The Tor ebook club is back!

I was so excited this morning to see an email announcing the return of the Tor ebook club. The book for this month is The Eye of the World, the first book in Robert Jordan’s  Wheel of Time series.

In case you don’t know, Tor.com offers a free ebook each month for many months of the year. I have gotten some great books that way.  You sign up to get their newsletters, which are usually interesting if you like Fantasy of Science Fiction, and then get access to the ebook club. The books are only available for a couple days, so you have to act fast. This one, for instance, will disappear after 2/15.

This is a great opportunity, and I hope ou will take advantage of it!

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January reading

Well, I started off the year pretty well, I think. I read eight books, including one from each of the Guardian’s lists of 100 best Non-Fiction Books and 100 best Novels in English.

I read De Profundis by Oscar Wilde. I can honestly say it is one of the best books I have ever read. Written while he was in prison, the book describes Wilde’s coming to terms with his life in prison. It deals with very heavy but very important topics, such as suffering and loss. This is one that I will undoubtedly read again as there is much that can be learned. I cannot recommend it enough. It is, by the way, #52 on the nonfiction list.

From the fiction list, I read The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins (#19). I have had an ebook copy of this book for years and often thought about starting it but was scared off by its length (This version says it is 695 pages.) This time, thought, I decided I had to read it. And I have to say that I enjoyed it. It is a mystery, the theft of a massive gem, told from the points of view of several people who were involved at various stages of the matter. As some of the reviews on Amazon say, you have to understand that this is a book written 150 years ago, not a modern detective novel. Everything doesn’t get laid out in the first 100 pages and solved before the end of 300. It was a great story, and I recommend it.

I read two mysteries, and I enjoyed both of them.

  • Mistake Creek by Rachel Amphlett was a very exciting book. Nina came home after 10 years to board up her father’s business before a storm, with an eye to selling the property as soon as possible. After a man shows up at the door all bloody and another man sheltering there is murdered, she struggles to figure out who she can trust. And who is the murderer? Is it her old boyfriend? The couple that showed up on a motorbike? This ws a good story that kept my interest until the very end. I recommend it if you like thrillers.
  • Murder in Adland  by Bruce Beckham is the story of the murder of an ad executive. I guessed the murderer long before the end, but the story was still interesting because I could never e completely sure. The book also takes place in the Lake District of England, with side trips to London and Edinburgh. I thought the story was very interesting, but what really captured my attention was the insight the book offered into these other locations. I am used to reading about London, but even the parts of the story that took place there were more interesting because the lead detective didn’t know the city at all. I have a few other books in this series, and you can be sure I am going to read them.

I also read two speculative novels.

  • The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick was an alternate history in which the Germans won World War II.  I knew nothing about it before reading it — nothing except the fact that Amazon had a show based on the book. I have not watched the show but I may do so now that I have read the book. The tension between Japan and Germany is reminiscent of the tension between the US and the USSR after the war. No one seems any happier than they would have been if the war ended as we know it did. They are actually a lot more unhappy. It is an interesting story and will probably lead me to read more of Dick’s work.
  • A Mortal Song by Megan Crewe was a fascinating book about Japanese mythology set in the present. Two girls were switched at birth to protect the one who is the daughter of the rulers of the kami living on Mt. Fuji. The story brings the two girls together to save the mountain and all the kami. It is a great story. The girls have to come to terms with not being who they always thought they were. It is a story of self-discovery. I really enjoyed it!

I read one book that I couldn’t really categorize, Death Wind  by Travis Heermann and Jim Pinto. It is listed on Amazon as being horror, but it was much more than that. The story takes place after the Wounded Knee massacre and starts off as historical fiction. Then the Death Wind comes because of all the evil in the world and the story takes a drastic turn — cannibalism is part of the “cure” brought by the Wind. I didn’t enjoy this as much as I did Heermann’s samurai books, but that is largely because I am not a fan of horror at all. Overall, though, I would recommend this book if you are into this kind of thing.

I read one other non-fiction book, Writing into the Dark: How to Write a Novel without an Outline by Dean Wesley Smith. This book was exactly what I needed. I have read lots of books about writing, and they all had things I could try, and I tried them. But ultimately, most of them just slowed my writing down. This book, though, largely confirmed what I was already doing and legitimized it. That, and Smith’s example, has done more to spur my writing on than anything I have read in a long time.

So that was it for January.  Let’s see what February brings!

 

Looking ahead to next year’s reading

In the past, I have had various schemes for my reading. Some of them have been successful and others not so much. I am thinking that this next year I want to try to add some structure to my reading.

This morning on The Guardian, I ran across a list of the 100 best nonfiction books. I have read a few of them but not many. That got me thinking: maybe I should make that a category this year. And then I saw a link to the 100 best novels written in English. I had read more of them but certainly not all. And many of the ones I read, I read more than 50 years ago! The more I think about it, the more I think I will add these two categories and I will consciously try to read as many of them as I can.

In addition, I will continue to read mysteries and speculative fiction. I think I will eliminate the categories of Historical Fiction and Short Fiction — unless I find myself having to add them in later because I cannot categorize something I have read any other way.

The inclusion of the nonfiction books will probably lead me to go to the library. I have read ebooks for so long now that it will seem strange, but maybe that will be good for me, too!

