Tag Archives: personal reading habits

Top Ten Unique Reads…

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Once again those fine folks at The Broke and Bookish came up with a Top Ten Tuesday list I found irresistible, so I put my thinking cap on and came up with these – hopefully you’ll forgive the fact that it isn’t Tuesday…

Snowflake by Paul Gallico
A delightful story of the life of Snowflake, who was “all stars and arrows, squares and triangles of ice and light”. Through Snowflake’s special role in the pattern of creation and life, Paul Gallico has given us a simple allegory on the meaning of life, its oneness and ultimate safety.
A teacher read this one to us when I was in the equivalent of today’s Year Six and I was enchanted. I tracked down a lot more of Paul Gallico’s reads – and to be honest, many of them are unlike anything I’ve ever read, before or since. But they certainly fired up my taste for something different…

Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury
A carnival rolls in sometime after the midnight hour on a chill Midwestern October eve, ushering in Halloween a week before its time. A calliope’s shrill siren song beckons to all with a seductive promise of dreams and youth regained. In this season of dying, Cooger & Dark’s Pandemonium Shadow Show has come to Green Town, Illinois, to destroy every life touched by its strange and sinister mystery. And two inquisitive boys standing precariously on the brink of adulthood will soon discover the secret of the satanic raree-show’s smoke, mazes, and mirrors, as they learn all too well the heavy cost of wishes – and the stuff of nightmares.
We were on a caravan holiday in France and I’d scooped this one off the shelves to take with us. I read it one heavy, hot summer afternoon while nibbling on chocolate – suddenly very glad for blazing sunshine and comforting presence of family. And as soon as I got to the end, I started reading it all over again, wanting more of that alluring prose and dark ideas.

Occupy Me by Tricia Sullivan
Tricia Sullivan has written an extraordinary, genre defining novel that begins with the mystery of a woman who barely knows herself and ends with a discovery that transcends space and time. On the way we follow our heroine as she attempts to track down a killer in the body of another man, and the man who has been taken over, his will trapped inside the mind of the being that has taken him over. And at the centre of it all a briefcase that contains countless possible realities.
There is no one whose imagination works in quite the same way as Tricia Sullivan – and this amazing offering is certainly unique. I loved this quirky story and the directions in which it went, while following the fortunes of all the remarkable characters who seem perfectly reasonable – until you realise the prism through which you are looking at them has refracted into something different…

The Gone-Away World by Nick Harkaway
The Jorgmund Pipe is the backbone of the world, and it’s on fire. Gonzo Lubitsch, professional hero and troubleshooter, is hired to put it out – but there’s more to the fire, and the Pipe itself, than meets the eye. The job will take Gonzo and his best friend, our narrator, back to their own beginnings and into the dark heart of the Jorgmund Company itself.
Another extraordinary tale that swept me up, held me rapt and then – finally – released me with a doozy of a twist ending I certainly didn’t see coming. This roller-coaster read snaps off the page with memorable lines and exuberant characters – see my review here.

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler
What if you grew up to realise that your father had used your childhood as an experiment? Rosemary doesn’t talk very much, and about certain things she’s silent. She had a sister, Fern, her whirlwind other half, who vanished from her life in circumstances she wishes she could forget. And it’s been ten years since she last saw her beloved older brother, Lowell. Now at college, Rosemary starts to see that she can’t go forward without going back to the time when, aged five, she was sent away from home to her grandparents and returned to find Fern gone.
This is a remarkable book – more so as it is based on a true event. And as we follow Rosemary when she goes on a quest to try and track down what happened to Fern, we discover a heartbreaking story of loss and abandonment that started with the best of intentions and ended up blighting the young lives of all the siblings in the family – see my review here.

Touchstone – Book 1 of the Glass Thorns series by Melanie Rawn
Cayden Silversun is part Elven, part Fae, part human Wizard—and all rebel. His aristocratic mother would have him follow his father to the Royal Court, to make a high society living off the scraps of kings. But Cade lives and breathes for the theater, and he’s good—very, very good. With his company, he’ll enter the highest reaches of society and power, as an honored artist—or die trying.
This remarkable series is a tour de force. I haven’t read anything quite like it and I don’t think I ever will… Cayden is a remarkable, spiky character cursed with genius and flashes of prescience. No one else has ever managed to depict the cost of this type of talent so thoroughly as Rawn in this magnificent series, which deserves to be a lot better known – see my review here.

Among Others by Jo Walton
When Mori discovers that her mother is using black magic, she decides to intervene. The ensuing clash between mother and daughter leaves Mori bereft of her twin sister, crippled for life and unable to return to the Welsh Valleys that were her own kingdom. Mori finds solace and strength in her beloved books. But her mother is bent on revenge, and nothing and no one – not even Tolkien – can save her from the final reckoning.
The writing is extraordinary in the pin-sharp description of the everyday, alongside the remarkable and Mori’s character is so compellingly realistic and nuanced, I’m undecided whether there is a large chunk of autobiographical detail wrapped up in this book. And I don’t really care – other than to fervently hope, for her sake, there isn’t too much that is borrowed from Walton’s own life. Memorable and remarkable art invariably is a fusion of imagination and reality – and this is both a memorable and remarkable book. See my review here.

