Reporting from Mount TBR

Another year, another reading challenge! This year, I’ve decided once again to tackle my massive backlog of To Be Read titles. The two bookshelves housing my TBR pile have begun sneaking books onto the floor, and the piles from the floor have migrated to my dresser, nightstand, and desk. The approximate number of unread books in the house is close to 400—which is only about half the number of unread titles lurking in my digital libraries.

My plan is simple. Every month, I will sort the books in my digital libraries to the earliest date and send one to my e-reader. Then read it. Or make an attempt to. If I like it, I’ll mention it here, on my blog. If I don’t like it, I’ll delete it. Same goes for the physical books. I’ll pick one from the shelf and read it. If I like it, I’ll blog about it. If I don’t like it, I’ll tuck it into the library donation box.

Continue reading “Reporting from Mount TBR”

The Secret History of the World

I have a new reading challenge! (Yes, I know I’ve failed spectacularly at every reading challenge I’ve ever tried, but this one is different. You’ll see!)

The fast majority of F. Paul Wilson’s books deal with what he calls ‘The Secret History of the World.’ I first stumbled into this secret history in 1985 when I borrowed The Keep from the library. Subsequently, I did not sleep for two weeks. It was the scariest book I’d ever read and, to this day, I still feel the chill of it. Continue reading “The Secret History of the World”

What I’ve Been Reading!

The good, the great, and the even better.

I always read a lot outside of the books I pick for particular challenges, and my reading challenge updates always ramble on into what I’ve been writing as well. It could be worse, I could ramble on about all the movies and TV shows I’ve seen as well… 😀

2015 TBR Pile Challenge

When We Were Orphans

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro devastated me–so much so, that I hesitated to pick up When We Were Orphans for about five years. I didn’t want to spend another two weeks sniveling into my hankie and generally embarrassing myself.

While the narrative voice of When We Were Orphans is familiar, the story is very different. It’s still emotionally charged, and the revelations are…sad. No other word for it. What really struck me, will stick with me, though, is Christopher’s naivete. A good portion of the story is recollections from his childhood and even as he pokes through his memories, his view of them is clouded by what he thought and perceived as a child.

This makes Christopher a somewhat unreliable narrator, which is a hallmark of Ishiguro’s fiction. His truths are coloured by his emotions and ambitions, and while he can be self-deprecating, just as often he’s simply human. It’s in these moments the novel shines. I envy Ishiguro’s ability to write this way, to offer these imperfect memories, and to build the story of a man whose life is shaped by just such.


Way of the Wolf (Vampire Earth #1)Way of the Wolf
by E.E. Knight has a really cool setting. I picked it up because it’s post apocalyptic and the idea of alien vampires intrigued me. The actual story is much more interesting. There is a system of gates that connect parallel universes. It takes an incredible amount of power to open and use these gates, and to maintain the longevity of the beings who are using them. So, the Kurians are lifesforce vampires rather than bloodsuckers, but have absolutely no problems with draining a human of just about everything that makes them tick. Yeah, there’s some gruesome stuff here.

The Kurians are the new overlords of Earth, hence the subtitle: Vampire Earth. Humanity is either subjugated or living in small pockets of rebellion. One of these rebellious factions has access to gifts from another alien species that is like the Kurians, but not evil. They teach the Way of the Wolf, Cat and Bear to humans who have the mental and physical stamina to adapt.

The story starts out slowly with an extended introduction to David Valentine and his world. I didn’t mind the pace, though, as I found the world fascinating and David is easy to like. The plot really picks up at the two thirds mark with the last quarter of the book passing in a blur. I will be reading on. I already have the next two books on the shelf.

Random Favourites

Seeing as I didn’t read a lot from my challenge list over the last few months, here are a couple of random reviews of books I really enjoyed:

BlinkBlink by Rick R. Reed

It’s been a long time since I read past my bedtime – which is, admittedly, early. But I’m old, and that’s one of the things that drew me to this book, the age of the characters in the second part. There is not enough romantic fiction about older couples. The other thing that drew me to this book was the premise. The thirty second love affair, as Andy puts it. Who hasn’t met the eyes of a stranger and wondered ‘what if’?

