The Never-Ending Reading List

I feel like this is something every reader experiences at some point. You get busy with life and other hobbies and before you know it your planned reading list is growing out of control and books are piling up. The best thing about switching to ebooks was that it made it easier to contain all those piles. I read a lot, but I still experience an uncontrollable reading list way too often because I’m addicted to looking for new books. I finally had to stop and realize I will probably always feel behind on my reading no matter how many books I get through I always feel hopelessly behind. I’m working on enjoying the journey and not rushing to the finish line.

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Sometimes my list of of books stresses me out because I want to read them all like right now. One reason I like to read a lot of ebooks through my library instead of print books is because with ebooks I only check out 1-2 books at a time, but with print books I check out 3 or more and try to cram them all into three weeks. Then I get stressed because I’m afraid someone else will put a book on hold that I don’t finish in time and so I rush to finish reading all the books. I’m working at limiting myself so I don’t get stressed out. I always feel a bit like Belle from Beauty and the Beast when I walk into the library, which means I always walk out with way too many books.

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I’m very lucky in that my city library is well stocked and gets a lot of new books in, so I never run of books to read. And a big thank you to the library because I read too many books in a year to buy them all. However since I’m in a city, it can take weeks to get popular books I put on hold. That means if I’m not paying attention to my holds list several books might come in within a short time span. It almost feels like an unwritten rule of the library that if you put more than one book on hold, you’ll get them all at almost the same time.

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I have other hobbies too, like kayaking, writing, knitting, board games, traveling, and other various things, so I try not to let reading take over all my free time, which it inevitably does for 2-3 weeks after a library trip. This year I’m working on balancing my reading with other hobbies and not letting my reading list stress me out. So what if it piles up? Those books aren’t going anywhere and winter will always be back, and I do a lot of reading during those months when I can’t do much outside. Plus having a variety of books on my reading list means more to pick from when I’m in a reading mood. See what I did there? I’m pretending to be an optimistic. Now I just need to get myself to believe all those things.

How do you handle your growing reading list?

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Book Review: On A Cold Dark Sea

On A Cold Dark Sea by Elizabeth Blackwell is about three women who were aboard the Titanic. No Jack and Rose here, so no need to debate if they could have both fit on their makeshift raft, but there is still a touch of tragic romance. Honestly that movie scared me away from boats for a while as a kid and to this day I refuse to watch the movie again because watching the Titanic sink makes me sob my eyes out and gives me nightmares about being on a sinking ship. But back to the book, I give it four stars. While there are romantic elements on it, the story focuses more on the human element and how the tragedy impacted the lives of survivors and not the excitement of the sinking.

This book is about three women from varying backgrounds and social standings: Charlotte, Esme, and Anna. The book shows us snippets of their life before boarding the Titanic, their time aboard, and how they fared after surviving including coming to terms with those they lost in the sinking. This makes it easy to see the big picture and the impact the tragedy had on their lives and in some cases, how it changed the course of their lives. The actual sinking of the ship itself gets little screen time, which is unfortunate for those of us interested in it, but it also keeps the sinking from taking up too much of the book. The blurb for the book does a great job of describing the story perfectly. Continue reading “Book Review: On A Cold Dark Sea”

Book Review: The Last Namsara

The Last Namsara by Kristen Ciccarelli was a book that originally wasn’t high on my reading list, but I ran into it at the library and picked it up and I’m so glad I did. I give this book 5 stars. The little stories included in it were beautiful and I was hooked for the whole ride. As an editor I see a lot of authors struggle with world building, but this book is a great of example of how to do world building gradually without overwhelming readers. The world building was fantastic and one of my favorite aspects of this book.

32667458In the beginning, there was the Namsara: the child of sky and spirit, who carried love and laughter wherever he went. But where there is light, there must be darkness—and so there was also the Iskari. The child of blood and moonlight. The destroyer. The death-bringer.

These are the legends that Asha, daughter of the king of Firgaard, has grown up learning in hushed whispers, drawn to the forbidden figures of the past. But it isn’t until she becomes the fiercest, most feared dragon slayer in the land that she takes on the role of the next Iskari—a lonely destiny that leaves her feeling more like a weapon than a girl.

Asha conquers each dragon and brings its head to the king, but no kill can free her from the shackles that await at home: her betrothal to the cruel commandant, a man who holds the truth about her nature in his palm. When she’s offered the chance to gain her freedom in exchange for the life of the most powerful dragon in Firgaard, she finds that there may be more truth to the ancient stories than she ever could have expected. With the help of a secret friend—a slave boy from her betrothed’s household—Asha must shed the layers of her Iskari bondage and open her heart to love, light, and a truth that has been kept from her. Continue reading “Book Review: The Last Namsara”

Bad Parents in Fiction

A trend I’ve noticed a lot recently is bad or abusive guardians in young adult fantasy. I’d say out of the last five YA fantasy books I read, three of them included abusive guardians. I find it curious, but I admit it’s something I’m growing tired of.  This is a topic I’ve been wanting to get off my chest and explore. I’d like to believe there are heroes who have happy families but still choose to go on the adventure. Admittedly I had a rough childhood at times myself, which is why I like to see portrayals of happy families to know that well you know, they actually exist.

