November Reads

          Almost didn’t make it again. I’m considering cutting down on my goals so I don’t feel so disappointed in myself if I don’t reach them. Reading four books a month used to be so easy, but between work and the baby I’ve barely had any time at all. And the only reason I managed it this month is audible. Three of the four books this month were audio books.  Little man is getting bigger and playing with toys now, so I’m trying to manage, but it’s hard. Anyway, enough of my rant and on to the books.

The Alchemist by H.P. Lovecraft

          This was my first Lovecraft read and I didn’t hate it. I purchased his entire collection as an audiobook and the intro by the narrators did not lie. He is very descriptive. Sometimes overly so in a way that makes it hard to follow what his point was. But it also allows for a very colorful story to be told.

          This story was very short, but it still managed to give the reader everything they needed to know. It was dark and creepy, just the way I like my stories to be. It was maybe a little predictable. But only because it’s such an old story and many horrors tales have played on similar themes.

          A good read overall.

At the Mountains of Madness by H.P. Lovecraft

          To be honest, if I had read a physical copy of this book instead of listening to it, I probably wouldn’t have finished it. It was a lot, and I mean a lot, of technical jargon and repetitive descriptions about the scientific expedition and the mountain’s latitude and longitude and the blah blah blah. However, at the root of it all was a creepy story that I did like and want to hear.

          There were a few times that the suspense of ‘what did he see that he refused to talk about,’ might have killed me. I was pulled to google questions I had in order to just get a straight answer, but I pushed on.

          I don’t know if I’m satisfied by the overall story, but I don’t regret getting to the end without giving up.

Make it Scream, Make it Burn by Leslie Jamison

          I picked this book off the list of Top Books of 2019. The author read it herself, and her voice is very calming and almost therapeutic. If I’d had a bad day at work, listening to it on the way home helped me get my head right. This can also be attributed to the topics of her essays.

          I’ve learned interesting facts from this book that I probably wouldn’t have come across otherwise. The Whale, 52 Blue, and the reincarnated children were my favorites. The topic of reincarnation has always piqued my interest.

          The last portion of the book was more personal and I felt I could relate to her on several levels. Her dating Vegas Joe reminded me of my failed endeavors at dating. How she built him up in her head, but the reality of him fell flat. But then also her marriage and becoming a step-mother. To have someone put into words what I’ve felt and struggled with the last two years was a relief. And it’s also given me ideas on how I can strengthen my relationship with Big Brother.

          Overall, I really enjoyed this book and I’m glad I picked it off the list.

78 Reasons why your book may never be published and 14 reasons why it just might by Pat Walsh

          My craft book for the month was the only book I actually read. Mostly because I like to highlight and make notes. And I can’t do that if it’s an audio book or even an e-book.

          I skimmed a lot of this book, to be honest. I’ve read a lot of books on the publishing industry, so I already knew a lot of the information. Not to say it wasn’t good to have a refresher. It also is a bit of an older book so it had a little bit of outdated information. Like the part about self-publishing. It’s not shunned like it was when this book was written.

          And that’s that. I’m going to attempt to actually read this month, but I’m glad I have audio books to fall back on. I’m also preparing my reading list for next year and would gladly take any suggestions.  

June Reads

                Came in just under the wire for my four books of June. Finished the last book late last night when little baby man didn’t let me sleep, haha. Probably not the best idea, because now I’m incredibly tired, but I couldn’t put the book down. Aside from reaching my monthly goal, I was also able to mark another book off my overall reading list. I’ve been getting that list done faster than I originally thought I would. Might even have to add a few more.

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

              First I would like to say that this book has been on my bookshelf for quite some time. Can’t remember exactly when I picked it up, but I’ve been meaning to read it for way too long. However, this book is massive. Not just because of how many pages it is, but because it’s a large freakin’ book. This makes it a little difficult to cart it back and forth to work, so I’ve put it off. Being on maternity leave, though, I figured it was the perfect time to read the books that are bigger than my head 🙂

 Anyway. Wow. This book had me going. Kvothe really couldn’t catch a break. Tragedy, hardship, and egotistical rich boys did their very best to bring him down. Somehow though, he pulled through every time and made the best of his situation. This book tugged at my heartstrings from page one.

                The world building was superb. The reader is totally immersed right away and you can picture it so clearly in your mind. There wasn’t any info dumping sections to slow down the plot; you were told the information a little at a time as you needed it and it was perfect. From the geography to the language, it was just beautiful.