A Kind of Vanishing by Lesley Thomson
Summer 1968: the day Senator Robert Kennedy is shot, two nine-year-old girls are playing hide and seek in the ruins of a deserted village. When it is Eleanor’s turn to hide, Alice disappears.
Thomson immediately plunges into the world of young girls, depicting first Eleanor’s rich interior landscape and then allowing us to access to Alice’s carefully modulated world, where her doting parents watch her every move. Thomson paints an exquisite picture of each girls’ fragilities, their aspirations and pin-sharp awareness of adult expectations. She beautifully inhabits the terrible, wonderful world of childhood – and the girls’ growing antipathy towards each other as they are forced to play together – until that disastrous game of hide and seek. This thriller/mystery is like nothing else I’ve read – see my review here.

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
This is the first of the acclaimed Man Booker prizewinning books about Henry VIII’s bully boy Thomas Cromwell, who oversaw the dissolution of the monasteries. Mantel instantly had me off-balance with her present tense, third person deep POV when we first meet Cromwell being beaten by Walter, his drunken father, and he is lying on the ground trying to summon up the will to move. So Mantel quickly gains our sympathy for her protagonist – but rather than chart his adventures in Europe where he spent time as a mercenary and scholar, we then jump to when he is in Cardinal Wolsey’s employ and establishing himself as a man of substance.
The biggest problem for Mantel in choosing this period of history, is that many of us know the progression of events all too well. But while that is the frame and backdrop in this compelling read – it is Cromwell’s intense presence throughout that had me turning the pages and mourning the fact when there were no more pages… See my review here.

Embassytown by China Miéville
Embassytown, a city of contradictions on the outskirts of the universe. On Arieka, Humans are not the only intelligent life. Only a tiny cadre of unique human Ambassadors can speak Language, and connect the two communities. But an unimaginable new arrival has come to Embassytown. And when this Ambassador speaks, everything changes.
Miéville’s brilliant imagination produces a truly unusual alien species with a Language where emotion and meaning are inextricably linked, requiring human identical twins raised to be able to think and talk in tandem in order to keep the isolated human enclave, Embassytown, supplied with food and resources. Until it all goes horribly wrong… A fabulous examination of what it means to communicate. This book should be required reading for all prospective diplomats, in my opinion… See my review here.

Time Tag

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Many thanks to Lynn from Lynn’s Book Blog for nominating me to take part in this lovely tag.

What is your favourite historical setting for a book?
I love the Tudor period – it’s the period I studied for my History degree so I know a reasonable amount about the history of this time. But I also enjoy the Victorian time – events moved so very quickly during that it was a period of great upheaval and yet isn’t all that long ago. So… both these periods tend to snag my interest.

 

What writer/s would you like to travel back in time to meet?
William Shakespeare. It’s a no-brainer. The genius that gave us a canon of marvellous plays and beautiful poetry must be worth sitting across the table and chatting to! Even if he only wants to grumble about the weather and the difficulties of finding a boy to adequately play Juliet – especially if he wants to grumble about that one, come to think of it…

 

What book/s would you travel back in time and give to your younger self?
It would have to be C.J. Cherryh’s Heavy Time. Her writing style and depiction of space just blew me away. My younger self would love to read this and derive a great sense of comfort to discover that books like that were in existence as I was getting increasingly disillusioned with many of the contemporary literary offerings I was ploughing through at the time.

 

What book/s would you travel forward in time and give to your older self?
I wouldn’t bother. My older self is going to be caught up with the books being published at the time, so my crashing into her reading patterns won’t probably be very welcome. I don’t take kindly to sudden surprises…

 

What is your favourite futuristic setting from a book?
I have three… two based on Earth and one that sees us out in the among the stars. One of the most poignant and effective settings is the depiction of a nearly empty Paris, overrun by alien vegetation from portals drawn by Eric Brown in his novel Engineman. To be honest, the story itself isn’t quite as effective as the setting in my opinion – but I’ve dreamed of this landscape many times. The other futuristic setting I particularly enjoy is that in the Earth Girl series by Janet Edwards, where Earth is largely uninhabited apart from those who are unable to leave due to a genetic quirk.

I also love the world that Lois McMaster Bujold has created in her Miles Vorkosigan series that sprawls across a chain of planets.

 

What is your favourite book that is set in a different time period (can be historical or futuristic)?
I love several – Doomsday is a classic time travel book by Connie Willis that goes back to the medieval period. It’s a wonderful book and rightly regarded as a classic. Another book that I particularly love is the above mentioned Heavy Time by C.J. Cherryh, but my favourite is Mendoza in Hollywood which is a dreadful title for an outstanding book by Kage Baker about a time-travelling biologist harvesting plants about to be pushed into the brink of extinction by the growth of the film industry. It is part of Baker’s amazing The Company series, which I think deserves to be known a lot better than it is.

 

Spoiler Time: Do you ever skip ahead to the end of a book just to see what happens?
Only if I don’t intend to finish the book – otherwise what is the point of bothering to read it?

 

If you had a Time Turner, where would you go and what would you do?
Oh yes please! And now I’m going to sound incredibly boring… I’d like to use one like Hermione Granger so I could fulfil my teaching commitments, keep the house reasonably clean and clutter-free, be a better wife, daughter, mother and grandmother, while also writing full-time.

 

Favourite book (if you have one) that includes time travel or takes place in multiple time periods?
I cannot possibly pinpoint a single book, so I’ll follow Lynn’s example and recommend four, other than the ones already mentioned above:-
Night Watch – Book 29 of the Discworld novels by the late, great Terry Pratchett

This is Pratchett’s time travel book – and one of his best, in my opinion, as Sam Vimes, the grumpy Commander of the Ankh-Morpork’s police force, is caught up in a magical storm and hauled back in time.