Off the top of my head I can think of quite a few examples of YA fantasies that include abusive or awful parents/guardians. The list includes Caraval by Stephanie Garber, Glitter by Aprilynne Pike, Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. Dao, The Cruel Prince by Holly Black, Dividing Eden by Joelle Charbonneau, Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire, and Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller. All but one of those books (Caraval) I’ve read this year. I’ve noticed this concept is often used to do one of two things: be a motivator for the main character to go on their journey, or to motivate a character to succeed by making their parent proud while on that journey because then they will finally get the love they’ve been searching for from their parent. And other times the parents are bad parents in that they are just so uninvolved that the main character can do anything without the parents noticing. I know it can be so hard in YA to let characters act on their own without being parented, but sometimes the oblivious parent role is just too obvious. Continue reading “Bad Parents in Fiction”

Book Review: The Traitor’s Wife

I recently read The Traitors’ Wife by Allison Pataki. I mentioned this book in my previous post about observers in historical fiction, but I’m going to cover the overall story in deeper detail. I give this book a 3.5, mostly due to the issue mentioned in my previous post, which I’ll explore again. This is a read intended for those interested in the American Revolution and the women involved. We often hear of men like George Washington and Benedict Arnold, but less often we hear about their wives, the women who helped support their causes. The Traitor’s Wife follows the story of Peggy, Benedict Arnold’s wife.

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Peggy is not a character you want to root for, quite the opposite. But that works well in this story since otherwise the ending would be tragic instead of satisfying. It’s not often I see a main character who I dislike but want to keep reading about. Peggy is a fascinating woman as is her sly plotting. This book gave me a whole new perspective on her, albeit a negative one. The book also gave some insight into Philadelphia during the Revolutionary War as it changed between British and American hands. I don’t want to give away too many spoilers about Peggy, but she was if anything a stubborn woman set on getting her way, making for a great villain. Continue reading “Book Review: The Traitor’s Wife”

Historical Fiction From the Observer

I read a lot of historical fiction and something I’ve noticed lately is a lot of stories of famous people being written about from the perspective of someone close to them, an observer of their story. This keeps us out of the famous person’s head and shows us how they appear through the eyes of someone else. I’ve seen this device done very well, but I’ve also seen it done in ways that made the observer come off as too lackluster and boring. In the worst case, I went into a book expecting a prominent figure to play a central role only for them to be in less than half the book, for example as in The Wardrobe Mistress. The book was called a novel about Marie Antoinette, but she was more of a side character as the book followed the story of one of her undertirewomen. While reading my latest historical pick, I finally figured out what makes writing from an observer’s point of view work for my personal tastes and what doesn’t.

Let’s start with an example of a story of a famous person’s life playing out through an observer’s eyes that worked. The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller did a wonderful job of showing us Achilles’s story through the eyes of his lover Patroclus. One of the reasons I enjoyed seeing the story from Patroclus’s point of view was because it shrouded bits of Achilles in mystery and gave us a view outside of Achilles’s own thoughts on himself, which is my experience seems to often be the reason why an observer’s point of view is used in the first place. However Patroclus played a large role in the story. Yes he observed Achilles’s rise to fame and his demise, but he didn’t just observe, he took part in that story and helped shape it. Ultimately that’s what sold me on Patroclus’s POV. I didn’t just get an outside perspective of Achilles, Patroclus’s character was fascinating enough in his own right for me to enjoy getting his story as well. Continue reading “Historical Fiction From the Observer”

Book Review: Baby Teeth

Right before PitchWars 2017 I held a series of interviews with mentors and previous mentees. One of those mentees was Zoje Stage and you can read the interview here. Well her thriller Baby Teeth comes out July 2018 from St. Martin’s Press and I was lucky enough to receive an advanced copy of it. I couldn’t put this book down and I give it 5 stars. I have a few aspects of this book I’m excited to talk about.

First, let’s take a look at the cover and description.

35410511Sweetness can be deceptive.

Meet Hanna.

She’s the sweet-but-silent angel in the adoring eyes of her Daddy. He’s the only person who understands her, and all Hanna wants is to live happily ever after with him. But Mommy stands in her way, and she’ll try any trick she can think of to get rid of her. Ideally for good.

Meet Suzette.

She loves her daughter, really, but after years of expulsions and strained home schooling, her precarious health and sanity are weakening day by day. As Hanna’s tricks become increasingly sophisticated, and Suzette’s husband remains blind to the failing family dynamics, Suzette starts to fear that there’s something seriously wrong, and that maybe home isn’t the best place for their baby girl after all. Continue reading “Book Review: Baby Teeth”