                Along with the world, the characters were amazing. Their mannerisms and attitude leapt off the page. Kvothe of course was great, but I loved his school friends just as much. They had unique personality traits that made them so realistic. No one fell flat. They also grew and changed over time. Kvothe especially started to learn when he needed to keep his mouth shut.

                I really enjoyed the story telling point of view. Kvothe would put in his two cents about what was going to happen here and there and it did a nice job of keeping me hooked. Every time a chapter would end with something like “or so I thought,” I just couldn’t resist turning the page to continue.

The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss

                I ordered the sequel the day I knew I would finish TNotW. And I paid for same day shipping because I couldn’t wait, haha.

                My thoughts on the first book largely carry over into this one. The world and characters continued to blow me away. While Kvothe was away from the University, I found myself missing Sim and Fela. And similarly, when he returned, I wanted to know what Tempi was up to.

                There is considerably more action in this book and we really get to see the kind of warrior/wizard that Kvothe was going to become. We find out why he became such a legend and why it’s so exciting for Chronicler to get his full story down on paper.

                Unfortunately, the final book in the trilogy hasn’t been released yet. But I can guarantee I’ll be getting my copy as soon as I can.

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

                *I have not watched the show yet*

This book made me feel a lot of different emotions. Anger at what society had become. Fear and pity for the young women.  Sadness for Offred any time she thought back on her husband and daughter. And also confusion about a lot of the plot. Quite a bit goes unanswered – obviously because Offred didn’t know everything, so she couldn’t tell us – so I’m pleased a sequel is coming out this fall that’s supposed to answer some of these questions.

                The way the book is written took a little bit of getting used to – the flashing back and forth and knowing where all the dialogue was when she wasn’t quoting – but after about fifty pages I’d gotten the hang of it.

                I enjoyed the colorful characters. (No that isn’t a joke about their clothing, haha.) Despite the fact that the handmaids are supposed to act one way and be subservient, the ones we meet have very distinguishable personalities. The anger of the wife is palpable. The behavior of the commander tells us what kind of man he was before he ended up in a position of power. The Marthas, the Aunts; they all invoke powerful responses from me throughout the entire novel.

                The world in which they live is terrifying. And I can see how people are drawing parallels with the present day. Really makes you open your eyes and pay attention to what’s happening; both what we’re being told and what’s being scraped under the rug. But it also makes me feel a little helpless when it comes to the big picture of things.

Outlining Your Novel Workbook by K.M. Weiland

                My craft book for the month was a great choice. I was plotting out my next novel and this book was full of great advice and prompts. I dove deeper into this project than I ever have. I feel confident in my plot points and in the characters I’ve built. All with the help of this book.

                I didn’t use everything in this book and was able to get my book started without any problem. Who knows how I’d feel about my project if I’d answered every single question this book suggested? The novel would probably write itself. Highly recommend it to anyone trying to plot out their next work.

                What have you been reading? Any recommendations for me?

May’s Reads

                The month of May has been super crazy. I had my baby! So, understandably, I haven’t done as much reading as I would normally have done. I did manage to read four books overall, but It took me nearly three weeks to read the last one. I just happened to read two and a half before the baby came so I was able to keep on track with my monthly goal. And one of the books was on my overall reading list!

The Doll Master by Joyce Carol Oats

                This collection had me going up and down on an emotional roller coaster. I felt for the characters. I understood them. I worried for them. And I was scared of them. A few of the stories ended without a clear resolution and left me slightly frustrated. Cliff-hangers always make me angry. Others had me on the edge of my seat. Even when I saw what was coming, I hoped maybe I was wrong.

                The point of views in all the stories were very clear and well written. The voices pulled me along at just the right pace to keep me intrigued and turning the pages. In “Gun Accident – An Investigation” we are given a flash of the ending at various spots throughout the narrative, but never too much to reveal what really happened. In “Equatorial” we are told the events of each day with the overshadowing feeling of menace, even when to an outsider it would have seemed like a simple action. We feel the wife’s fear – and her acceptance. “Mystery, Inc.” gave you the impression you knew how it was going to turn out, but then as it nears the end you realize it has thrown you for a loop.

                Each one of the stories were amazing and had me interested all the way to the end – and then some.

