Random Tuesday Thoughts on Books and Writing

I spend most of the day thinking about books and writing in some shape or form. Right now 80% of my reading and writing is dedicated to grad school requirements so my TBR stacks are rapidly growing and my story ideas are stockpiling. I’m still sneaking in some personal reading on the side because I think I’d go insane otherwise. 

My soul craves all things book and story related. I yearn to one day share my own stories. I live for sharing the amazing stories I’ve read from other people. Some books I read and I can’t shut up about them, to the point I’m buying copies as gifts and contemplating going door-to-door. “Excuse me, do you have a few moments to learn about this amazing book?”

I read to get lost in another world and another life. I read to learn about writing and to learn more about myself. Reading is life to me. Writing used to be on the same level with reading until an incident in high school.

I wrote a short story to submit to our school’s literary journal. It was about a girl attempting suicide. It was based off an event from my own history years prior. In hindsight I should have written something else or talked to my teacher in advance about the subject matter because it caused some major freak outs with nearly every adult of authority at the school. 

My parents were called, I had to talk to teachers, guidance counselors, the principal, it was not fun. My English teacher informed me it was well written but could never be published because of the subject matter. In my head, I thought I was using a personal experience to write a story with enough detail to create an engaging story. Apparently, it was too realistic. That incident caused me to quit writing for a long time. I no longer trusted myself to write and I didn’t think I could trust anyone to read something I may write. 

The story ideas have never stopped. They continue to dance around in my head. Waiting. I’m finally starting to write fiction again and it feels good. I mean really good. So, be on the lookout for more posts about me reconnecting with my writing!

I’ll also be doing more book chat type recommendations. Books I’m shoving into the hands of friends and family will also be shared here because books can always use more sweet lovin’.

As always, happy reading and enjoy your day! Now go buy a book and hug a friend. 

Life with a side of books.

Grad School: Well, I put my first semester of grad school behind me last week and couldn’t be happier. I start a short summer term in ten days so my celebration will be brief as I need to start reading straightaway. Taking two condensed grad school classes while working full-time is a daunting prospect but I only need to hold on for six weeks. Both classes offer something awesome so I had to go big or go home. Many bottles of wine await me at the end of this tunnel I am entering.

Books: Something I never thought possible has happened. I have finally reached a point where I need to start exercising some semblance of self-control with my book purchasing. I am buying way more than I can possibly keep up with reading wise thanks to grad school requirements. I am not sure if I will limit it to one book a week or a month, but some kind of limitation is in the works. (I’d also like to start buying groceries and cooking at home more. Go figure, ha!)

Book tracking: I wanted to track the books I read this year more closely but have been slacking big time. I’m not sure I will try picking it back up mid-year or letting it go until next year. It is a coin toss at this point which way I will go. I like the idea of a book journal more than a simple tracking system but either way I am not going to force anything right now.

The Blog-diggity: I have been incredibly inconsistent with posting and writing but plan on working harder to post more. Mainly because I really enjoy putting my thoughts out into the ether and the interacting with fellow bloggers and bibliophiles that follows. Chatting about books is one of my favorite things in life, that will never change.

Hobbies: Whew, so many. I have not been able to pick up my camera for some time but with the abundance of hiking trails around the Chattanooga area that will change this summer. (If you are curious you can find some of my photography here on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/shanadubois) I am going to learn how to crochet this year, umm, at some point. Blankets for everyone come next Christmas! I also want to start cooking more so I can bring my lunch and have leftovers when I get home. Mmm, leftovers.

Life in general: I have let myself become too complacent and sedentary in the last two years or so and want to make a lot of changes. I am finally taking the time to make my priorities a priority. Grad school was one of the biggest ones. Now to tackle getting healthy. I am taking steps to shift to a more vegetarian diet. Mostly because I love veggies more than anything and have never been a huge fan of meat in general, but my overall goal is a healthy and balanced diet. I also need to make walking every day part of my routine and add a focus for fitness into the mix.

So, overall I have a lot going on but the focus is on enjoying life to the fullest and being the best me I can be. Happy reading and I look forward to chatting with you!

Exciting news about… me!

