For all its much vaunted “algorithms” I hate trying to find something new to read on Amazon. If I’ve got the title, or the name of a favourite author, yep, it’s a doddle to find a good book. But if you don’t know what you want, Amazon offers a rubbish browsing experience (imo).
I end up finding most of my books through recommendations. I put a note at the end of my last newsletter asking readers what they’d recommend me to try. I only got one response, but my, it was a doozy! The Girl from Everywhere is time travel and magic, folklore and heist, friendship and coming of age, and it’s entirely gorgeous.
I’ve finished The Girl from Everywhere now, so – what do you recommended, lovely reader? Anything good you want to share?
Well, I hope I’ve made up for my fail last week by zipping through two Shattered World stories this week. I read Mistress Grim by Jane Redd, and A Reaper Made by Liz Long back to back.
It was really interesting reading them one after the other, because they were both stories featuring a female grim reaper, but each took the theme in completely different directions.
Mistress Grim chose high fantasy and created a supernatural, medieval world with a sword-wielding prince for a hero, while A Reaper Made was a very slick contemporary fantasy with a reaper who used to be human getting a glimpse of the dark depths of the supernatural world. Mistress Grim concentrated on the romance between the two central characters, while A Reaper Made was much more focused on friendships (the secondary characters were an absolute delight), although there were some hints of romance (love does make the world go round, right?).
I can’t believe how far through Shattered Worlds I’ve got in what feels like no time at all – there are only a few more weeks left, so check back next week to see how I’ve got on with my next read from the collection.
I’m on a roll, readers. This week I read and reviewed Slayer by JA Armitage and JA Culican with time to spare. When a trainee dragon-slayer and a dragon shifter come face to face there are bound to be sparks. I loved this Romeo-and-Juliet story about Julianna and Ash discovering the truth about their villages’ enmity. And thankfully, while there’s plenty of lies, betrayal and fighting, no one gets poisoned in Slayer.
And since I can’t bear to be without a book, I also grabbed Joanne Macgregor’s The Law of Tall Girls, a new release by one of my favourite authors. I don’t read many contemporary books because speculative fiction is my first love. But, oh my, when they are this good it’s a pleasure to switch genres! Curiously enough, Romeo and Juliet also featured here, with a high school play of the ill-fated lovers’ story. The Law of Tall Girls is beautifully written with real emotional punch. I loved it.
Check back next week to see what I pick next from the Shattered Worlds collection – or elsewhere!
I travelled in time and space this week, with Kristy Tate’s The Pirate Episode. It’s a time travel romance which took me to the sunny Caribbean during the American revolutionary war.
I loved it! The sense of place was gorgeous – I could feel the sun on my face. Kristy’s writing is light and deft and I vehemently wanted a happy ending for her characters. Perfect weekend reading!
And because I am a reading demon at the moment I snapped right to the present day and also read Cookie O’Gorman’s Ninja Girl. This is her second (as far as I know) and it was just as much a delight to read as Adorkable. It is flawed – I could see the plot twist coming a mile off (way before any of the characters did, which was a bit unlikely), but somehow that doesn’t matter when you’re reading Cookie O’Gorman!
I loved them both. Check back next week to see how I got on with Slayer. It features dragon shifters, and I really hope I like it better than Shadow Queen which has the same trope but left me cold!
I read a lot of YA fiction. Reading is a high priority in my life. I work, I’m a mum, I write books myself (45.5k words through Nanowrimo – whoop!) and I still squash in reading 2 – 3 books a week. I’d be lost without them. But I can get a bit jaded. Just to check if I was tiring of my free reading challenge I decided to shake things up. Instead of YA I picked a few books from other genres to read.
What a pleasure!
First up was Libby Kirsch’s The Big Lead. This is part-romance, part-crime and a whole lot of fun. It reminded me of the Jennifer Crusie novels I read years ago to de-stress when I was in the middle of exams. It was an absolute pleasure – small town America with some glorious, off-beat characters to brighten the place up. Plus, I never read crime. I know there were clues there, but they didn’t impinge on me. I was simply along for the ride, so when it all came together in a fabulous, heart-pounding finale I was completely taken by surprise. I’ll definitely look out for more!
