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”

Where’s the Rest of It?

Part two of my series on (relatively) recent gaming disappointments. Part one covered Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order.

The title of this blog post gives away my biggest disappointment regarding the otherwise fantastically entertaining game, Outer Worlds. But before I get into the ugly, let’s talk about the good and not-so-good. (No real spoilers follow except the fact the game was a lot shorter than I expected it to be.) Continue reading “Where’s the Rest of It?”

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”

Aliens Have Returned to New York!

The aliens first arrived in 2017 when Felice Stevens asked if I’d like to write for her upcoming Kindle World. The invitation flattered me for two reasons. One, Memories with the Breakfast Club was going to be the first LGBTQ Kindle World and Felice had asked me to be a part of it. Two, Felice had asked me to be a part of it! And she wanted me to write science fiction.

The deadline would be tight. I would have only thirty days to write something if I wanted it to be edited and polished in time for release. But the minimum word count was only 10,000 which is about five days writing for me. I could do it.

I decided to bring aliens to New York. In my head, I envisaged a Men in Black sort of world and plot and quickly started on the appropriate research. I have pages and pages of notes about secret facilities beneath Manhattan. But when I started thinking about my characters, Dillon and Lang solidified with a different idea and a very different theme. Uncommon Ground became more a fish out of water story, for both of my guys. I ended up with nearly 50,000 words, making Uncommon Ground the longest title in the collection (I think), but I loved what I’d written and knew I had a lot more stories to tell in the world I had created

Purple Haze reads a little deeper than Uncommon Ground, but it’s not. Not really. For me, it’s the logical continuation of what I started; the natural progression of a love story between two men who aren’t quite human. With Purple Haze, I’ve expanded on the themes introduced in Uncommon Ground by having Dillan and Lang ask themselves what it means to be human. To be a person. To be an individual. To have love, a family, and a home.

As I stated in the acknowledgments for Uncommon Ground, some of my favourite stories are the ones I wrote on a whim. The really out there ideas that shouldn’t work. Best in Show was the first, where I decided to write a housecat shifter—and began the book by locking him up in a rescue shelter. Then came Uncommon Ground, where I plunked a lonely alien down in the middle of New York City and had him fall for a pierced, purple-haired art teacher. To See the Sun was probably my most farfetched idea yet: mail order spouses journeying to remote, pioneering planets. Think space western with a Harlequin romance.

Purple Haze isn’t that far out there unless you think the possibility of aliens living in New York is remote. But however far I roam, the core of my stories remains the same. I love to take characters who don’t quite fit their environment and have them meet someone who will come to mean home for them. There’s nothing I like more than uniting two lonely souls and having them find forever in each other’s eyes.

That, more than anything, is what Purple Haze is about.

(But with more aliens and adventure, cool gadgets, a little redemption for one of one villain, and a whole new one to hate!)

Where to Buy

Amazon | Kindle Unlimited | Paperback

For readers who use retailers other than Amazon, both Uncommon Ground and Purple Haze will be wide sometime this summer!

 

A New Release Means Giveaways!

I’m not doing a blog tour for this release. I did five of them last year and I’m a little burned out on the cycle. I am doing several giveaways, though, because I love these books and want to see them in the hands of as many readers as possible.

I’ll be visiting a number of author groups on Facebook next week to give away ebook copies of the first book in the series, Uncommon Ground. Can’t wait that long? If you’re a Kindle Unlimited subscriber, you can now read Uncommon Ground for free!

Both books will remain a part of the Kindle Unlimited program for 90 days.

I’m also running two Instagram giveaways.

KUIG (1)

Download this image and post it to Instagram (or Twitter) with the tag #aliensinnewyork to enter the drawing for a copy of both ebooks.

Post an image of your copy of Uncommon Ground or Purple Haze to Instagram (Or Twitter) with the tag #imreadingaliensinnewyork for a chance to win a paperback.

Enter here, on my blog, by leaving a comment below, for a chance to win a copy of both ebooks.

My newsletter subscribers get access to the best giveaways. Subscribe now for a chance to win signed paperbacks of both books!

I’ll be running other giveaways on social media next week, so keep watching my feeds!

 

Want more Aliens in New York?