Greetings my fabulous readers ~

Life really can become a whirlwind at times with opportunities popping up when you least expect them. One such opportunity came when Luna Station Quarterly put out a call for bloggers to join their team. I filled out their application hoping but not knowing what to expect. And then I got the fateful email: “Welcome” and “Come join us!” To which I replied, “Yes!”

There were more words involved, but the basic gist is that I will have a monthly column with Luna Station Quarterly where I get to highlight and share titles from small presses, a huge passion of mine. I am not sure of all the particulars just yet for when it will start, but I will have all that information soon and will provide updates and links.

I have titled my column “Beyond the Front Tables” because I want to focus on the stories out there readers may have missed or that bookstores don’t have readily available. Discovering “new-to-me” authors is proving to be a wonderful adventure and I am reading some truly amazing tales I can’t wait to share with everyone.

So, stay tuned my fellow bibliophiles and until next time, happy reading!!

Books to Buy in April!

As you may have guessed I get a bit excited about books. Oddly enough, this year when I have even less time to read whatever I want I am coming across more and more books I want to read right away.

In an effort to not forget about anything, I am still snatching up the books I think look intriguing so I will have them at the ready when there is time. April is a HUGE book month so let’s jump right in to some of of the titles I can’t wait to own!

April 7th:

The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu

grace of kings

“Two men rebel together against tyranny – and then become rivals.”

This is the first in a new epic fantasy trilogy and it has been on my list since I heard about it last year. I have been a devoted fan of Liu’s short fiction and am anxious to dig into what he does with something of this scale.

April 14th:

Hit by Delilah S. Dawson

Hit

“In order to save her mother, a teen is forced to become an indentured assassin.”

If you have never read Dawson’s other books you are missing out! I have three copies of this on first in what I believe is a trilogy on order because awesome YA with some grit is going to be a winning gift.

April 28th:

Magonia by: Maria Dahvana Headley

magonia

“A story about a girl caught between two worlds… two races… and two destinies.”

I have wanted this book since the cover reveal. It is a gorgeous book and looks to be a stunning YA fantasy.

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

ember in the ashes

“Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.”

I heard about this one from the book Twitterverse and have been excited to dig into this new fantasy. Having only heard amazing things the summer can’t get here soon enough!

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I hope you find some new gems to add to your book bag when shopping and happy reading!

Reading a Series

So, I am a bit of an oddball. In more ways than one without a doubt, but for this post I am referring to how I read a series. I am not sure when it started but at some point I decided waiting until all the books in a series were out was the only option. At that point, I could binge read the whole thing in one sitting. By reading a series this way I am content and there is a sense of completion.

But lately there are more and more series I can’t avoid because I am finding I want to enjoy them now, or at least start. I am actually considering reading a series differently than I ever have before. Thankfully I have a few series on the back list, already complete, I can enjoy while I contemplate how to tackle reading a series that isn’t all out yet. It isn’t that I worry they won’t ever be finished, it is more that I am impatient and don’t like the not knowing how it ends. Of having that story constantly running in the back of mind wondering what might happen next until I can read the next installment and know for sure.

I do this with TV shows as well; I wait to binge watch a season, when finished I will google to see how the next season started so I at least know how that particular story arc ends. I am horrible that way. But with a book series I don’t have anything to Google! I have avoided that problem by either not reading series altogether or digging in once available, years after it was originally published.

I was discussing this quirk of mine with a friend the other day and he stated that he has to read the first book to know if he wants to read the series and make the commitment. Honestly, that concept had never occurred to me. If I am interested enough in the premise and synopsis, well, I am in all the way. It never occurred to me I might want to test the waters as it were. Having always read a series as one giant tome I never considered them as separate books.

But I want to see if I can shift that perspective and reading habit this year because there are quite a few series that recently started, or will be starting later this year, and I am anxious to get to know the characters. It is going to be hard for me and my inquiring mind to have to wait, so we shall see how this experiment goes.

Do you have odd reading habits or treat a series in a special fashion differently from a standalone? Let me know any tricks you have for reading a series and battling the waiting for the next installment!

~ Happy reading ~

Reading Challenges? Bring it!