 

The Many-Colored Land – Book 1 of the Saga of the Exiles by Julian May

This first book in a remarkable, ground-breaking series features Elizabeth who travels back in time to escape the trauma of having lost her metaphysical abilities. Ironically, her journey – in which she encounters a humanoid alien race who have made Earth their home – causes her abilities to manifest themselves once more. Which draws down a lot of unwelcome attention upon Elizabeth…

Frozen in Time by Ali Sparkes

This standalone children’s book is a joy. A brother and sister cryonically suspended are accidentally woken up fifty years later by another brother and sister, while exploring an underground building at the bottom of the garden. The resulting adventure is both funny and very revealing about how customs have changed during the last fifty years – for both good and ill.

 

 

The Just City – Book 1 of the Thessaly trilogy by Jo Walton

This is a remarkable time travel experiment designed by the goddess Athene to test the principles set down by Plato in his book The Republic. I can guarantee you won’t have read anything quite like it.

 

What book/series do you wish you could go back and read again for the first time?
The Discworld novels! They define a part of my life and if I could bottle the sheer excitement of opening up a new one, laughing at the Pratchett jokes for the first time again, that would be a wonderful treat.

I’m not going to nominate anyone in particular – but do please have a go if this Time Tag appeals to you as a fan of historical settings or time travelling adventures. I’d love to hear your choices!

Top Ten Spring Reads

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This was the theme on this week’s Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and Bookish and I thought it was such a lovely one, I decided to join in – albeit two days late!

1. Blood Upon the Sand – Book 2 of The Songs of the Shattered Sands by Bradley Beaulieu
When Çeda and Emre are drawn into a plot of the blood mage, Hamzakiir, they sail across the desert to learn the truth, and a devastating secret is revealed, one that may very well shatter the power of the hated kings.
During this winter, I’ve developed a real taste for desert-based fantasy and the first book in this series – Twelve Kings – was a gripping read. I’m really looking forward to getting lost once more in this complex, well written world full of heat, sand and intrigue…

 

2. Mira’s Last Dance – Book 4 of the Penric and Desdemona series by Lois McMaster Bujold
In this sequel to the novella Penric’s Mission, the injured Penric, a Temple sorcerer and learned divine, tries to guide the betrayed General Arisaydia and his widowed sister Nikys across the last hundred miles of hostile Cedonia to safety in the Duchy of Orbas.
I’ve really enjoyed this series of novellas as Penric learns to adapt to the twelve demons riding him. There is plenty of action and I have particularly grown to love the unintended consequences that spring up around a good man coping with a host of chaos demons. Wonderful stuff!

 

3. The Ninth Rain – Book 1 of The Winnowing Flame Trilogy by Jen Williams
The great city of Ebora once glittered with gold. Now its streets are stalked by wolves. Tormalin the Oathless has no taste for sitting around waiting to die while the realm of his storied ancestors falls to pieces – talk about a guilt trip. Better to be amongst the living, where there are taverns full of women and wine.
After the storming series The Copper Cat, I was delighted to be able to get hold of this latest offering by such a talented author. Her swashbuckling energy will nicely chime with warmer days and lots of greenery appearing in the garden.

 

4. The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi
Our universe is ruled by physics and faster than light travel is not possible — until the discovery of The Flow, an extra-dimensional field we can access at certain points in space-time that transport us to other worlds, around other stars. Humanity flows away from Earth, into space, and in time forgets our home world and creates a new empire, the Interdependency, whose ethos requires that no one human outpost can survive without the others. It’s a hedge against interstellar war — and a system of control for the rulers of the empire. And then the Emperox dies just as a cataclysmic change threatens the stability of everything…
Scalzi is always worth reading – I particularly loved his futuristic crime thriller Lock In – so I fell upon this start to a new epic space opera when I spotted it on Netgalley. It should be full of thrills and spills, along with some interesting ideas along the way.

 

5. Saven Deception – Book 1 of the Saven series by Siobhan Davis
Sadie Owens has been slowly dying inside. Bit by bit, piece by piece, day by day. Trapped in a life she hates, she relies on only one person—herself. Despised by her family and betrayed by an unscrupulous government, Sadie dreams of a different life. When she is chosen to participate in the government’s new social experiment, she is ecstatic at the prospect of spending six months in Thalassic City, the shiny new city under the sea. Immediately drawn to Logan Chandler, Sadie is captivated by the beautiful boy with the ocean-blue eyes. Logan seems to embody everything that has been forbidden, but he isn’t all he appears to be.
While visiting other book blogs, this series kept popping up with lots of good things being said about it, so when I had the opportunity to get hold of the first book in the series and see what all the fuss was about – I grabbed it. I’m looking forward to tucking into this one and maybe getting hold of some more of the books in due course.

 

6. The Operator – Book 2 of The Peri Reed Chronicles by Kim Harrison
Peri Reed’s job eats her mind, but for a special task agent in hiding, forgetting the past can be a blessing. Betrayed by the man she thought she loved and the agency who turned her into the very thing she fought against, Peri abandoned the wealth and privilege of Opti for anonymity riddled with memory gaps and self-doubt.
I’ve recently finished the first book in this series, The Drafter, and thoroughly enjoyed it. Harrison delivers a twisting plot, foot to the floor action and some thought provoking questions along the way – the staple of excellent science fiction. So I’m really looking forward to seeing how this next slice of the adventure plays out.