Short and far from sweet
Next up was a collection of short stories. I love short stories (a great way to fill a few unexpected minutes queuing or similar) and I probably don’t read enough. That was certainly my opinion after reading these. I downloaded Icy Sedgwick’s Checkmate: Tales of Speculative Fiction. Woah, they were seriously good – creepy and high unsettling as well as being gorgeously imaginative!
Kept in suspense
And finally, for something completely different I picked up Tracey Pedersen’s All Adrift. I’d probably tag this as romantic suspense as it’s very definitely a romance, but with a strong crime/suspense element.
Also unusual for me, it’s the third in a series. I’m glad to say that didn’t spoil my reading pleasure at all. I was hooked into Jenna and Ryan’s romance from the start, and wanting to find out what was going on with the mysterious, unknown (or was she?) woman. I’m delighted to say all my guesses were completely wrong in a very satisfying way!
Note: putting in links to the books I apologise if they aren’t showing free for you – I think they may have been on a free offer rather than permafree when I picked them up. Having read them, I would say they’re all worth paying for, though!
My blog this week is in support of the hugely talented Rhoda Baxter, whose new novel, Please Release Me, is on sale RIGHT NOW!
Please Release Me features characters who are all ‘stuck’ in some way, so I’m taking that as my theme for today.
What I’m stuck on right now is the dreaded edits for my second novel, The Last Dreamseer. Although they’re not really dreaded. My brilliant substantive editor (the uber-talented Rachel Daven Skinner) has done her usual wonderful job pointing out the plot holes large enough to lose a character into, and while I am in the middle of a big job of work I’m looking forward to how much better the novel will be once I sort out all the kinks in the plot so it will carry my readers effortlessly through the story.
If I could be stuck anywhere I liked … Well, I’m a big Dr Who fan and I loved the library episodes (Silence in the Library and Forests of the Dead) because I can’t think of a better idea for the afterlife than for it to be the most enormous library in the universe. However, my problem with the afterlife is that eternity trumps anything finite, so sooner or later I’d end up having read all the books ever written and having nothing left to read (at which point a heavenly afterlife would become hell). So I’d better ask to be stuck there with a load of writer friends so we could spend the afterlife writing and keep each other supplied with new books for the rest of eternity.
My favourite stickers Once you’re an adult you don’t really get given stickers much (boo), but if you become a writer you do get the opportunity to play with Post-It notes. Oh, the lovely bright colours, the space to scribble ideas on … and that lovely strip of stickiness that means I can put it where I like on my planning board and move it to fit the ebb and flow of the story as it grows. Love ’em!
Rhoda’s last novel, Dr January, was a stunner, and I can’t wait to get stuck in (see what I did there?!) to Please Release Me. Now, where’s my Kindle got to..?
What if you could only watch as your bright future slipped away from you?
Sally Cummings has had it tougher than most but, if nothing else, it’s taught her to grab opportunity with both hands. And, when she stands looking into the eyes of her new husband Peter on her perfect wedding day, it seems her life is finally on the up.
That is until the car crash that puts her in a coma and throws her entire future into question.
In the following months, a small part of Sally’s consciousness begins to return, allowing her to listen in on the world around her – although she has no way to communicate.
But Sally was never going to let a little thing like a coma get in the way of her happily ever after …
I’m blogging in support of a friend today, on the topic of dreams.
I had a Dream…
I dreamed of being a published writer once. Ah, wait, no, I don’t mean a day dream. Of course I had the “dream” of being a published writer, otherwise I wouldn’t be here now, but long before I was published I had a proper, sleeping, dream of being published. I was in some kind of refectory (maybe I’d been watching the Harry Potter films, because that’s what it was like, lots of us sitting before long wooden tables eating breakfast) and the postie walked in with the mail. He stood at the end of the long refectory table handing out envelopes, and then pulled a rectangular, book-sized package out of his sack and held it up with a sly smile, “Does anyone know who this might be for?” In the way you have in dreams I knew it was MY book, printed and back from my publishers ready to be unleashed on the book-reading public. I stood on my chair, “Me! It’s mine!” And practically climbed over the table in my eagerness to reach the physical end result of all my writing efforts.
I can still remember that sense of utter delight at knowing my book was finally a real thing. Being published for real was different (no refectory tables, for a start), but every bit as exhilarating as I’d dreamt.
Well, I’m going to have to go metaphorical here, because I don’t think my childhood dreams about foot-eating pigs are entirely relevant to reading and writing.