In the wonderful world of Twitter you never know what delightful (or possibly crazy) conversations you might happen into while scrolling through your feed. This past evening I entered into a wonderful chat with @MMOGC (on Twitter or her site: mmogamerchick.wordpress.com) about various authors we are looking forward to reading. I had mentioned I wanted to read more backlists this year with a focus on diverse reading.

In previous years, I typically suffered from “Front Table Syndrome;”  failing to seek out more titles and authors outside my stagnant reading habits. I wanted to break out of the box and @MMOGC suggested checking out the Worlds Without End Reading Challenges. Whew nelly, what a fun site!

It did take some time to add the books I wanted to read as part of the challenges. But it wasn’t impossible (hint, after you search for the book click on the actual title to add to your lists by clicking submit – took me a minute to figure that one out). I signed up for both the “Women of Genre Fiction” and “Clear the Shelves” challenges. “Women of Genre Fiction” involves reading 12 books by new-to-you woman authors and “Clear the Shelves” involves reading 15 books, plus five reviews, that have been gathering dust on your bookshelves.

I used a lot of the titles I listed in my Back List Party post from a few weeks ago along with some new ones I have come across that sound intriguing. The idea of joining the challenges with other avid genre readers is exciting and pushes me to really focus on every moment where I could be reading.

It will be fun to interact with the other readers in the Worlds Without End forums and those participating on Twitter. Chatting about books is pretty much the highlight of any day and I look forward to more actively sharing my reading in this coming year.

What reading challenges will you push yourself to try this year?

A Thank You Note to Authors and Bookmakers

I wanted to write a quick post to say thank you to all the writers, artists, editors, and publishing gurus that make books possible. Creating books is a labor of love and not an easy task. There are thousands upon thousands of books produced and put into the ether throughout the year.

It is a basically a Thunderdome for books: “10,000 books enter, one book leaves.” It is a vicious career path and I commend anyone that voluntarily enters that blood bath. I try to support the industry from this “low man on the totem pole” position I occupy the best I can in a variety of ways.

I read widely, I give books as gifts for every occasion, I spend nearly every spare dollar on books (more than I can keep up with for reading or with shelf space), I talk about books and give recommendations to friends and co-workers. I try to spread the word, and my love, for books.

I will be eternally grateful to the authors that have pursued their passion of the written word. The ones that couldn’t ignore those voices whispering stories deep in their brain. It is a lonely path, one fraught with doubt and agony, an often thankless endeavor.

But I want to send my “THANK YOU!!” to all those that work tirelessly, hours upon hours, creating and polishing all the books I love to read and own. I am but one voice, but I will use it to shout from the rooftops how much I love you all for doing what you do every day.

Back List Party Time! Let’s Get This Party Started..

As I posted yesterday, I am planning on focusing more time with back list titles for my personal reading this year. Despite the time suck that will be graduate school, I am hoping to really dig deep and get a LOT of personal reading done as well as required reading. (I haven’t even set-up my TV in the new place specifically to avoid the other major time suck.)

And, since so many are sharing their “Shiny and New I Want to Read in 2015” lists I thought I would share my “Yeah, I am SO Behind on Reading” list. This is not an exhaustive list, more a sampling of what I am making a priority in the overall list in the coming year. So, without further ado, and in no particular order, here are some of the titles I hope to inhale this year:

Novels:

  • Of Blood and Honey (and) And Blue Skies From Pain, both by Stina Leicht

Published in 2011 and 2012 respectively these novels bring an interesting political twist to a supernatural conflict. With a premise of Ireland + the 70s + supernatural forces you get something I can’t wait to read. Paul Weimer shared his 2015 list, http://skyseastone.net/jvstin/?p=4064, and he mentioned Stina Leicht’s new title Cold Iron coming out later this year and it looks really intriguing. But I want to treat myself to her early titles first.

Described as a “woven tale of adventure, magic, and the power of the human spirit,” this is a book I need in my life. Karen Lord has a new title coming out this year, The Galaxy Game, which will be her third novel I believe. I have heard so MANY wonderful things about her debut Redemption in Indigo, published in 2010, I decided to start here, then move to her second novel The Best of All Possible Worlds, first published as hardcover in 2013.