 

7. My Parents Are Out of Control – Book 2 of the How To Train Your Parents by Pete Johnson
Louis doesn’t think much of it when his mum and dad ask him for tips on how to be cool. In fact, he thinks it’s pretty funny watching them bump fists and use words like ‘safe’, ‘sick’ and ‘wicked’. Until Dad turns up outside Louis’s new school dressed like a rapper, that is . . . Suddenly they’re trying to friend Louis and all his classmates on Facebook, and wearing baseball caps backwards – IN PUBLIC. Louis and his best friend Maddy are horrified. Mum and Dad have taken things too far . . . and immediate action is needed!
I read the first book in this series, How To Train Your Parents, to my granddaughter, who thoroughly enjoyed it – and so did I. We got hold of the rest of the series and I need to read it in advance, as otherwise I’m tempted to skim ahead as I’m reading aloud to find out what happens next…

 

8. A Crown of Wishes – Book 2 of The Star-Touched Queen series by Roshani Chokshi
Gauri, the princess of Bharata, has been taken as a prisoner of war by her kingdom’s enemies. Faced with a future of exile and scorn, Gauri has nothing left to lose. Hope unexpectedly comes in the form of Vikram, the cunning prince of a neighboring land and her sworn enemy kingdom.
I thoroughly enjoyed The Star-Touched Queen. Chokshi’s rich lush prose and mythological story gave this tale an epic feel that reminded me of the Arabian Nights’ stories of my youth. I’m looking forward to being transported back to a land full of wonders and danger – as well as meeting up again with a certain meat-eating horse…

 

9. The Tropic of Serpents – Book 2 of The Memoirs of Lady Trent by Marie Brennon
Attentive readers of Lady Trent’s earlier memoir, A Natural History of Dragons, are already familiar with how a bookish and determined young woman named Isabella first set out on the historic course that would one day lead her to becoming the world’s premier dragon naturalist. Now, in this remarkably candid second volume, Lady Trent looks back at the next stage of her illustrious (and occasionally scandalous) career.
I loved the first slice of this adventure and have left it far too long before revisiting this enjoyable Victorian-like world where an intrepid young woman is determined to continue studying dragons in the wild, despite the dangers and discomfort…

 

10. Occupy Me by Tricia Sullivan
A woman with wings that exist in another dimension. A man trapped in his own body by a killer. A briefcase that is a door to hell. A conspiracy that reaches beyond our world…
When I saw this, I had to scoop it off the shelves and bring it home. Sullivan is always worth reading, here is my review of Lightborn. Her stories are invariably peopled by complex, interesting characters and her worlds always reverberate with me, to the extent that I nearly always dream about them… So I’m very much looking forward to getting stuck into this one.

 

And that’s part of my reading list this Spring. Are there any books here that you are also intending to read, or have already read?

My 2016 Reading Year – the Statistics

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Yes, I know. It seems a very long time ago, but as it was a remarkable reading year for me I thought I’d share some of the statistics around my book choices.

In total, I read 153 books, of these 57 were written by male authors and 96 books by female authors. I started paying attention to the gender of authors I read when I realised that I was reading far more books by male authors than I had thought, so it was a target to read more women writers and I am satisfied with this ratio.

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Another related challenge I set myself was to read at least two books by a female author previously unknown to me – the Discovery Challenge, prompted by Jo Hall. During 2016, I read 45 books by women writers I hadn’t previously encountered, and 22 books by male authors I hadn’t read before. So 43% of books I read were by authors new to me.

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A new challenge I undertook last year was to start reviewing new releases and properly activate my previously-dormant NetGalley account, which I did. I read and reviewed 75 new releases during 2016 and by the end of the year, I earned my 80% feedback ratio badge with NetGalley. This has been one of the highlights of the year and has also put me in touch with the book blogging community – a joy to be able to chat about books with like-minded people. I also wanted to clear the books stacking up on my Kindle and beside my bed – this aim was less successful as I only read 25 of these. Next year I want to read more books from my TBR pile.

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Last year I read 59 fantasy books, 48 science fiction books, 4 historical adventures, 10 contemporary fiction, 17 crime and 14 others. Science fiction includes sub-genres including time travel, steampunk, apocalyptic, post-apocalyptic, military, space opera and literary. Fantasy includes sub-genres including epic, urban, swords and sorcery, musket and magic, grimdark and coming of age.

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As an ex-primary school teacher, I still enjoy reading children’s books – I read 19 in 2016, along with 30 YA books. The rest were adult/new adult. I must confess, I was surprised at this one – I was under the impression I had read more YA books. I think that during 2017, I should ensure I read more children’s and YA books.

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What about you? Are you happy with the gender ratio/genres/TBR books you’ve read during 2016?

The Sunshine Blogger Award

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Thank you very much, BibliomanicEzza, for nominating me for this lovely, cheerful award – particularly as we are now headed into winter and can do with every scrap of sunshine we can get… If you haven’t visited her book blog, she’s now back after a break – swing by and check it out.

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BibliomanicEzza’s Questions
How many books do you physically own? (It doesn’t have to be a specific number, a guess would do)
I’ve around 800 books on my Kindle, although that is between us, as Himself and I share many of our books as we both enjoy fantasy and science fiction. And as for physical books… we must have around 1,000 physical books as well (gulp).

