What I Read in November

Apparently, I was in an eclectic mood again this month.

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  1. Another Man’s Moccasins & The Dark Horse, by Craig Johnson (Longmire 4 & 5) It’s the continuing chronicles of Walt Longmire.
  2. The Darkest Part of the Forest, by Holly Black This was a reread for me. It’s an excellent YA book about a town where fae folk live, and one day one of them breaks out of the glass coffin where he’s been imprisoned. Hazel has to solve the mystery before the monster from the forest kills all the townspeople.
  3. This Savage Song, by Victoria Schwab This may be one of my favorite books I read this year. It’s about a town overrun by monsters, and how the daughter and son of the opposing factions meet and, after a failed kidnapping attempt, go on the run together. My only complaint about this book is that there’s a sequel, but it doesn’t come out until summer 2017. This can be read as a standalone book, but that’s not much consolation when you get to the last page.
  4. The Woman in Cabin 10, by Ruth Ware This book got rave reviews, and lots of people loved it. But it just didn’t do it for me. I liked it, but I didn’t get caught up until about halfway through the book. It’s good, worth reading once, but I found the main character somewhat annoying.
  5. The Little Paris Bookshop, by Nina George This was a surprising hit with me. The main character runs a bookshop and is the book apothecary, dispensing books like medicine for what ails people. But the main character has a secret, that he’s been pining for a lost love for 20 years. And when he finally starts to process it, he ends up going on a journey and finding out he’s not the only one with secrets. An interesting, life affirming read. (Plus, I loved the idea of a book apothecary.)
  6. Infomocracy, by Malka Older A friend and I both started reading this book together, and we both hated it. To be fair, we both abandoned it about 10% in, so maybe it gets better. I’m not entirely sure what it was supposed to be about, but something about politics set in a future where everyone is wired in to information.
  7. I,Robot, by Isaac Asimov There’s a reason he’s considered one of the best science fiction writers of all time. Plus, he came up with the three laws. While the movie of the same name is quite a bit different from this book, there’s enough similarities that I can see how the book inspired the movie. I love all the robot psychology in the book. I can’t believe I’ve never read this before.

What’s the best book you read this month?

Why I Didn’t End Up Doing a Book Challenge This Year

img_7065In 2015, I did the reading challenge, and I enjoyed it.  There was a different theme every month, and I did about 10 months out of 12.  In 2016, I started the Read Harder challenge, and ticked a couple categories off.

And then I lost interest.

I ended up reading a book I didn’t like.  I tried and tried and tried to get through it, and I couldn’t.  As of this writing, I haven’t finished it, though I still want to.  It wasn’t that I hated the book; it was more that it had no discernible plot.

After putting that book aside, I thought about going back to the Read Harder challenge, but I’d lost my taste for it.  I realized that I have a lot of book lists I’m working on.  I have a classics list I’m working my way through, a book club, and a friend and I who choose books together.  That’s not including the fact that I read a lot of YA books to stay current on what’s being published (since I write YA) and reading books for fun.

While I liked the idea of the Read Harder challenge, in the end it just didn’t work for me.  I may look at the challenge for 2017, and if I like it, I’ll give it a try.  Or maybe I’ll look for a challenge that doesn’t have as many books on it, or fits with my tastes a little better.

I think I lost sight of the fact that the challenge was meant to be a game instead of a task. It became work, rather than a scavenger hunt. I love books that make me think or books that make me see the world differently. I love discovering books I wouldn’t have read on my own. But I don’t like taking it all to seriously, and that’s what I did for a little while.

What do you think of book challenges? Are you planning to join one for 2017?

TBRs Are Pointless For Me

Sometimes I see people post pictures of the TBRs (To Be Read), and I wonder how many of those people stick to them.  I set myself a TBR pile or list with the best of intentions, and then I go off and read something else.

I have books upon books upon books that I intend to read, that I’ll get to one day, but I won’t do it in any particular order.  If I decide to read a certain book next, odds are that by the time I get around to it, I won’t want to read that one anymore.

The only exceptions to that are books that I’m reading with other people. Then, I read them promptly, whether I like it or not. One of my favorite things to do is to discuss books.

I pulled these books off my shelf and stacked them, intending to read them “next.”

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That was back in September, and I haven’t touched any of them. I’ve read plenty of other books, just not those particular books.

The problem is that I’m a moody reader. I never know what I’m going to want to read until I actually pick up a book. And if I’m not in the mood to read that particular book, then I probably won’t like it.

Part of the reason I like to own books is that when I want to read a book, I want it handy. I never know when it’s going to be the right time to pluck an unread book off my shelf. Or when I’ll suddenly get the urge to visit an old friend. And because I read in almost all the genres, I have to have  a lot of books on hand. Sometimes I get books from the library, and return them unread. Other times, I can’t get through them fast enough.