Rose Madder by Stephen King

                This book was a lot of everything. I felt anger, sadness, pity, disgust, hope, fear, joy… I could go on. I wanted so badly for Rosie to succeed. I know how hard it is to take yourself out of an unhealthy relationship and change your life – even if it wasn’t as horrifying as her situation.

                The characters were amazing. Rosie began as the weak wife taking her beatings and developed into a thick-skinned independent woman. She took her life into her own hands and didn’t let anything get in her way, no matter how scared she was. Norman was terrifying, and he only got worse as the story went on. In the beginning he was in control and thought he was the biggest hard ass around. But by the end of the book, he was losing his mind. Rosie breaking free from him unhinged his mind and he spiraled out of control. The supporting characters Rosie befriended along the way were very vivid and easy to care about. I felt scared and sad for the ones that met a horrible end.

                The pacing of the book was good overall. Some of the chapters I sped through, needing to know what happened next. But then there were parts that slowed down to the point that I wanted to just skim until it picked up again. However, every time Normal got close to finding Rosie, I was so anxious I was almost scared to turn the page. Even when it was so far from the end of the book that I knew it couldn’t possibly be the moment he runs into her.

                The supernatural aspects of the story really held my interest and I wish there had been a little more explanation about where it originated from, but I’m still satisfied with the book overall.

The Publishing Game: Bestseller in 30 Days by Fern Reiss

                This is another book that I picked up at a yard sale and it’s a little older so the concepts in it are a little dated. It’s also geared more towards non-fiction books instead of fiction. Nonetheless, I was able to take away some good information from it. There are tons of tips on how to increase the publicity around your book and how to market to the right audience. It also tells you how to get your book available in more places and create buzz around its release. I feel like I’ll be able to use this book once I get my book out there.

Successful Self-Publishing by Joanna Penn

                This book is a free e-book that I couldn’t pass up reading. It gives you step by step advice on how to get your book published through amazon and how to protect your rights as the author. This was a quick read, another reason I was able to get four books done this month, and made me really excited to get my short story collection formatted so I can get in published.

*

                What have you been reading? What do you recommend?

April Reads

                Four books for the month of April. One of them was on my overall reading list. I’m really enjoying reflecting on the books in my book journal. I feel like it benefits me not only as a reader, but also as a writer. I look deeper into the books and analyze technique more thoroughly and I feel like this helps me learn to be a better writer.

The Creeping by Alexandra Sirowy

                This book was on my reading list. It was overall very intriguing. I wasn’t super attached to the characters, but I still wanted to know what happened to them. The underlying theme of the fantastical and unknown is what kept me hooked.

                The beginning was a little rough. Maybe it’s just because I don’t read a lot of YA, but it almost lost me before my 50 page limit. Some of the dialogue and situations were just a little too forced or cheesy for my taste, but I pushed forward because the plot held me.

                I felt the secondary characters were more real and full compared to the MC. The best friend is such a perfect, catty high school girl and you have a love/hate relationship with her throughout the entire book. The love interest is also a real person to me. I could even match him up with someone I really know. But Stella just didn’t do it for me. She was a little wishy-washy and felt a little too weak to be the hero she was supposed to come across as. Sure, she did some crazy things, but they felt like they were out of character for her.

                The beginning pacing was too slow for me and the love interest plot seemed completely out of place. He could have easily just stayed her friend and the story would have moved forward just fine. Towards the end, the pace and the suspense picked up and I finally found it hard to put down. Makes you question all the way up to the last chapter whether there are evil creatures afoot or if it’s simply evil men amongst them.

                The story wrapped up nicely and I didn’t feel cheated by the answers that were given, which can sometimes be the case in these types of books.

                Again, I probably would have had less complaints if YA was more my thing. The book was recommended to me, so I thought I’d give it a shot.

Shudder Inn by A.R. Wise

                My immediate reaction was to read it a second time. I wanted to pick out all the little clues that pointed towards the ending I didn’t notice the first time through. I love a book that makes me react out loud. I found myself gasping in shock or fear, covering my mouth with anxiety, and saying “oh no!”. This book had me hooked from the get go.

                Most of the book is from Izzy’s point of view. She takes you through real life and dreams. There are also occasional snippets from other characters to fill in the blanks (although not all the way or else the ending wouldn’t be such a shock). The reader really can connect with the characters, they’re so realistic. I found myself caring about each of their lives, even the characters without much screen time. Even the ones that turn out to be the “bad guys” in the end.