I enjoyed the elaborate ‘what if’ scenarios in this book as much as I did the actual story of Andy and Carlos. I loved the pushmi-pullyu reference. It was apt in the beginning and throughout the ebb and flow of the guys’ lives. More, I loved that Andy and Carlos had to take such a journey before reconnecting, and that that was the focus of the story.

Finally, the afterword: I already knew the facts as I’d discovered this book through a blog tour where Rick Reed shared his inspiration for Blink. And that story was the reason I picked this one up. 🙂

City of StairsCity of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett

Long, but ultimately worth it. The world building is phenomenal.

I listened to City of Stairs on audio and it was one of those rare treats. New SF and Fantasy titles don’t show up on the library’s list very often. It’s even more rare for a book on my wishlist to show up, so I fell all over this one–and then listened obsessively for days until it was done.

I loved the world. If I hadn’t listened on audio, I might have been tempted to skim some of the description, history and world building because there is a lot. Most of it’s relevant and it didn’t really feel like the author showing off all his research, particularly as it’s Shara’s business to know all of this stuff.  I really enjoyed Shara as a point of view character. I also enjoyed the glimpses we had of others. My favourite? Sigrud. And I did not begrudge a single minute of his history. His story was worth a novel all it’s own, and adds so much depth and substance to this book.

A highly recommended read!

The Girl with All the GiftsThe Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey

My Goodreads review:

Holy @#$%. Just…WOW. This book really crept up on me, and then refused to let go. Feeling kinda wrecked.

Excellent. Deserves all the stars.

Really, there’s not a lot more I can say without spoiling the magic of this book, except to tell you to keep going. It starts out a little slow and the plot is quite obscure, but OMG, the ending. I cried–and I can’t even really tell you why. But, like Never Let Me Go, I carried this story next to my soul for weeks afterward and I can still feel the wrench of emotion. I really, really hope M.R. Carey writes another novel. Soon.


Bloody Jack: Being an Account of the Curious Adventures of Mary Bloody Jack: Being an Account of the Curious Adventures of Mary “Jacky” Faber, Ship’s Boy
by L.A. Meyer

This was an Audible daily deal and I bought it with the intention of passing it to my daughter. Then I saw a couple of reviews and decided to try it for myself. I ADORED this book. Not only was Jacky’s voice absolutely charming, but the narrator did a wonderful job of bringing her to life, accent and all. The story is equally engaging, being the tale of an orphan who goes to sea pretending to be a ship’s boy. As she matures, it becomes more and more difficult for her to hide her gender, leading to many sweet and not so sweet moments. Meyer perfectly captures adolescence and I loved the boys. I also really loved the inside look at life aboard one of the King’s ships and the excitement of chasing pirates, neither of which was diluted or dumbed down for a younger audience.

If I pick up the sequel, it will definitely be on audio!

View all my reviews on Goodreads.

Writing

I’ve had three books published since my last update. I blogged about each one, but I’m going to show them off again here as they represent a lot of hard work. Covers link to the relevant posts.

   OutintheBlueLG   WDCover500

In addition, Jenn and I finalized Skip Trace (Book three of Chaos Station), as in it’s fully edited, copy edited and proofread. It’s due out in October. We’re hoping to put out a short story between now and then. We’ve also finished the first draft of Inversion Point (Book four of Chaos Station). I think this one was the hardest yet to write. We’ve learned so much writing the first three, through simply writing a series and being edited so competently (and thoroughly) by our editor at Carina Press. So we put a lot into constructing book four. That leaves one more for this series–Phase Shift–which we’ll begin writing over the summer.

So far, the series is getting really great reviews. We’re hoping readers will enjoy the ride all the way to the end with us.

Reading Challenge Update (March)

Wrapping up Science Fiction Week with a Reading Challenge Update. As always, notes on what I’m writing at the end.

