Classics to read

The historical fiction class I finished in the fall had me reading short snippets of classics — classics I’ve never read, or for some reason, decided outright that I wouldn’t like and never read. For instance, The Deerslayer by James Fenimore Cooper. I read two short chapters and rather liked it; I’m considering going back and starting from the beginning just to see how it goes. The Last of the Mohicans was just as violent as I thought it would be, and in the one and a half chapters I read, I didn’t particularly care for the characters. It’s an interesting time period although I’m not planning to go back to read more of this one.

However, Charles Dickens does have me thinking. I’ve never cared for Dickens (even the stories I did read), always took dark and sad for me. After four chapters of A Tale of Two Cities, I think I may have to go back and start this one from the beginning. Previously, when I’ve tried to read this book, it was  just too depressing for me to take. But I did find A Tale of Two Cities very intriguing this time — strange how time can make you see things from a new perspective. It has me considering an actual read of A Christmas Carol too. Sad to say, I only know this one from plays and movies and I feel I should read the book.

Chaka by Thomas Mofolo was so very good and I’m sad I haven’t been able to find a copy of this book. I have to check some used bookstores for a copy since my library doesn’t have it. It’s the story of a mythical Zulu Chief and his rise and fall from power and the one and only chapter I was able to get my hands on left me wanting a lot more. It’s a setting I’m very unfamiliar with but I want to know so much more about the characters and their traditions. I need to get my hands on a copy of this book because the first chapter was just amazing.

Tell me, any classics you’ve avoided and why?

Random Things

I didn’t really have any intention of posting today, but since I was scheduling a post for tomorrow, I thought I’d at least let you know what I’m reading.

The Book of Apex: Volume 4 edited by Lynne M. Thomas

Black Bottle by Anthony Huso

Both are insanely good and I’m having trouble sticking with one and keep going back and forth which means reading is taking forever, but it’s so enjoyable.

Tell me, what are you reading today?

The Book of Apex Volume 4

Black Bottle

Books I will be reading

In 2013, I read The Last Page by Anthony Huso which came highly recommended by Elizabeth at Darkcargo. She said it was one of her favorites and I now know why. It’s so good that it’s really hard to describe so you should just go read it. It’ll be easier on everyone that way.

So, as it turns out, Huso wrote a sequel to The Last Page, which I have — Black Bottle. I’m hesitating with this one. You know when you read a book and you love it so hard that all you want to do is read the next book in the series and jump back into the world but you can’t because you’re afraid that it might not meet your high expectations and you’re all what do I do!?

I’ll now take one for the team and read this and let you know what happens.

The Book of Apex: Volume 4 of Apex Magazine. Here’s more.  Don’t you want it too?! You do. I’ll be reading and posting about this in February. Get excited. I’m reading this now and it’s amazing.

1Q84 by Haruki Murakami. This book has been on my shelf since the day it came out, the same day I ran to my favorite neighborhood bookstore and bought a copy that I’m pretty sure I hugged all the way home. I started the book and gave up on it. I was sad but another person revealed to me that she too quit, not being in the right state of mind for it. She had something with that statement; I shrugged off guilt and put it back on the shelf. It’s now time.

I read Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall way back. I finished it; I didn’t love it. Everyone seemed to though. So what do I do? I buy the sequel, Bring Up the Bodies, because not liking the first is the perfect reason to buy the second. I’m going to read this one. I won’t promise to like this one  but I’m going to read this one. I’m beginning to sound like I’m torturing myself but I’m not. I love all thing Anne Boylen and I’m promised heads rolling. Hello, the title — Bring Up the Bodies.

I’m taking another online course starting in February and this time the focus is fantasy and science fiction. The class on historical fiction was great, you’ll be getting some reviews on those books soon too, and I’m looking forward to this one. I’ve already read several of the books listed on the syllabus but that doesn’t mean I can’t re-read a few. Come on Dracula and Frankenstein, bring on Wells, Bradbury, and LeGuin!

There will be more…

My Best Reads of 2013

Each year, I dread the coming of December 31st. No, it’s not the ending of another year, or the fact that I’m one year older. It’s the simple act of picking favorites! I have many, too many. So, as I’ve done before, I’m picking my favorites by month. It makes the list long but it’s the only way. This only way I tell you!

Let’s get this underway, shall we.

January

The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss: I love, love, love this series. If you haven’t read Rothfuss yet, you need to fix that in 2014.

Hellboy: Wake the Devil by Mike Mignola: I seriously love Hellboy. I do.