               The world building is amazing. A.R. Wise wrote another series, 314 (which I highly recommend), and this book is connected to that world. Though you don’t have to read one to understand the other, reading both really paints a nice picture of what kind of craziness you’re dealing with. The creepy, otherworld, nightmare-esque components keep you holding on until the very last page. And then some, because I definitely want more of this story.

                The end of the book was, as I’ve mentioned, a complete shock. Anyone who was able to guess what was going to happen deserves an award. It’s left open for another book to follow (which I hope will happen) or you could be just left asking WTF.

The Omen by David Seltzer

                First, I would like to mention that I have not seen the movie. I’m not a big movie person in general, so unless a person sits me down to watch something, I probably have never seen it.

                I felt extreme sadness throughout this entire book. The intense situations that they have to deal with are a little unbearable. I don’t think I could have held on the way Jeremy did. He powered through so many crazy things, trying to defeat the evil that had entered his life.

                The characters are beautifully written and I was able to picture each of them clearly. (Like I said, I’ve never seen the movie.) I felt connected to their struggles and wanted so much for them to succeed.

                The suspense kept building through the novel, never letting go until the dramatic climax on the church steps. Each piece of new information feeds into the creepy atmosphere. Every accident and death leads you to believe the world really is doomed. There is no escaping the evil that has come to earth.

                The ending was not unexpected, and yet I still found myself holding onto a thread of hope that maybe all of it would be okay. A very satisfying read.

Guide to Query Letters by Wendy Burt-Thomas

                This was my craft book for the month. Although a little dated, I still felt like it was full of useful information. There were several great examples of what to do and what not to do when writing a query letter. This was not the first book I’ve read on the subject, so I knew some of this already, but I did learn a thing or two.

                I’m sure there is an updated version out there, but I bought this book at a yard sale for $1 so I’m satisfied with what I got out of it. Great advice for anyone working on breaking into the market. Whether it be literary magazines, non-fiction, or fiction novels. Tips for querying agents, editors, and publishers.

                What have you been reading? Do you have any recommendations?

March Reads

                In the month of March, I read four books and met my goal. Three of the books (!!) were on my overall reading list and I was able to mark them off. I also started a book journal this month to better record my thoughts and feelings about the books that I read.

The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides  

*Checked off my overall book list*

                This book really pulled on my heartstrings. It was relatable as a girl who felt like being a teenager was a rough phase of life.

“You’ve never been a thirteen year-old girl,” Cecilia.

                The ending is revealed at the beginning. We already know the girls all commit suicide and the parents move away. And yet, the reader keeps turning the pages to get the whole story. We want to know the details just like the narrators who have kept tabs on the Lisbon girls for what seems to be their whole lives.

                The “we” POV is also very interesting. The reader never really knows who the “we” are aside from the neighbor kids. We find out a few names, but not all and you never really know who the lead speaker is.

                The characterization of the girls was very well done. The reader learns very intimate details about each of them, even though they don’t spend too much time “on stage.” They are so beautifully unique and yet still lumped together as “the Lisbon girls” that seem to blur together as one to the narrators.

                Even with knowing the ending, the reader is still able to get their hopes up from time to time that maybe, just maybe, something else will happen. Maybe the girls escape from their troubles and go on to live happy lives…but no.

                And in the end, you understand their pain. The adults and media all question the “why” behind their deaths, but the narrators can see it. The Lisbon girls did make their escape.

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

*Checked off my overall book list*

                A whole lot of “wow” and “oh no!” went through my mind as I read this book. You like the protagonist right off the bat and you empathize with his struggles throughout the entire book. There were several points that I wish I could have given him a hug.

                Also, the scientific side of the book really blew my mind. It really makes you feel small in the grand scheme of things. The idea of the multiverse has always intrigued me and with this book now in my brain, I’ve been overthinking everything more than before – in a good way.

                Jason is such a normal person that the reader can immediately see him as real and relatable. With the book told from his POV, you feel everything with him. His anger, his shock, fear, denial, acceptance… Every terrible thing that happens to him, it is real to the reader as well.

                The pacing is so well done. As tension builds, the paragraphs become short and staccato. When he’s feeling sad, they go on longer with descriptions that grip the reader.