“The rich and privileged have fled the city, barricaded it behind roadblocks, and left it to crumble.” I am dying to know what happens in the city and so this is a MUST read for me. I honestly can’t recall where or when this title was brought to my attention but it was originally published in 1998 and I can’t wait to hold this in my hands. I have added her entire back list to my Wish List.

Lagoon is a first contact novel that doesn’t happen in the U.S.. Yes, please. I will read that all day long.  Who Fears Death takes place in a post-apocalyptic Saharan Africa and looks to be a very powerful read, originally published in 2010. Paul had this on his list (linked above) as the U.S. edition is coming out this year. I am too impatient to wait plus I LOVE the UK edition cover so I am ordering now to enjoy sooner rather than later.

I am a horror girl at heart, always will be, and this debut looks incredibly creepy in the VERY best of ways. A wandering spirit doling out vengeance on killers with a plot twist? Sold.

Gary during episode 209 of the Coode Street Podcast stated this book was “striking” and that Brissett was doing really interesting things with gender roles. I found this incredibly intriguing and added it to the list straight away. This book came out in December of 2014 so I hope EVERYONE picks this up.

Something described as “The Handmaid’s Tale meets The Hunger Games” from the perspective of a BEE?! Yeah, I am in. I heard about this first via Simon Savage‘s Twitter feed and he was beyond excited about this novel.

Julie is an amazing person online that I recent e-met via Twitter. She suggested this as a good entry point. It is a best-selling Amazon horror title and has gotten great reviews as an original take on vampires – and I love me some vampire horror!

I waited for the omnibus edition to come out so I could have all the books and the new novella that came out at the end of 2014.  I have heard so many insane things with plot twists and power struggles I have been eagerly awaiting this hefty tome for some time. And it is indeed hefty at 1,453 total pages. I bought it the week it was released but I think for actual reading I might treat myself to the ebook version as well!

I was told this is a wonderful place to start for Martha Wells so I purchased the ebook and a hardcover edition (the hardcover has such beautiful art I couldn’t resist). Anything where “traces of a necromantic power that hasn’t been used for centuries” is involved has my absolute attention.

I was pulled into Frohock’s shorter and recent work/collaborations, but I have long been wanting to go back and read this novel, originally published in 2011. The cover art alone is gorgeous and intriguing. Plus, a novel described as “a compelling tale of faith rediscovered, trust regained, and hope reawakened” is something I could use more of this year.

  • The Complete Bel Dame Apocrypha trilogy: God’s War, Infidel, and Rapture by Kameron Hurley

Everyone I know has already read Hurley’s The Mirror Empire that came out in 2014 and is anxiously awaiting Empire Ascendant, the sequel due this year. While I do own The Mirror Empire, I have been waiting to read it – I am weird in that I like to binge read a whole series at a time, so I wait. That being said, I have heard Hurley on various podcasts (including the Coode Street Podcast) and absolutely adore the way she talks about world-building.  I was torn about waiting and then I discovered this trilogy! This trilogy also received rave reviews for Hurley’s world-building prowess and with a keen change-up of a matriarchy to boot I am more than happy to start here.

Short Story/Novella Collections:

I love author collections that give me a glimpse to the various voices carried within. This looks like a great collection originally published in 2006 with a wide range of story material.  I am REALLY excited for this one.

I have been intrigued by all the titles in this series(five thus far) because it is set in one of my favorite time periods, the turn of the 20th century. Add to that a mystery and magic and I am already hooked.  Elizabeth Bear has a new title coming out next month, Karen Memory, that is getting a lot of buzz but I want to relish some earlier work first. After these titles I think I will pick up Carnival as my first Bear novel. There is just so much to pick from, I am really excited about Bear’s back list!

What better way to discover authors you might have missed than digging into three of the Nebula Award collections??! I can’t think of one and I might continue to work my way back to collect them all over time.

This is a collection of short stories from Swedish author Karin Tidback, the U.S. ebook published in 2012.  This is a collection I accidentally stumbled across while searching for something else, so fortuitous! It is described as a “feast of darkly fantastical” and that pretty much sums up some of my favorite fiction ever. I have a feeling I found another author to be obsessed with for life!