How did your love of reading start? Was it because of a specific book, movie etc?
I cannot recall a time in my life when I didn’t love reading and books. My mother says that when I was 18 months old, before I could walk, she would hand me her new magazines and Readers’ Digest book and I would carefully turn the pages without tearing them and look at each page, before turning over the next one. It would keep me occupied long enough for her to do the washing by hand, apparently…

What genre would you want to see reinvented or given new life?
I don’t think there’s any genre I love reading that seems to be stale. On the contrary, thanks to the influx of indie authors, I think there is a steady stream of interesting, well written books busy taking established tropes within the science fiction and fantasy genres and shaking them up.

Are you good at self-control when it comes to Netgalley?
Hm. To a point… I had a sticky patch during September when I requested too many books, so I’ve learnt to be self disciplined – because otherwise I run into difficulties with keeping a stream of material for my blog. And I love the diversity and range of books I’ve read via NetGalley, but I don’t want to find myself falling behind which could impact on the pleasure I get from reading.

What themes would you like to see more/less in books?
I’ve become thoroughly fed up with triangular love stories in YA books. It worked well in The Hunger Games series, but many scenarios just become sleazy, when two hapless men are kept dangling while the heroine we’re supposed to care about is busy sending mixed messages as she spends far too long deciding which one she loves. Really??

Is there any classic books that you would like to see be completely reinvented with modern values, themes and problems?
The only one that comes to mind is Treasure Island, which is a cracking tale.

What is your opinion about stretching a well known series VS a new fresh story?
It depends on how successfully its done. I’ve seen series taken on beyond their initial planned demise and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading the subsequent books – the Miles Vorkosigan series by Lois McMaster Bujold is a case in point. However, I did have a sense that the Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris was limping a bit by the time we got to the end.

Are you an aspiring writer/author? If so what genre would your story be?
I am an author, as yet unpublished other than a number of short stories and some poems, and I mostly write science fiction books although the book I’m working on at the moment is a fantasy book based on Shakespeare’s play The Tempest.

What is your favorite book of all time?
Oh noooo… you can’t do this to me! It seriously depends on the circumstances – if I was stuck on said island, I’d want to turn to my proverbial comfort blanket, so it would have to be a Pratchett novel, probably Small Gods. If I needed to get lost in a book that made me laugh and cry and I’ve thought a lot about, then it would be Mendoza Goes to Hollywood by Kage Baker, which is the fourth book in her awesome Company series. If I wanted brainfood and a book to mull over and consider carefully, my choice is Necessity, the third book in Jo Walton’s Thessaly series. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg – I haven’t covered me in grumpy mode… feeling sorry for myself… wanting a purely escapist read… But just one book? Can’t do it, sorry…

Physical book or e-book?
If it’s fiction, an e-book, but if it’s non-fiction or a picture book then it has to be the physical version. And with some of our favourite fiction authors, we still insist on ordering the hardcover edition.

How do you overcome a reading slump?
I don’t get them. However, when I’m bang in the middle of writing a book, my reading rate tails off so that I’m barely managing 7 or 8 books a month and I do find when I’m busy editing, I need to read to lose myself in other worlds, so my reading rate increases.

My nominations for The Sunshine Blogger Award:-
Emma at One Reader’s Thoughts
A great review site for book bloggers, with readable entertaining reviews all attractively presented. If you haven’t visited it, do swing by.

Jo at My Chestnut Reading Tree
Another splendid book review site, particularly for fans of psychological thrillers and twisty murder mysteries.

Leona at Leona’s Blog of Shadows
Particularly for fans of fantasy, particularly grimdark, though there are a wide range of reviews and bookchat going on at this enjoyable, well presented site. And I got to meet Leona at Bristolcon this year – yay!

Anyone else who wishes to take part by answering my nosy, bookish questions below, please dive in.

My Questions
1. What was the last book that made you both laugh and cry?
2. Do you finish reading books you really dislike?
3. Name one of the first books you read that gave you the ‘tingle’ factor.
4. When and where do you most regularly read?
5. What makes you pick up a book and want to read it?
6. What is your pet peeve that can spoil your reading experience? (Misleading book covers, blurting blurbs, lazy plotlines…)
7. What is the funniest book you’ve ever read?
8. Name a must-read author and say a little bit about why you like their work so much.
9. What is your favourite book cover of 2016 so far?
10. Which book that you’ve recently read would you like to see made into a film or TV series?

Sunday Post – 21st August

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Sunday Post

This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Book Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.

iphonestuckEarly in the week I had some tech issues when Apple finally managed to foist an unwanted update onto my phone when I was downloading some pics (note to self: that’s what my camera is for…) which jammed the wretched thing. Fraught hours I couldn’t afford later, I finally managed to it by restoring it to factory settings. The whole episode rankles, frankly. Just like the fact I can’t remove the Stocks and Shares and News links from my phone – since when do Apple get to mediate the priorities in my life?

The grandchildren returned unexpectedly for another stay on Tuesday through to Friday, which was a lovely surprise. The better weather meant we were able to go to the beach and visit the gorgeous Highdown Gardens, where my butterfly pic above was taken last year.

Other than that, we didn’t go out and about all that much – I have a fair amount of work on my plate and we also spent a significant slice of time watching the Olympic action in Rio. Oscar, in particular, was very keen to follow Team GB.