In February I read Spherical Harmonic by Catherine Asaro. Set in the aftermath of the Radiance War, Spherical Harmonic picks up and tidies up threads left by several other books. For some readers, this will feel like retreading the same territory, for others, this will provide some closure. I experienced a little of both, but definitely more of the latter. I don’t mind reading the same events a few times over, as long as there is a reason for it, such as a change of perspective, or a different voice. And that’s the deeper purpose of this book, that change of perspective.

It’s one of the rare first person POVs in the series, and we’re sharing the experiences and thoughts of Dyhianna, the Ruby Pharaoh. This is significant for reasons that won’t make sense to anyone who isn’t this deep into the saga. Suffice to say, we are reminded of why the Skolian Empire is a power, and what that power means.

I enjoyed getting to know Dyhianna. Her experience of the world is very different to that of the other Skolia. I also enjoyed revisiting certain events through her eyes. As always, I’m looking forward to the next book in the series.

I read Spherical Harmonic for the 2015 TBR Pile Challenge.

For The Definitive 1950s SF Reading Challenge hosted by Worlds Without End, I read I, Robot by Isaac Asimov and The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury. Going in, I did not know that either of these books were collections of short stories.

I, Robot, almost reads like a novel. There is a narrative thread that carries over from story to story, as well as many of the characters. The stories trace the history of modern robotics and each challenges one to three of the laws of robotics. That last aspect got a little repetitive after a while, with a few of the stories devolving into an abstract of logic as someone figured out how to outthink the robot. But, each of the stories was amusing in its own way, if not just because this book is so OLD. Asimov’s vision of the future isn’t perfectly prophetic, but always interesting—as is his obsession with the idea that, ultimately, we will reject our own creations. We will never fully trust them. Says a lot about human nature, eh?

In contrast, Ray Bradbury’s collection of stories is extremely varied. More than a few resonated. Some lovely apocalyptic glimpses and some very amusing ideas on what the other planets in our solar system might be like. The story that stood out for me was the first one, “The Veldt”. In it, Bradbury describes a room, called a nursery, that’s something like a holodeck. Whatever the kids imagine takes over the space. The kids are currently imagining Africa, and lions, and the lions are eating something. The father can’t quite make out what the meal is, but the violence of the scene disturbs him, as does the heat of Africa, and the roars of those lions. His wife suggests they call in a psychiatrist and they do. The psychiatrist takes one look at the scene and deduces that the kids are spoiled.

Wanting to be better parents, they decide to turn off the room. In fact, they’re going to turn off the whole house. Go on a vacation from technology. Tie their own shoes, brush their own hair, fold their own laundry. The kids throw a tantrum—the meltdown sort—and so they’re allowed one last minute in the room, which they use to gruesome effect.

This story gave me the chills because it pretty much described my fear of many modern conveniences—not just the tools we use, like cellphones and tablets, but the amount of time we spend engaged by the internet. The parallels were sobering and just a little frightening.

I think Bradbury writes more elegantly than Asimov. And though he’s obviously as interested in who and what we’ll be in the future, his stories touched more deeply on the emotion of us as beings. Very thoughtful reading, and still very relevant today.

For Dusting the Virtual Shelves, I read Rule by Jay Crownover. I didn’t expect to like this book as much as I did. It wasn’t without its problems, which I can’t really outline here without giving away the BIG SECRET in the book. Essentially, this is new adult contemporary romance, and it’s well done. The ages felt authentic, as did the emotions. It’s an opposites attract deal, but when you peel away a few of the layers, these two kids (d’aww, they’re so cute when they’re twenty-something) have more in common than they suspect. My issue, the BIG SECRET, was that said secret was pretty easy to figure out. It also wasn’t handled particularly sensitively, by either the author or the characters. Also, the names—Rule, Rome, Rowdy, Jet?

Not sayin’ I wouldn’t read another book in the series, though. It was pretty cute.

March was a very busy month, writing-wise. In between working on developmental edits for Skip Trace (book three of Chaos Station), Jenn and I also had to do a lot of promotion for the release of the first book in the series, Chaos Station. So far, Chaos Station has been really well received. We’ve been getting some amazing and thoughtful reviews. What really stands out to me are the comments regarding the mix of story and romance—the science fiction elements and plot, versus the more emotional story between the guys. We worked hard to balance these to our satisfaction and so are thrilled that readers seem to agree.