My nightmare isn’t, as you might expect, not being able to write. I’ve tried giving up and I just can’t do it. Even if you took away my PC, burned all the paper and pens and pencils in the world and didn’t let me have even a stick of charcoal from the fire I’d still write – it would just be in my head. My nightmare would be if I lost the ability to write – if I could no longer construct a sound story and write it in an entertaining manner. My nightmare would be to lose my writing competence without losing the desire to write well. Shudder.
My Dream for the Future…
Is simply to keep on doing what I love, and to get better with each book. However, given that my writing always explores some aspect of ecology and humanity’s care of the planet, it would also be utterly marvellous if the world could not implode in a global disaster so there will still be people around to share stories with.
Now, the reason I’ve been blogging about dreams is to celebrate and support my dear and lovely writer friend, Alison May, whose new book, Midsummer Dreams, is out today. Alison writes contemporary romances (oddly, some people display no desire to write melodramatic fantasies where the end of the world is nigh!), which are packed with a wonderful emotional punch. Check out the details below.
Four people. Four messy lives. One party that changes everything … Emily is obsessed with ending her father’s new relationship – but is blind to the fact that her own is far from perfect. Dominic has spent so long making other people happy that he’s hardly noticed he’s not happy himself. Helen has loved the same man, unrequitedly, for ten years. Now she may have to face up to the fact that he will never be hers. Alex has always played the field. But when he finally meets a girl he wants to commit to, she is just out of his reach. At a midsummer wedding party, the bonds that tie the four friends together begin to unravel and show them that, sometimes, the sensible choice is not always the right one.
I’m cross and crotchety today. I feel like I’ve wasted my reading time this week on two books that didn’t end.
Now, I don’t mean they were long, nor that they were dull. They didn’t end because their writers (and their editors and big, commercial publishers in turn) had failed to comprehend the fundamental requirement for a story to have a beginning, a middle and an end.
This concept was dinned into me at primary school – it’s still used in primary schools now (I checked with 10 yo Offspring). Has this story structure become optional in the adult world and no one bothered to tell me?
One was a romance – and I didn’t find out which boy the girl picked. The other was mainly a whodunnit. It was a fabulous read, right up until the pacey denoument when the heroine was going to find out who’d murdered her twin sister – unless they got to her first! – and then I turned the page to find not who dunnit but an epilogue where she’s fairly sure she knows but wasn’t bothered by any sense of danger or even unease.
They were both the first in a series, but writing a series is not an excuse to cheat your reader out of a satisfying read with each book – or is it? Again, did I miss the memo?!
A contract is formed when I pick up a book. If I’m reading a romance, I expect to finish knowing that girl has met boy and are swanning off into the sunset (in a stolen hovercraft is fine, it doesn’t have to be mushy-happy); if it’s a whodunnit, I NEED TO FIND OUT WHODUNNIT. And I’m both disappointed and cross if that doesn’t happen. I expected a story – but I only got half a one.
Their limp endings (followed by excited requests for me to dash out and get the next in the series – um, no) have ensured I’ll never pick up another book by these writers. And that’s a real shame because both were good, competent books and one of them was absolutely cracking right up until it failed to finish.
Am I the only one to get annoyed by endings that don’t end properly? Use the comments to let me know if you hate an uncertain finish, or if you love a mega cliffhanger at the end of a novel.
I’ve been feeling down lately. Nothing major, probably due to the gloomy weather, lack of sunlight and Christmas stress. But I’ve also been reading a lot of dystopian fiction which it occurred to me might not be helping. When I finish a book and need to take a look out of the window to ensure I’m in the real world and that the book world exists only on the pages I’ve just set down, maybe I shouldn’t be surprised if my mood is less than perky.
One of the most wonderful things about books is that they let you slip on someone else’s skin and live their life for a while, and maybe I should treat that priviledge with caution. I don’t read horror deliberately because a horror story takes wa-ay too long to leave me after I’ve finished the book, so it’s reasonable to think that other genres will have an effect and should be rationed. Books allow you to “walk a mile” in someone else’s shoes; sometimes I should run a mile rather than accept that offer.
Now, perhaps this is akin to the notion that shoot-em-up video games “make” us violent and my mood is nothing to do with my reading matter, but I’m taking no chances. To perk myself up I’m reading a cosy romance where I know that however bad things might appear, life will come right for the characters in the end.
How about you – do you find your mood changes with your reading matter?