February

Faithful Place by Tana French: Honestly, anytime this woman writes anything, I’m going to read it. She’s that good.

The Shunned House by H.P. Lovecraft: My first foray into the world of Lovecraft and it was a success for me.

The House of the Vampire by George Sylvester Viereck: I went on an old school kick with vampires and loved it.

March

Lords of the North by Bernard Cornwell: I’m enjoying the series and need to pick it back up again in 2014 because a new book is coming out and I need to catch up. I’m too far behind for my liking.

Clockwork Phoenix 4 edited by Mike Allen: An amazing collection of speculative, fantasy, and science fiction by some master storytellers. I know I’ll be picking these stories up again and again.

April

Palisades Park by Alan Brennert: What feels like a simple tale of everyday life is really a fantastic story full of the dreams that make life wonderful. Every part of this story feels very close to home thanks to some incredible characters.

The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker: Mythical creatures trying to fit into 1880s New York City become of a reflection of the immigrants around them.

The Shadow of the Sun by Barbara Friend Ish: If you want new fantasy, this is the book for you. There’s a sequel coming and I can’t wait for it!

May

Advent by James Treadwell: I wasn’t so sure about this book but then I got to the end and immediately wanted more. I’ll be looking for the sequel next year.

Of Blood and Honey by Stina Leicht: Oh. My. God. Seriously. It’s brutal and amazing. I want more and will be getting it.

The Black Country: A Novel of Scotland’s Murder Squad by Alex Grecian: A cup of tea, this book, and a dark stormy night. All you need.

June

Circle of Shadows by Imogen Robertson: A suspense filled historical mystery, and when you throw in a complicated relationship and some murder, you have a great story.

Fire and Hemlock by Dianna Wynne Jones: Why did I wait so long to read this!?

The Last Page by Anthony Huso: I have the second book and am holding off reading it. This book was so amazing that I’m afraid I set my expectations to high. I’ll soon see.

July

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman: Wow. Mr. Gaiman is the master. Every time I pick up one of his books I’m amazed by his ability; he weaves words like no other.

Kindred by Octavia Butler: Another why did I wait so long book. Amazing.

August

The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon: I’m putting this on the list because it was a good first novel and I want more the crazy world she created. I think she’s going to grow with the second book.

A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin: I held off because I didn’t love the forth book as much as I wanted to but this one made up for all the wrongs of the last one.

Sabriel by Garth Nix: So, so good.

September

The Black Fire Concerto by Mike Allen: I admired the collection he put together in Clockwork Phoenix 4 and I was curious about his personal writing. He tells one dark, twisted, and amazingly satisfying story. I’m looking forward to his second book.

Mrs. Poe by Lynn Cullen: I didn’t think it was possible to be a bigger fan but Mrs. Poe did it for me. Lynn Cullen tells one entertaining and slightly dark story that is amazing to the last page.

October

This House is Haunted by John Boyne: All the creepy!

Four Summoner’s Tales by Kelley Armstrong, Christopher Golden, David Liss, and Jonathan Maberry: I didn’t get a chance to talk about this one at all this year but these tales were dark, depressing, and perfect reads for October.

The Love Artist by Jane Alison: I read this for a class on historical fiction and it was everything I expected and more.

November

The Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks: I’ve read a few of her books now and she’s one I’d recommend to people wanting interesting historical fiction.

The Forsaken Inn by Anna Katherine Green: An old school mystery worth a look.

The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch: The third book in the Gentleman Bastards series and it was so worth the wait. If you aren’t familiar with the series, start with The Lies of Locke Lamora and you’ll soon find out why Lynch fans are so loyal.

Fever by Mary Beth Keane: A fictional characterization of the woman who became known as Typhoid Mary. A sad story in many ways but I never felt sorry for the characters who were so feisty you wanted to see them fight to the bitter end.

December

The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo: A story of the afterlife told from the perspective of a not yet dead young woman faced with heartbreaking decisions. A truly fabulous story.

Bellman & Black by Diane Setterfield: A long awaited book after The Thirteenth Tale which I absolutely loved. This was also a satisfying read.

Vampires Don’t Sparkle edited Michael West: The Little Red Reviewer reviewed this one and I immediately bought it and read it. It’s so marvelous and if you want your vampires to be, well, real vampires, this is for you. It’s a great collection.

The Descent by Alma Katsu: I’m cheating with this one a bit because I probably won’t finish it by the end of the year but I’ve been looking forward to the final book in this series for a long time. It officially comes out in January and if you’ve read the first two books, you’ll want to read this one too.