I read somewhere that stacks of books are the only type of decoration that doesn’t make a house look messy or cluttered. I couldn’t agree more. So I’ll keep stacking up TBRs and getting to them when I get to them.

Do you stick to your TBR or find yourself reading whatever you feel like?

 

 

October Reading Wrap-Up

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In October, I read a bunch of new books.  I’ve recently gotten back into the Longmire series of books, and am trying to read them all.  I love being the annoying person who points out the differences between books and movies (or, in this case, TV). I actually enjoyed everything I read last month, which is always a nice surprise.

  1.  For Women Only, by Shaunti Feldhahn.  This was a really good self-help type book for insight into the male mind.  I picked it up because it was recommended reading on how to write men in stories better, but I see that it also applies to the men I know.
  2. I Was Here, by Gayle Forman.  I loved If I Stay, and the follow up, Where She Went, so I have no idea why I hadn’t read another book by her before this.  I went looking for fiction to read on suicide, and this was a good one.  It drew me in from the start, and did a decent job of showing the devastating effects on family and friends.
  3. You, by Caroline Kepnes.  This one was recommended by my book club.  Funny story: because of who sent it to me, and the title, I thought it was a self-help book, or something like that.  Yeah, it’s definitely not.  It’s actually a thriller about a stalker and his victim.  Brutal, fascinating, and disturbing, it’s pretty much everything I want in a book.
  4. The Shining, by Stephen King.  When I read You, I found out that The Shining has a sequel: Doctor Sleep.  Apparently I’ve been living under a rock, because I had no idea.  None.  It’s been years since I read The Shining, and since it’s one of my favorite King books, I wanted to reread it and be fresh from it when I read the sequel.  It’s still one of the best horror novels I’ve ever read.
  5. Doctor Sleep, by Stephen King.  I was really skeptical that a sequel could be as good as The Shining, but this one was definitely worthy.  I’m sure it could work as a standalone book, but I was glad I had just re-read The Shining, as there were a lot of references to it.
  6. Death Without Company (Longmire #2) & Kindness Goes Unpunished (Longmire #3) & Another Man’s Moccasins (Longmire #4), by Craig Johnson.  I’m a fan of crime novels, and I love the Longmire shows on Netflix.  These are quite different from the TV show, but they’re good in their own way.  Walt is a pretty similar character in both the books and the show.  I actually like Henry a bit more in the books.  He’s a more active character, and frequently involved in Walt’s escapades.
  7. The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, by Holly Black.  This is a vampire book, but not a typical one.  It’s what would happen if vampires were shown to be real, in the modern age.  One girl wakes up to a massacre that happened at a party, and it begins with her saving her ex-boyfriend (who’s been bitten), and saving a vampire who helps her.  I like books where vampires aren’t portrayed as sexy teddy bears who just happen to like blood.
  8. The Liar, by Nora Roberts.  I’m a sucker for Nora Roberts books, mostly because I know that she usually mixes romance with other things, like suspense.  This one has it all: a great love story, murder, secrets, conspiracy, and an underdog who comes out ahead.

I liked every book I read this month, and I can’t always say that.  I got most of them on my Kindle, through the library.

What did you read this month?

10 Books to Read If You Need a Break From Politics

img_7024My social media feeds are still full of politics and politician bashing from both sides. The election is over, and I need a break. If you do too, here’s my list of recommendations to take you away from it all for awhile.

  1. If you like horror… Bazaar of Bad Dreams, by Stephen King. It was an anthology of short horror stories. They were little bite-sized pieces of madness.
  2. If you like short science fiction… Six Days, Three Months by Charlie Jane Anders. This was such an interesting premise, about a couple who both see the future and the end of their relationship, but date anyway.
  3. If you like YA… Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon. When I read this, I was vacationing with a friend, and I couldn’t put it down. It’s about a girl who’s allergic to literally everything, and she has little contact with the outside world. Until a boy moves in next door, and she starts straining against her boundaries.
  4. If you like urban fantasy… The Night Circus by Erin Morganstern. This was an original idea with lots of great imagery. My only caution is to read the book version. I originally read it on my Kindle, and because the story isn’t told in a linear way, I got frustrated that it was hard to skip around and refresh myself on what happened when.
  5. If you like books with a paranormal element… Graveminder by Melissa Marr. After the death of her grandmother, Rebekkah Barrow returns to her hometown and learns that in order for the dead to stay put, a Barrow woman must tend to the graves. It was a fun, immersive read.
  6. If you like characters struggling with mental health issues… The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick. I read this because I saw the movie, and it’s somewhat different. I liked both, but in a different way.
  7. If you like memoirs… Traveling to Infinity: My Life With Stephen Hawking by Jane Hawking. I’ve always been interested in Stephen Hawking and his life. When the movie came out, I went looking for a book on his life. This was a fascinating read.
  8. If you like books that will make you a little crazy trying to figure them out… John Dies at The End by David Wong. Yes, there was a movie. No, it didn’t do the book justice. Read the book. It was better.
  9. If you like serial killers… Dexter by Jeff Lindsey. Again, it’s only somewhat like the TV series, and the series didn’t do justice to my favorite part of the books, Dexter’s Dark Passenger. The books are full of dark comedy.
  10. If you’re feeling nostalgic… Remember Me by Christopher Pike. This is still one of my favorite YA books ever.