So this is my plan at the moment. I reserve the right to change my mind, of course!

December Reading

Well, I just finished a book, and I am quite sure I won’t finish another before the end of today, so here is a look at what I read this month.

I read one non-fiction book: Book Launch Blueprint by Time Grahl. I got a lot of good ideas from this one. Many of them I will ignore, but some of them I may actually use. It is very short, which is actually good, because I will have to pull it out and reread it as we move closer to actually getting our books published. A lot of it deals with the importance of mailing lists. I have read elsewhere that you need to be careful not to put time into your mailing list that should be spent writing, but I think there is some middle ground. This book made me realize that this is something I need to work on.

I read three mysteries:

  • Hollywood Dirty by MZ Kelly is the fourth book in this series, the third one I have read. I remember liking the first two but, while I enjoyed this one, I didn’t like it nearly as much. The basic story – the murder of an Olympic athlete – was interesting, but there was too much craziness.  It was so crazy it almost crowded out the mystery completely. It may be that not having read C is part of the problem. And maybe this isn’t as good as or B, but E might be great. I’ll read another one of these before giving up.
  • Innocent Strangers by Millys Altman was an interesting story. It was set in the late nineteenth century in coal mining territory. I decided NOT to categorize it as historical fiction because there is little sense of history in it. I didn’t come away from it with any new knowledge about the time period; the story could have just as easily been set in the present. That being said, though, I enjoyed it as a mystery. Jenny, the main character, has to deal with the corruption of the town she ends up in almost by accident, the prejudices of the time against women, and the murder charges she and her father are facing — all while falling in love. I enjoyed it.
  • Murder at the Mayan Temple by M.J. Mandrake was not that great a story. To start with, there were a lot of obvious factual errors that kept popping up. For instance, when talking about Mexico, she talked about being in the Amazon jungle. Last I heard, the Amazon was in South America — unless maybe she was talking about amazon.com. Some of the characters were more than a little difficult to believe, too: a deaf 90-year old who married her pool boy and then went on a cruise with him and her son?  With all the things I didn’t like, though, I found several things I liked a lot. Kitty, the main character, is interesting and likable. I would have liked to get to know her a little better. The detective she meets is equally likable, but his introduction into the story is a little confusing. All in all, it was OK.  There are five other books in the series. If I stumbled upon one of them for free, I might give the series another try. Otherwise, probably not.

I read three books of speculative fiction:

  • Dark Angel by Christine Pope was a fun read. A young woman, being prepared to be the head of her clan of witches, meets with a lot of problems along the way. Chief among them — at least in the beginning — is finding her consort. It should happen when she is 21, and time is running out. Some parts of the book were very predictable, but overall it was OK. What I didn’t like was the cliffhanger ending. There was absolutely NO sense of conclusion in this book. The hero is left in a dangerous situation. Leading up to that point, we find out a couple of things that won’t happen in the future, but nothing is resolved. I understand wanting to leave a reading anxious to read the next book, but this seems a little dishonest.
  • Twin Souls by K.A. Poe was not a book I particularly liked, and I almost assuredly won’t be reading any more books in the series. It’s a vampire / vampire hunter book, for one thing. I didn’t know how much I don’t really care for that dynamic until I read this book, but it has convinced me that I don’t like the sub-genre. Another think I didn’t like is that the main character, Alexis, is obviously brainwashed by a vampire. He even admits it to her at one point. Under his influence, she turns against her friends and family. Obviously, I am not part of the intended demographic for this book, but I don’t think I could recommend it to anyone who might be.  As I think about it now, part of the problem is that there isn’t enough character description for me to really care about any of them except for Alexis — and as I said, I didn’t like her, really.
  • Eon by Greg Bear was a great book. It is hard science fiction and, according to Amazon, 512 pages long. I found myself really caught up in the story. The main character, Patricia Luisa Vasquez, is a theoretical mathematician. She travels to an asteroid to try to discover who its former inhabitants were and where they went to. A pretty large international crew of scientists and soldiers works on the asteroid, exploring it and trying to understand what it is and how it works. War on Earth causes huge problems in space, too. Things are so hectic that it takes a while for anyone to notice that Patricia has disappeared. This was an excellent story, in no small part because the characters are so real. When I read a book like this, it makes me realize how feeble my own attempts at writing are!

I real one book I categorized as historical fiction: A Difference of Purpose by Terry Soileau. It is a Civil War story with a fair amount of religion thrown in. Having worked at a Catholic seminary in Louisiana, there were things about the book that were very familiar to me. I could imagine any of a number of young seminarians I knew writing it. The religious aspects may be a little bit too much for many readers, but I enjoyed it.

I also read a piece of short fiction: Midsummer Night (A Lady Julia Mystery) by Deanna Raybourn is book 7 in a 7-book series but the first one I have read. It is also only 58 pages. So how much can you really expect? As one review on Amazon said,

There’s nothing new here for a reader who’s up to date on all Lady Julia’s activities by having read all five of the Lady Julia novels so far. And there’s no real mystery in this either.

The story was a little light in terms of mystery, but it made up for it with characters I thoroughly enjoyed. Not knowing them from previous books, I was thrown into the story, and it worked just fine. It was a fun read.

December was a slow month in terms of reading, I guess. Not too shabby, though, I guess!