This week I’ve managed to read:
Spellbreaker – Book 3 of the Spellwright Trilogy by Blake Charltonspellbreaker
Leandra Weal has a bad habit of getting herself in dangerous situations. While hunting neodemons in her role as Warden of Ixos, Leandra obtains a prophetic spell that provides a glimpse one day into her future. She discovers that she is doomed to murder someone she loves, soon, but not who. That’s a pretty big problem for a woman who has a shark god for a lover, a hostile empress for an aunt, a rogue misspelling wizard for a father, and a mother who–especially when arguing with her daughter–can be a real dragon.
This intriguing offering can be characterised as hard fantasy, with a rigorous magical structure played out within a highly talented, touchy family. It makes for a fascinating, original dynamic in epic fantasy.

 

 

Autonomy by Jude Houghton
autonomyBalmoral Murraine works in a Battery, assembling devices she doesn’t understand for starvation pay. Pasco Eborgersen is the pampered son of an Elite, trying to navigate the temptations of the Pleasure Houses, the self-sacrifice of the Faith, and the high-octane excitement of Steel Ball. They never should have met, and now they will rip the world apart. What happens when ninety percent of the world lives on skaatch – a jellyfish and insect composite? What happens when mankind spends more time in alternative life sims instead of in the “real” world? What happens when economic interest is the sole determinant of global decision making? What happens when a single secret is discovered that calls into question everything we have ever believed? Welcome to the Autonomy. Welcome to your future.

This post-apocalyptic dystopian science fiction adventure is a cracking story, with some sharp things to say about the current inequality of resources and the damage caused by runaway capitalism embedded in amongst the entertaining action. A strong, thought-provoking read I reviewed yesterday.

 

My posts last week:
Sunday Post – 14th August

2016 Discovery Challenge – July Roundup

Teaser Tuesday – featuring Autonomy by Jude Houghton

Review of The Fifth Season – Book 1 of the Broken Earth series by N.K. Jemisin

Favourite London Spec Fic Tales – Part 2

Friday Faceoff – There’s Blood on Thy Face featuring The Radleys by Matt Haig

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Autonomy by Jude Houghton

Other interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last week, in no particular order:

Harry Potter Month (20) https://lynns-books.com/2016/08/20/harry-potter-month-20/ Lynn has been featuring all things Harry Potterish this month and I really enjoyed this selection of covers from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

A Weekly Ritual https://ginnibites.wordpress.com/2016/08/16/a-weekly-ritual/ This sharply clever little poem aptly sums up my own experiences on leaving the house…

Miss Majorie Fay https://readlorigreer.com/2016/08/15/miss-marjorie-fay/ Lori Greer pays a moving tribute to an inspirational teacher.

Introducing the Shadow Histories of the River Kingdom – coming this autumn from the Wizard’s Tower Press http://www.julietemckenna.com/?p=2223 Exciting news of a new collection for fans of quality fantasy from author Juliet E. McKenna

How to Panel Like a Pro http://writerunboxed.com/2016/08/20/how-to-panel-like-a-pro/ This funny article had me chuckling – I’ll be on the alert to see which panel members at the Cons I’ll be shortly attending will be taking these top tips to heart…

Many thanks for visiting and taking the time and trouble to comment – and may you have a wonderful reading and blogging week.

Of course, IMHO, any time is a great time to read — but, if you were forced to choose the best season for reading (in your own opinion), what would it be? Why?

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Once more, my plans to share my current reads with you were abruptly jettisoned when I read Jen’s excellent question on her Musing Monday blog this week and decided to answer it.

Some of my very best memories are of reading on holiday, When I was a girl, I lived with my grandparents, who MusingMondays-ADailyRhythmowned a caravan. Summertimes were spent every week-end at their favourite campsite called ‘Solent Breezes’ just outside Southampton, on the coast. It wasn’t the prettiest beach – mainly shingle with regular blobs of raw oil spotting the stones. But the endless procession of ships in and out of Southampton docks kept Granny and Grandpa glued to the binoculars as they identified the ships and wondered where they were headed, or had come from. The fact you can now get an app for your tablet or phone to identify the name and destination of ships, as well as track their progress would have delighted Grandpa, in particular.

I spent hours pottering around the sea shore and learnt the names of shells and seaweeds along the strandline, and increasingly, enjoyed lounging on a towel engrossed in books. Later on, we travelled to France with the caravan and the smell of suntan lotion and warm paper as I toasted myself in high summer heat is a pervading memory that reminds me of long-distant pleasure, heightened by nibbling on slabs of Swiss chocolate…

So I’m wedded to the notion of reading on long sunny days – preferably in the shade these days, though I do love it really hot. However, I’m definitely living in the wrong part of the world – we have had a string of indifferent summers this last decade. At least this year there was sunshine, but it was also often accompanied by a biting easterly. I’m allergic to being bullied by the wind at the best of times, but when it has a definite chill factor so that within ten minutes I’m stiff with cold, then I’ll retreat indoors, where somehow whiling away the day reading seems too sinful, given it is invariably a hectic time of year with the garden in full swing and the grandchildren visiting for extended periods.

While I still hanker for those long, slow summer days where lounging on a recliner drinking in the sun’s heat and reading, the reality these days is I far prefer curling up on the settee in front of the fire as sleet lashes against the window and getting lost in a book…

How about you?

Why Do You Read?

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My article today is a response to this week’s Musing Monday random question generated by the marvellous Jen on her blog A Daily Rhythm. Due to the horrendous cold I’ve battling with for the last month, I missed posting this last Monday, but decided I wanted to share it with you anyhow.