Yoon Ha Lee is an author I found on Twitter and sought out her debut collection based on other Twitter comments. I have had this on my TBR list since last year (it was published in 2013) and this is the year I will finally make the time to feast upon these stories described as “wonderfully fresh and deeply ancient.”

  • Errantry: Strange Stories by Elizabeth Hand

Elizabeth Hand was recommended to me by John Stevens via one of her novels, Available Dark. However, when I came across this title, published in 2012, while creating my extremely long Small Beer Press wish list I knew this is where I would start.  Stories that “tease apart the dark strangeness of everyday life” are EXACTLY why I read short fiction. You get that glimpse into a moment, a portion of time, that is very fleeting but sticks to your bones.  I am incredibly excited to pick this one up.

I have heard so many amazing things about Johansen’s character development and world-building from her Marakand series (The Leopard is the first in the series published last year), but I wasn’t sure if that was where I wanted to start. Then I came across this small collection published in 2008. I purchased the short story collection knowing I was already excited about the author’s current work but I wanted to dig deeper before plunging into such an epic world. This seems like a perfect fit.

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I could keep listing more novels and short story collections to include but I think the above lists give a good idea of what I am making a priority for my 2015 reading. I am playing catch up and will end up behind from all the books coming out this year. But I will keep a list and continue my passion for the Back List!

What about some of your favorite authors? Have you explored all they have written? What about newly discovered authors? If it wasn’t a debut title you just discovered you should seek out their back list while waiting for their next release.  All the cool kids are doing it!

I have linked all the author names to their websites. If you are intrigued by any particular titles you can easily seek out even MORE and keep up to date with anything new forthcoming.  Here is to happy reading and exploring through the Forest of the Back List.

Also, if you can think of any additional titles I might enjoy, or, want to add something you are looking forward to reading please feel free to share in the comments below!  I love talking about books!

So many books, so little time; and that is a-okay.

Everyone is already knee deep into their reading plans and lists for 2015 and I am still thinking about all the books and stories I missed in 2014. And every day I learn about at least six more titles I missed last year. I was beginning to stress about how I was going to possibly keep up when I realized that was really an impossible dream.

With that in mind I have decided to dedicate this next year to back list reading (with a few exception here and there for debuts I am sure). I am going to peacefully enjoy books that have been out for who knows how long and joyfully share them with those around me.

As for short fiction, I am planning on subscribing to numerous journals, magazines, etc. so I can read more current than I will be for novels. For me, and I mentioned this previously on Twitter, short fiction is my gateway drug into an author’s work. If a short piece suck me in, I am hooked for life. I will seek out anything and everything they have written looking for that high again.

You could almost say I am obsessed with short fiction. I adore anthologies and an author’s collection, I own dozens upon dozens of them and am always buying more. Short fiction to me is addictive because it gives you that brief glance through the window before the author closes the curtain. You want to know more, you need to know what happened next, so you read on.

So, while my TBR pile morphs into a mountain, I shall sit back and just enjoy the reading ride never quite catching up.

2015 Reading Goals

Starting grad school while still working full time will make personal pleasure reading more of a challenge but will still be a priority throughout the year. This will also be the first year I am going to actively track my reading to know more definitely just how much and what I am reading.

My goals in number form:

  1. Read 52 fiction titles
  2. Read 26 non-fiction titles
  3. Read 350 short stories/essays (published individually versus in a book collection)

My general reading goals:

  1. Read more diversely
  2. Read more back list titles
  3. Explore new (to me) non-fiction more broadly
  4. Explore more small press titles and hybrid authors
  5. Track all my reading (in a fun and nerdy spreadsheet)

I debated if I should include required reading for grad school and ultimately decided it counts; reading is still reading. I am also going to subscribe to more journals and magazines for short stories and essays.

Reading is a huge source of happiness for me and I find I buy books more readily than I am making the time to read them. That is a huge focus for me in this coming year. I have not even set-up my TV in my new home to avoid being sucked into mindless dribble I have seen over and over again.

I am hoping required reading and writing for class won’t hinder pleasure reading too severely but I will be able to gauge that more in the coming months once classes start.

It is going to be an exciting year and I look forward to discovering new titles and authors, interacting with fellow readers and authors even more, and sharing my love of the written word with those around me!