But stamp collecting turns out to be a more expensive hobby than he had anticipated, so he ends up taking a job or two to help pay for it. Then there’s the fact that someone seems to know who he is and what he’s doing…

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and look forward to continuing with this and Block’s many other series.


34504732God Country
, by Donny Cates

How do you even describe a comic book like this? The shelving label on the back reads “Epic Texan Battle Fantasy” and there is a quote inside the front cover from Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West. God Country lives up to both. It is a western. But it’s also a fantasy that borrows from Norse mythology. And it’s the story of a family devastated by Alzheimer’s.

I most often buy comic books for their art and it’s gorgeous here, with the style definitely working in support of the story. I think what made this comic one I was happy to shelve in my library, though, with a reverent stroke of the cover as I slipped it into place, were the spontaneous tears that caught me about five pages from the end. I’m a self-admitted sap. I’ve cried in more Star Trek episodes than anyone else on this planet. But I’ve only teared up over one comic book before, the poignant Roughneck by Jeff Lemire.

I might have to start a new Goodreads shelf.

 

30777300Bitter Legacy by Dal Maclean

Extremely compelling. I had a really hard time putting this one aside to deal with real life.

I really enjoyed the mystery aspect of this novel—more than I thought I would, actually. I liked the slow collection of clues and the “procedural” feel of having them snapped together, one by one, but not always in the right order. I’d love to read more mystery written by Dal Maclean. I think she demonstrates great talent.

The romance aspect of the book was a little more difficult to… like. This isn’t a happy, fluffy contemporary. But it totally worked for the characters. Jamie is so new and so inexperienced when it comes to relationships that it was easy to imagine him making the excuses that he did. His hesitancy and heartbreak were also really well written. I felt them both quite deeply.

I did have a hard time accepting the reconciliation at the end, but justified it in much the same way Jamie did: love can overlook a lot of faults, especially when we think we’re getting what want/need. Also, if Ben isn’t to be a bitter, twisted, and lonely old man, someone has to take a chance on him.

I’m really looking forward to reading Maclean’s follow up novel, Object of Desire.

The Cheez-It Book

If you follow me on social media you probably already know a little bit about the Cheez-It book. Standing in the kitchen one day, stuffing my face with Cheez-Its, I was struck by the idea that having a mouthful of Cheez-Its (and I mean full, with crumbs spilling everywhere) would be a fun and awkward way to meet the love of your life. Or maybe just really awkward. 😀

Inspired, I ran upstairs and wrote 10,000 words in a furious rush. That was two summers ago, and now, finally, Building Forever is finished, covered beautifully, and available for preorder. It even has its first review (5 stars, yay!).

But what is it about? Well, it’s about a talkative science fiction writer named Charlie and a quiet architect named Simon. Charlie is a widower who put aside any curiosity he had regarding his attraction to men about eighteen years ago when his girlfriend told him she was pregnant. He loved her and he married her. Then he lost her. Now, five years later, he finally feels as if he’s getting good at the single dad thing. His science fiction series is doing well, though the last book is proving difficult to plot, and his daughter seems happy–her fondness for post-apocalyptic art aside.

Simon is nursing a broken heart and a bruised ego. He lost his lover and his business last year and moved to Bethlehem to start again. Approaching his fiftieth birthday, he’s not sure if he’s up for rebuilding his career or risking his heart, but to his surprise, finds pleasure in both. Bethlehem and Charlie are exactly what he needed: a fresh perspective and a new challenge.

But Charlie isn’t as far past the loss of his wife as he thinks he is, and Simon isn’t as resilient as he thought he was, and Charlie’s daughter isn’t as happy as she seems.

All of my books feel like a journey, for me and for my characters, but this one was especially so because of some of the themes I tackled: grief, middle-age, parenthood, bisexuality, and being willing to risk your heart again. I loved writing older characters and I loved writing a father. Simon’s gentle stoicism called to me in ways a character hasn’t before and I desperately needed for him to find a happy ever after. Charlie–Charlie sprang from the ether fully formed. All I did was write it down just as he told me to. I didn’t always get it right first try, though, and I relied heavily on beta readers and editors for help with this one. I learned a lot, and I know this is my strongest book yet.

The best part, though? This is only the beginning. In this series, I have reached a little farther and push a little harder with every book. Renewing Forever and Chasing Forever will continue the themes put in place with Building Forever—small towns, close families, and strong friendships—while staying true to my vision of writing super sweet love stories for older men who have already loved and lost, and aren’t sure if they’re ready to try again.

Building Forever is now available for preorder at Riptide Publishing.
You can also add it on Goodreads!

Fall

Building Forever (This Time Forever #1)

BuildingForever_400x600

A new town, a new neighbor, and a new chance to build a forever.

Charlie King is doing fine. Sure, he’s a widower raising a teenage daughter who just got her first boyfriend, his book series isn’t writing itself, and he has a crush on his new neighbor — the guy next door. But everything’s just fine.

Simon Lynley is doing better. He moved to Bethlehem to fall out of love and rebuild his career. An affair with his neighbor isn’t part of the plan, but the attraction between them is too hard to ignore.

But when Simon’s ex follows him to Pennsylvania seeking reconciliation, and Charlie’s life starts to feel like a video on repeat, everything comes apart. Charlie worries that he’s failing as a father, and Simon is a distraction he can’t afford. Meanwhile Simon doesn’t know if he could survive being left again, and he hasn’t come all this way to make the same mistakes. But despite their fears, it’s only together that they’ll find the strength to slay old foes and build the forever they’ve been waiting for.

Want to read the first couple of chapters? They’re right here!