What are you reading to avoid getting too caught up in reality?

I Highlight in Books, But Only Monsters Dog-Ear Pages

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This is from Chapter 1 of the Fault In Our Stars. I didn’t want to post anything that might have spoilers, if people haven’t read it and want to.

Once upon a time, I hated writing in books.  I hated highlighting in them or taking notes.  I thought that it was an awful thing to write in books, and I only did it for school with lot of guilty feelings.

Somewhere along the line, I started using a highlighter in my regular fiction novels.  If something particularly strikes me, I mark it up.  It started with a yellow highlighter, and eventually became pen, when nothing else is available.  It’s like a book tattoo. (These are only my books I do this to… I’d never mark a library book or a book borrowed from a friend.) I also don’t do it if I’m not going to keep the book. To me, marking a book is an act of love. If we’re not in a committed relationship, then I leave it in the condition I found it.

I’ve always loved books with signs of wear.  I love it when the spine is cracked and worn, and the cover has marks.  I love when I get an old book, and there’s something written inside by someone else.  It makes the book look well-loved.  I don’t try to wear out my books, but when I read them over and over, sometimes I’m not as careful as I should be.  I’m walking along, holding the book, and bump into something.  Or I don’t want to put the book down, but I have to because real life, and it ends up face down on a water ring from my drink, or stray veggie soup from my dinner.

That being said, I never dog-ear pages.  I will use anything handy as a bookmark (because I so seldom remember to use a real bookmark).  I’ll put them face down, or I’ll just close them and hope I remember where I was. Dog-earing pages weakens the page, causing tears. I can almost hear books that have been folded like that crying in despair.

For books like Pride and Prejudice, which I’ve read so many times that I can start anywhere and enjoy it, I use post-it notes to mark my favorite parts.  That way, if I’m having a bad day, I can open the book to one of the post-its and read a single section, or read all my post-it marks and enjoy a greatly “abridged” version.

What’s your stand on marking and dog-earing books?

 

What Scares Me

img_6722I often tell people that the only movie that ever scared me was the Blair Witch Project.  I suppose that’s not entirely true.  As a kid, I caught Children of the Corn on TV, and I remember it giving me nightmares.

Not everyone who saw Blair Witch thought it was scary.  But I saw it back in 1999, when it first came out in theaters, before “found footage movies” were a thing.  Someone told me it was true, and I believed them.  I was living in Pennsylvania at the time, in a rural area, with a scary, dark forest in my back yard.

While all that scared me, what really did it for me with that movie was the fact that you never actually see the witch.  All these movies that conjure up monsters with teeth and claws and dripping blood make me laugh.  Because for me, it’s not what I can see that’s scary; it’s all the things I can’t see.

I don’t find comedies funny, but if you show me most horror movies, I’ll laugh and laugh.  The Ring had potential up until the bad guy was a little girl, crawling out of the TV.  With that scene, it went over into silly for me.  Intellectually, I found the first Paranormal Activity scary, but it didn’t make my heart speed up or give me any gut-wrenching moments.  It was more that I knew it was scary rather than I felt it.

Maybe that’s because I worked in mobile crisis for awhile, where bad things could actually happen to us.  I got lucky, and nothing ever did.  But other teams I worked with had some scary stories.

Nothing I can see is scary.  Blood and guts and gore don’t do it for me.  What scares me are the things I can’t see.  The monster who stays off-screen and won’t show it’s face, or the human monster who looks just like the rest of us.  Psychological horror, where something’s going on, and we don’t know quite what, but it’s messing with my head.

The Shining, by Stephen King, is one of the best examples of psychological horror.  Because yeah, there are ghosts or demons or whatever, but it’s what they do that’s so wonderfully horrible.  They make this mess of a man, who’s really trying to be better, devolve into someone who almost kills his wife and son.  That’s horror.

What scares you?