MusingMondays-ADailyRhythmSince I was tiny, books have been a draw. My mother says when I was a year old, she’d put me in the high chair with her precious copy of The Readers’ Digest and I would leaf through each page, looking at the pictures and the print without tearing it. It would take me half an hour or so to go through it, apparently.

I could decode my own name, but didn’t learn to read until I went to school, as Mum didn’t want me getting bored at a time when there was no streaming or differentiation. I don’t ever remember struggling, the words just seemed to peel open on the page. I do recall completing a reading test and being told to go along to the TV room, across the quadrangle to watch a show in the Hall – and crying quietly on the way, because I’d wanted to stay in the classroom with the books and my rather stern teacher had shouted at me when I’d asked to do just that. Once in England and at the local primary school, I was allowed to stay in at break and lunchtimes in my last year and tidy the shelves in the small school library – a wonderful treat… When Life became very turbulent during my teens, books were a refuge where I could retreat. I used to read under the bedclothes after I was made to turn the light out, nursing flat batteries back to life by tucking them under my arm.

I married far too young and it didn’t work out. There were a whole raft of reasons for this – but it didn’t help that he wasn’t a reader and didn’t like it much when I got lost between the covers of a book. And after my children were born, I actually stopped reading for seven years, because I knew that if I picked up a book and opened the pages – they could scream because they were hungry… because of a dirty nappy… because they’d fallen down the stairs… and it would be a struggle to put the book down and attend to their needs. Besides, I was busy reading and reciting poems and stories to them from the time they were born – making the next generation of avid readers, so it wasn’t a problem… Except things didn’t work out that way. They are both extremely intelligent and were very precocious, but neither are natural readers, who are born, I’ve discovered, not made… I love them both deeply and am very proud of them, but am I disappointed neither of them inherited my love of books? Oh yes. It would be wonderful to be able to discuss books with them. But, that’s the way it goes – my poor mother hoped that one of her three children, four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren would turn out to share her passion for horses and not one of us has.

I read because I can’t not read. It’s fun. And I’m now married to a man who reads even more than I do, which means we regularly spend a day together curled up in front of the fire, reading. If I’m anywhere without a book (God bless my kindle for making mobile reading so much easier) the world is a greyer, grimmer place. I mostly read speculative fiction as I particularly enjoy opening up a book and never quite knowing what world I’ll plunge into between the covers. The great Terry Pratchett said that writing was the most fun you can have with your clothes on – but reading is right up there alongside it, I reckon.

What about you? Why do you read? Have you always read, or did you discover the joy of books later on? I’d love to know!

Reader Problems Tag

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Many thanks to Sara Letourneau for nominating me to answer these questions, after tackling these questions here herself. It’s always fascinating to discover how other people approach the very personal business of reading.

You have 20,000 books on your TBR. How in the world do you decide what to read next?

Pile of Books @ Windham library

Pile of Books @ Windham library

Hm. You’ve been peeping, haven’t you? It feels as if there are nearer 50,000 actually… And I sort them into piles with complicated theories of how I’m going to spread my reading time between Indie books and traditionally published books; books written by men and written by women; science fiction, fantasy and outstanding other reads, while wearing my writing tutor hat.
Then comes the time when I’ve finished a book at 2 am and I’m still not ready for sleep, so I reach for the next book on the pile – and nine times out of ten my hand will skid sideways onto another volume I somehow feel more in the mood for. I’ve learnt to my cost that if I DO force myself to read the book I ‘ought’ to read, it’s rarely as enjoyable and fulfilling an experience as it is when I just go with the flow. So that’s what I do, these days.

You’re halfway through a book and you’re just not loving it. Do you quit or commit?
I’ll give most books twenty pages, though I have been known to abandon a book halfway through the first page. And if I’m not actively enjoying the book, then it gets tossed. I log it, explaining to myself what my problem with it was, and then move on. The world is FULL of wonderful books I haven’t yet read, why would I waste my precious time and energy slogging through something that makes my heart sink every time I pick it up?

The end of the year is coming and you’re so close yet so far away on your GoodReads challenge. Do you quit or commit?
Confession time – I’m not a member of Goodreads yet, although it’s something I keep meaning to join. But I’ve set myself the challenge to post 100 book reviews on my blog during 2015. As I wouldn’t consider reviewing any book I hadn’t finished, it follows that I have to read said 100 books. Last year I achieved it with ease, having read 143 books and written 126 books reviews. As it was so successful, I decided to keep the same challenge. So far I am on track, having read 53 books to date, although this time last year, I’d read 64.
However, if I do get to the middle of December and find that I’ve only read 75 books, then I’ll abandon the challenge and start a new one next year. I read primarily for enjoyment and review books for a hobby as a way of spreading the word about the good’uns.

The covers of a series you love DO. NOT. MATCH. How do you cope?
Roll my eyes over the avoidable mistake and take a deep, calming breath. I also get very fed up when heroines are described as red-headed/with a facial scar/dark-skinned all though the book – and end up on the cover looking completely different. But it isn’t a dealbreaker. At the end of the day, it’s all about the words.