That’s all for 2013. Read anything good you want to share? I have a whole calendar to fill for 2014.

Reading on the train

I’ve been traveling a lot lately and yesterday was no different. I decide that to make my life easier, I’d take the train to a meeting in Philadelphia. Unfortunately, a winter storm made east coast travel difficult so I spent the afternoon waiting in line but ultimately got on the coveted train. It was crowded but I found an open seat, right next to a person who was reading a very big book. It was a pleasant ride to Philadelphia, snow and all.

Defying all logic, I decided to see if I could hop an early train home instead of spending the night, as a rational person would. Obviously, I enjoy unpleasant travel situations. Once more, I found a seat next to a reader. He was reading on a tablet, but hey, he was reading.

You may notice a pattern — yes, I actively search for people reading when looking for a seat on the train. I find they make better company. No offense to anyone but I’m not one for small talk in tight spaces.

On the final leg of the trip from Baltimore to DC, the conductor in my car smiled at me and said, “You see a lot of people reading, but not real books anymore. It’s all those fancy ebooks now.”

I smiled back and said, “I have a soft spot for the paper kind.”

“Nothing beats the feel of a real book in your hands,” she said.

We nodded and smiled. She was so right.

My book of choice was Bellman & Black by Diane Setterfield. I’m enjoying it. It’s very different from The Thirteenth Tale, which I loved, but I’m remembering what a great storyteller she is with this one.

I’m also slowly making my way through Doctor Who: The Essential Guide which was a great birthday gift.

Now that my class is over, I’m planning to start dwindling the TBR and writing some reviews. Yes, I have lots to write about.

Quiet on the reading front

The last week’s been busy, and while much was started, nothing was accomplished. This includes a few blog posts as well…

I started an online course on historical fiction this week and somehow managed to not finish reading one thing even though the reading was interesting. A few articles and chapters here and there were perused but nothing was finished. I find this so frustrating. The good thing is that the required books for the course look very interesting so I’m looking forward to starting those.

One thing that I know is going to get me out of this funk is The Republic of Thieves Read Along.  If you’re not familiar with Scott Lynch go now and read The Lies of Locke Lamora and then Red Seas Under Red Skies. Once you finish those two books, The Republic of Thieves will be waiting for you. I have this book queued up and plan to start it later today, damn that class reading. (Actually, I plan to finish that reading too; that’s the kind of rebel I am.)

Reviews have been sorta non-existent for a bit here but I do have one to share — This House of Haunted by John Boyne. My review is over at The BookReporter. It’s a good ghost story for October (hint, hint).

I’ve been doing this yoga challenge that requires me to get myself out of bed for a 7am class several times a week. I’m not (NOT) a morning person but I have been very relaxed of late which is maybe why my lack of reading focus isn’t bothering me so much. It’ll be interesting to see how November turns out with all the traveling we have planned. The good thing about those cross country flights is that they provide several hours of uninterrupted reading time. Looks like I’ll have time to catch up on a few things, next month.

Now, I have to go buy a pumpkin.

Sunday

I thought I’d do a re-cap of recent posts and throw in some links for fun.

First, I had the chance to interview Barbara Friend Ish, an author and independent publisher. We talked about creativity and the writing process, the business of writing, and books (of course we did!): part 1, part 2, and part 3.

I reviewed The Black Fire Concerto by Mike Allen. A great read for October. A snippet:

A post-apocalyptic place unlike the world we know. Where people eat the flesh of ghouls under the misguided belief it will prolong their lives. Where magic, light and dark, exist. Where machines are a thing of the past but knowledge of their misuse has shaped the sad state of the present. A place where humans hide not wanting to live out a half-dead fate if bitten by a ghoul. A place ruined by storms that scorched the land and transformed its people. A place where music can shape destiny. A place of creatures shaped by magic. A place full of fantastical landscapes. A place to instill wonder and fear.

My review of Mrs. Poe by Lynn Cullen appeared over at The Book Reporter. Another snippet:

Frances Osgood’s life is already complicated when she meets Edgar Allan Poe. Admiration, quickly followed by deep attraction, sends the two on a strange journey. Knowing they can’t have what their hearts both want, they deny their love and yet find themselves in a very complicated relationship that neither knows how to get out of — or if they even want out.

I also spoke to The Book Reporter about the National Book Festival which I attended a few weeks ago. My thoughts. Hint: I liked it.

On Tuesday, I’m starting a new class on historical fiction called, Plagues, Witches, and War. I’m getting excited about it so don’t be surprised to see posts about all the strange things I come across.

Have a good one readers.