The number one question readers have following the conclusion of a series is, will there be another book? In this case, I honestly don’t know. When super positive early reviews roll in, I always feel like I should do it again. Write another book. But by the time I get through release day (and week) shenanigans, I’ve seen the not so great reviews and wonder if I’ll ever write again, let alone visit a particular world.

I’ve always maintained that I write my books for me, but that’s not 100% true. I write them for my readers, as well, especially when I write sequels. I think about what a reader would like to see next and try to work that in with what I have pictured for the characters and the world. Sometimes I hit the right notes, sometimes I don’t.

That being said, I’d like to revisit this world. It’s vast with very vague borders. I could do just about anything I wanted. I have ideas for Elder Arayu and other ideas for some of the Nay characters introduced in Purple Haze. I have plots-a-million in my head for this series. I have new characters waiting in the wings.

But first, I’m working on another of those off the wall ideas that might turn out to be my new favourite books. We’ll see.

What I’ve Been Reading

The theme for this summary of superb reads is definitely sustainability. I’ve returned to some favourite authors, hoping for something good, and got it. I tried a few new authors only to end up adding several new books to my mountainous TBR.  

 

41-y28l0FWL._SY346_The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. Le Guin 

Reread. I actually had little to no memory of the story, which is a bit disturbing. The same thing happened with The Fountains of Paradise (Clarke), which I vaguely remembered the beginning of, but not much else. Anyway, this time I listened to the audio, and as always, I got a lot more out of the book.  

The Lathe of Heaven is pretty much what I’ve come to expect from Le Guin. It’s thoughtful and easy to follow with a protagonist who at first feels as if he’s plot flotsam, but who proves worthy by the end. I enjoyed the character growth and the overall comment on society. 

The end in this instance wasn’t quite what I expected, which might be why I didn’t rate the book higher back in ‘o8. Or it could be that sometimes I have a hard time reading concept books myself and do better with the audio version. 

51y-cj9gfmL._SY346_The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North 

My Goodreads review for this one reads: Wonderful. 

Thanks, past me.  

To elaborate, this is my new favourite Claire North. I’d read Touch previously and adored the difference of it. Harry August is similar in that it’s very different and very worthwhile.  

Basically, the story covers the first fifteen lives of the apparently immortal being, Harry August. As you’d expect, much of the book is about the how and why of Harry’s perennial existence, and the effect it has on him, others like him, and the world in general. The mechanics of Harry’s continual rebirth, and how those like him communicate across the ages, are fascinating to read. But what makes this book stand out, aside from Harry’s voice, and Harry, himself, is the other layer. The friendship that ties the book together from beginning to end. Strip away all the “other” and this is the story of what friendship can mean, especially to those who have lifetimes in which to develop it.  

41x2OHpDTFLFoundryside (Founders #1) by Robert Jackson Bennett 

Simply put, Foundryside is a fantastic book. Super easy to read and engaging from the very first page. It was funnier than I thought it would be, often in a sly sort of way. More gruesome in parts, too. And sweet. And super thoughtful. Very clever. So, basically, fantastic.  

I often find it difficult to connect with female characters but had no such issues here. I also liked the slight twist on usual tropes and the inclusion of queer characters. Science fiction and fantasy are becoming a lot more representative of the world we live in, regardless of whether the book is set here or not. To me, that’s important.  

I previously enjoyed the Divine Cities and I’m really looking forward to the rest of this series. 

51RmQtqarcLThe Music of What Happens by Bill Konigsberg 

I would happily shelve this next to Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe That could be the sum total of my review if you’ve read Aristotle and Dante. And it’s very high praise.

For the uninitiated, The Music of What Happens has the same blend of painful youth, life lessons, and friendship. The book speaks to all youth, and the struggle with identity, whether sexual, racial or just being a human being. 

I loved the food truck adventures and was hungry pretty much the whole time I listened (this was another audiobook read). I laughed and I cried (thankfully I was alone on the creek trail at this point). All the stars from me. 

If you’re not reading Bill Konigsberg yet, start with my favourite, Openly Straight, and work your way here!

41H4AwUU-GLThe Huntress by Kate Quinn 

Amazing. One of the most engrossing and fascinating books I’ve ever read. I was glued to the page and fully invested.  