Everyone and their mother loves a book you really don’t like. Who do you bond with over shared feelings?
You know that log I told you about earlier? It’s private, as I never publically really tear a book apart. After all, I’m also a writer and I know only too well the effort and hard work that goes into crafting a book, even a bad one. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have STRONG opinions. That log holds them all. It’s wonder the pages don’t catch fire at times, when I’m really venting…

You’re reading a book and you’re about to start crying in public. How do you deal?
It takes a lot to make me cry over a book, these days. And it hasn’t happened in public – if I saw where the scene was going, I’d stop reading. But I emptied a laundrette in St Peter Port on Guernsey on holiday many years ago, reading Terry Pratchett’s Moving Pictures and howling with laughter while waiting for the family’s washing to cycle through the machines…

A sequel of a book you loved just came out, but you’ve forgotten a lot from the prior novel. Will you re-read the book? Skip the sequel? Try to find a summary on GoodReads? Cry in frustration?
If it’s a book I loved, I’ve probably written a review, or failing that, a brief synopsis as I always record the books I’ve read. That always reminds me sufficiently to dive into the book knowing enough to fully enjoy the experience.

You don’t want ANYONE borrowing your books. How do you politely tell people “nope” when they ask?
There are only a handful of authors whose books I feel possessive about – and that’s chiefly because Himself is a great re-reader and enjoys going back again and again to books he really loves. I don’t. The other category of books I wouldn’t lend are those which are signed by the author. Other than that, come and get ‘em. You’re very welcome to borrow them!

You’ve picked up and put down five different books in the past month. How do you get over the reading slump?
It simply doesn’t happen. I pick a book up and read it. Or it goes flying across the room. There are times when I read less books, but that tends to happen if I’m busy writing course notes into the wee small hours. I don’t stop reading when I’m writing my own novels.

There are so many new books coming out that you are dying to read! How many do you actually buy?
*sigh* More than I should… I am truly a book addict – and so is Himself. Our house is crammed with far too many books and we MUST get around to sorting them out and getting rid of some. Though we’ll probably fill up the freed space with more books.

After you’ve bought a new book you want to get to, how long do they sit on your shelf until you actually read them?
It varies. Common sense dictates that if it’s newly published, then I’ll make it a priority – and mostly that’s the case. But there are times when it still just sits there, because I wasn’t in the mood to read it when the time came.

Nomination time
I quite understand if you don’t have the time or inclination to take part – but I’d love the following to ‘fess all about their reading habits!
Mhairi Simpson
Sophie E. Tallis
Joanna “Melfka” Maciejewska
Charles French
Leiah Cooper (So I Read This Book Today)

Though if your name isn’t on the above list and you feel inspired to answer these questions, do please go for it. I’d be delighted and insanely curious  interested to find out how other people go about the very private business of reading for pleasure…

Reading List for 2014 – Crunching the numbers

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I read 143 books last year and wrote 126 reviews – but that says relatively little about my reading habits, other than I spend a fair bit of time with my nose buried in a book or writing about them… So how did those figures break down?digitalbookimage

Gender of author
Of those 143 books, 86 were written by women and 57 were written by men. I try to ensure a rough parity – the first couple of years I started writing reviews, I was shaken to notice that the huge majority of books I read and wrote about were written by men. I decided that simply wasn’t good enough – so over the last couple of years I have been mindful to ensure the gender balance doesn’t tip too heavily one way or another. And if it does, given my initial unconscious bias, it should be tilted towards female authors.

I’m NOT suggesting that anyone else does the same, after all deciding what you want to read should be a fundamental freedom – so long as it isn’t perverting young minds, or stirring up hatred. But as a female science fiction and fantasy writer whose hobby is writing book reviews, it behoves me to spread the word about the wealth of writing talent out there by a bunch of gifted, entertaining writers whose work somehow doesn’t get reviewed as often as their male counterparts.
What I do find interesting, is that after a couple of years of making a sustained effort to ensure gender parity, these days I hardly have to think about it. Many speculative fiction authors write series of books which I thoroughly enjoy and when browsing, there are invariably another crop of names I haven’t come across before that need checking out.

Genres
Below I’ve provided a table of genres – of course some of the books are a mash-up, in which case it’s a judgement call.

Sci fi    Fantasy     Urban fantasy     Alt history /Steampunk     Crime     Children     Literary /Other
36              41                19                                13                                     10              6                       18

Just to clarify things – the Crime section only includes ‘straight’ crime, not those murder mysteries with a twist of fantasy that I’m so fond of – I’ve included them in the Urban Fantasy section. The other sub-genre I decided against adding was YA – while a number of the books in all these lists are YA, that still doesn’t tell you exactly they are about, so I decided it wasn’t helpful. If I’d read more children’s books, I would have also separated those out into their genres, rather than age groups, but without exception they are either fantasy or science fiction.

The only other number that might be of interest, is that I read 60 books by authors I haven’t encountered before – which came as something of a shock as I assumed I’d read more books from new authors. Now I’ve segregated my reading list into the subject areas, the main thing that jumps out at me is that my reading content is fairly narrow these days. However, I also read a fair amount of poetry which I don’t review, so haven’t included it on my blog and neither have I included the ‘How To’ writing books I regularly dip in and out of, as I regard those as tools of the trade rather than books I want to share with other readers.

What genre do you most often read and why? Me – it’s simple – I love to open up a book and escape. It’s been the same from the very first books I handled – the further away from ‘real’ life, the better as far as I’m concerned. Which is why there is dearth of what my mother calls ‘sensible’ books on my reading list. I’d love to hear from you about your reading numbers last year, or your thoughts on why you want to read… I’m guessing there is a fairly wide range of reasons why people enjoy reading and I’d like to see if I’m right!