We’ve also had our first review of Lonely Shore (book two of Chaos Station), and it’s awesome. Lonely Shore is due for release May 25!

Edits are complete on my contemporary short story, “Out in the Blue”, which is due to be released by Dreamspinner Press on June 1 as part of their Never Too Late anthology. Each story will also be released separately, one every day in June. I’ve also finished the first draft of the story I’m writing for the Don’t Read in the Closet event, Love is an Open Road, hosted by the M/M Romance Group on Goodreads.

So, once again, a busy month!

Reading Challenge Update (January)

I’ve started out strongly, reading two of the books from my 2015 TBR Pile Challenge list. I also linked several reviews to the 2015 Sci-Fi Experience. In fact, I read twenty-six books over all. Most of them fell into some sort of romance category, but I also read a lot of historicals.

Generally, I follow my whims when it comes to picking up the next book and I rarely read the same genre one right after the other. I often don’t pick up a sequel for months. In January I made three exceptions. I read Riptide’s Bluewater Bay series back to back, Joanna Chambers’ Enlightenment series one after the other, and six historical titles. Blame Bernard Cornwell. The Archer’s Tale put me in the mood!

On to the reviews. For the 2015 TBR Pile Challenge, I read:

The Archer's Tale (The Grail Quest, #1)The Archer’s Tale by Bernard Cornwell

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Honestly, I can’t imagine giving a Bernard Cornwell novel any less than five stars. I always get so caught up in his stories and characters. The way he writes the battlefield is mesmerising. Add to that the thread of his own story, the characters who live and breath as if they’re a part of history, itself, and these are the sort of books I cannot put down. This is how we should teach kids history.

Previously, I’ve read Agincourt, which I could not put down. The book consumed my weekend, much as The Archer’s Tale did. Both feature an unassuming hero who is so far from perfect, it’s a wonder they survive until the end. Both detail real battles–and when I say detail, I mean every, gory and gruesome shred. That’s what makes such good reading, though. You feel as if you’re witnessing history as it happens, that you are truly a part of the story. It’s amazing. And even if you know the outcome of a particular battle, the retelling is just as thrilling. Bernard Cornwell makes it so.

Hounded (The Iron Druid Chronicles, #1)Hounded by Kevin Hearne

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was a lot of fun. I giggled several times. The plot isn’t complicated, which is just as well as there is so much else going on. A lot of lore to catch up on and many connections to keep straight. But Atticus is an endearing and patient guide to his world. Loved Oberon and his (present) obsession with Genghis Khan.

I’m not sure I’d read on right away as Urban Fantasy is not one of my favoured genres. I tend to get lost in the mythology of such endeavours, particularly when the author cross pollinates. But I’d heard good things about this one and had decided it needed to be read.

 

What’s up next? Currently, I’m reading Spherical Harmonic by Catherine Asaro. So far, it’s as good as I expected it to be. At some point, I’m going to catch up to the second half of the Saga of the Skolian Empire and bump into the books I’ve already read. Then I will be sad. Then I might write a fan letter to Ms. Asaro asking for more.

A note on Spherical Harmonic for fellow blogger, Carl V. Anderson, the cover art looked familiar, stylistically. I checked inside and discovered that it was, indeed, painted by John Harris. It’s a fantastic image, and I might not have recognized the artist if not for his repeated praise of Harris’ work.

For the 2015 Sci-Fi Experience, I logged five reviews:

Undercity by Catherine Asaro

The Fortress in Orion by Mike Resnick

The Galaxy Game by Karen Lord

Golden Son by Pierce Brown

Gemini Cell by Myke Cole

It’s been a busy month!

Next up for my science fiction reading, I plan to participate in The Definitive 1950s SF Reading Challenge hosted by Worlds Without End. I haven’t picked my books yet. I’ll save that for another post.

Until then, happy reading!