I really didn’t know much about the book going in, except that at some point, I’d added it to my library hold list. When it turned up, I sort of shrugged and dove in, hoping for the best… and became instantly enthralled.  

I loved the adventure, the humour, and the love stories, but mostly, I enjoyed reading about Nina’s journey west, from The Old Man to Boston. She’s an absolutely brilliant character! I’m definitely inspired to look for more from Kate Quinn. 

51BnjDRpZGL._SY346_Fool’s Errand (Tawny Man #1) by Robin Hobb 

Another one-word Goodreads review: Wonderful. 

Honestly, sometimes you don’t need more, particularly with an author as prolific as Robin Hobb… and when you’re talking about the first book in the third trilogy of a series that began the year before you graduated high school. (In other words, a long, long time.) 

Because it had been a while since I set foot in this universe, it did take me a little while to catch up, which is why I appreciated the slower beginning to this book. The first part is quiet and might not sweep a new reader in quite as quickly as Assassin’s Apprentice. It had the feel of the author also returning to this world and remembering with the reader why it’s so beloved.  

What I really appreciated was the slow and gentle rebuilding of the friendship between Fitz and the Fool. I also just loved the story, Fitz’s development and our introduction to new, obviously important characters.  

51mLOnwH+DLThe Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne 

I had to wait for a day (to finish crying) before I wrote this review and during that time, I kept thinking back over certain passages and tearing up. I couldn’t settle into another book.  

While reading The Heart’s Invisible Furies (which is pretty much the best title ever), I often thought the more tragic and coincidental aspects of the story might be a little too tragic and coincidental. But by the time I had reached the latter parts of the book, and then the end, I couldn’t imagine Cyril’s story being told any other way.

The events of his life snip corners away from Cyril’s character in an irretrievable way. He’s such a sad figure by the end. They also unflinchingly expose the awfully fallible society within which he was raised. Anything gentler wouldn’t have worked as well, nor allowed the high points and humour to have shined quite as brightly as they did.

This book is funny. Surprisingly so. Horribly so. I laughed despite myself more than once. It’s also very, very sad, and I cried a lot. Unabashedly at times. I also wept after I had finished, while thinking back, and while describing some of the moments to others. 

A wonderful story, magnificently told. I’d ordered a paper copy for the keeper shelf within minutes of finishing and bookmarked several of John Boyne’s other books. Now to find the time to read them! 

51upSSshYeL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_A Chip and a Chair (Seven of Spades #5) by Cordelia Kingsbridge 

As with the rest of the series, A Chip and a Chair is superbly written. The relationship between Dom and Levi survives the watertight test (just) and just as importantly, both characters come to terms with themselves. This is something that’s missing from a lot of romance novels (in all subgenres). I’m all for happy ever afters, but to me, the relationship of a character to themselves is always just as important.  

So, without spoilers, my guess for who the killer might be was spot on—but I did wonder from time to time (book to book) if I might be wrong. The author throws in a few expert twists and really had me believing a certain other character might be the Seven of Spades. It worked, and had the added bonus of being a very uncomfortable realization.  

Las Vegas is a city I’m extremely familiar with due to almost yearly visits with family over the past two decades and it was kind of shocking to bear witness to events in the final book.  

I waited for the last book to be published before reading the final three in one marathon session, which is unusual for me. I can usually spread a series out over a year or more. But the suspense is high and the need to stop the killer as well as see Dom and Levi set straight is pretty compulsive.  

Can’t wait to see where Cordelia Kingsbridge takes us next. 

51OfLvwqLkL._SY346_Swing by Kwame Alexander and Mary Rand Hess 

I picked this one up because of the cover. It’s so energetic and matches the rhythm of the book perfectly. Swing is one of the titles offered by the free summer reading program Sync, audiobooks for teens. The program runs for fourteen weeks with two new offerings every week. Click through for more information. 

Swing is the story of Noah, who has a lot of feelings and isn’t sure what to do with them, and the advice given to him by his best friend Walt, who takes on the name Swing to better further his own ambitions. The book is a combination of lyrics, poetry, and story. 

The highlight of Swing is the narration of author Kwame Alexander. There are many moments where the story takes on a performance note, and the words become poetry.  

That ending, though…