                The plotline itself is also a masterpiece. There are twists and turns that leave you completely in the dark about how it will all end. There were even a few points that make you feel that all is lost, but then something else happens and they pull through.

                The book ends in the best way – without a firm resolution, but with enough hopefulness that the reader can see how everything will work out. Which is just what Jason deserves after all the trouble he went through.

The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling

                As a HUGE Harry Potter nerd, this book has been on my bookshelf since it was released. However, I just now got around the reading it. It was a great addition to the franchise, especially for dedicated fans like myself. They were very cute stories with heavy moral lessons just like regular fairy tales for muggle children. And I’m not going to lie, I plan on reading from this book to my child.

                I used this book for typing practice, also. I’m a firm believer in writing everything by hand first so I don’t always have something to type to meet my goals. I read somewhere about copying your idols to help develop your skills and I figured this was a great way to kill two birds with one stone. I typed up the entire book as I read it. So I was able to read an additional book, type additional pages, and copy one of my favorite author’s work to get the feel for how she writes a story.

The Art of Social Media by Guy Kawasaki and Peg Fitzpatrick

*Checked off my overall book list*

                This was my craft book for the month. I’ve been striving to improve my online presence and this book had a lot of good tips and tricks to help me out.  In the next few weeks I plan on doing an overhaul on all my social media profiles to optimize them.

                A few of my favorite topics from the book were about making a great profile that stands out, making sure to have great content on your pages, and tips/etiquette for responding to comments. But this book had so much more to offer than just those. I highly recommend it to anyone trying to build their brand.

Let me know what you’ve been reading 🙂

February Reads

                My four books of February almost didn’t make it. The month being shorter on top of still settling into our new house and new routines, I haven’t been able to dedicate as much time to reading as I’d like. I finished up on the last day of the month. But that still counts as a win in my book. I was also able to check off another book on my overall reading list.

The Snow Gypsy by Lindsay Ashford

                 I picked this book off the First Reads list on my Kindle. I have a fondness for historical fiction, and it stuck out to me as something I would enjoy. It’s set right after WWII in Spain and France and follows two women’s journey. Rose is trying to find out the truth to her brother’s disappearance after he went to fight in the war and Lola is trying to make a life for herself as far from her past horrors as she can get.

                The story is filled with beautiful descriptions of the landscape and great characters. Their lives took twists and turns that kept me hanging on every word. I was only able to guess what was going to happen once or twice, the rest of the time I was taken completely by surprise. A very thrilling read and the ending wrapped it up in a nice bow.

                Would recommend to anyone that has an interest in history.

The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

                Anyone who has read DIY MFA knows why I read this story. The chapter on character development talks about it to such an extent that you need to read the story to really understand all the references. A few paragraphs in, I realized I already knew the story from high school when people in my theatre department adapted it into a short play.

                The story describes how women’s mental health was dealt with in the past. The young woman is diagnosed with “nervous disposition” or “hysteria” instead of what would now be known as postpartum depression and she slowly falls into madness while trapped in a room with ugly yellow wallpaper.

                I read this story with the character development chapter in mind and mostly made notes of how the wallpaper comes to life throughout the story and becomes a character of its own. It was a genuinely creepy story.

Apocalypse Winds by Angela White

                The latest installment in the Life After War Series! This book was the reason I almost didn’t finish my four-book goal, because every part of this series is well over 1000 pages. But I finished it on the 28th after dinner 😊

                Safe Haven is on their ship, taking on the ocean to get to the island where they will be able to rebuild civilization. They encounter troubles along the way, both from people and from nature. They soldier on in spite of everything and try to make the best of things like they usually do. We get new character relationships to follow and deaths to deal with. We get one step closer to the end of their stories and get left on another cliff hanger (as usual) that leaves us biting our nails wondering about the outcome.

                The only trouble I’ve had with this series is the abundance of characters to remember. But at the same time, they all have independent troubles to deal with and traits that make them unique. Still in love with this series and can’t wait for the next one.

DIY MFA by Gabriela Pereira

                This was the book I was able to mark off my reading list and it was my resource read for the month. I picked it because of how much I enjoy the DIY MFA website and because she launched the book club last month.

                I’m happy to report I learned new techniques and pointers from this book. The exercises have been helpful, and I will employ some of her tactics in my future work.

                Write with focus. Read with purpose. Build your community.

                I can’t wait to see where this month’s books take me. What have you been reading?