Tag Archives: reading

Whatcha Reading? September 2016

September was… not the greatest. I hit the wall pretty hard, but I’d gotten off to a great start.

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I’m not one for Lovecraftian horror. Things from space and things from the deep dark sea generally don’t do it for me, but Cherie Priest’s “lowbrow” pitch of Lizzie Borden battling Cthulhu with an ax was pretty damn compelling.

The people of Fall River, Massachusetts, fear me. Perhaps rightfully so. I remain a suspect in the brutal deaths of my father and his second wife despite the verdict of innocence at my trial. With our inheritance, my sister, Emma, and I have taken up residence in Maplecroft, a mansion near the sea and far from gossip and scrutiny.

But it is not far enough from the affliction that possessed my parents. Their characters, their very souls, were consumed from within by something that left malevolent entities in their place. It originates from the ocean’s depths, plaguing the populace with tides of nightmares and madness.

This evil cannot hide from me. No matter what guise it assumes, I will be waiting for it. With an axe.

The best part is the Cherie took notes and records from Dr. Owen Seabury, the real physician for Abigail Borden, and she didn’t really need to do much other than add fish people. Truth is stranger than fiction. I really enjoyed Maplecroft and I look forward to reading Chapelwood.

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I got an ARC of this one to review, and I loved it. I’ve never read any of the original Sherlock Holmes books, but I was so excited to see this on the grab list.

With her inquisitive mind, Charlotte Holmes has never felt comfortable with the demureness expected of the fairer sex in upper class society.  But even she never thought that she would become a social pariah, an outcast fending for herself on the mean streets of London.

When the city is struck by a trio of unexpected deaths and suspicion falls on her sister and her father, Charlotte is desperate to find the true culprits and clear the family name. She’ll have help from friends new and old—a kind-hearted widow, a police inspector, and a man who has long loved her. But in the end, it will be up to Charlotte, under the assumed name Sherlock Holmes, to challenge society’s expectations and match wits against an unseen mastermind.

I’m working up my review for Criminal Element, but this was one of the best books I’ve read all year. I’m excited to continue with this series.

And really, those were the only two books I’ve read. I’m starting October with another ARC, one I like less well but fits into the theme of “women in pretty dresses with their backs turned.”

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On a quest to distract her lifelong friend Jeremy from his recent heartbreak, Lady Emily organizes a holiday in Greece. As a lover of all things Greek, she quickly finds herself occupied with tours of ancient ruins, lively debates with Margaret, a devoted Latinist, and slightly more scandalous endeavors with her dashing husband, Colin Hargreaves. But the pleasantries are brought to an abrupt halt when a man long believed dead greets the party at their island villa. Lord Philip Ashton, Colin’s childhood best friend and Emily’s first husband, has returned. But can Philip really be who he claims, even if he has the scars and stories to prove it? Where has he been for all this time? And will his undying love for Emily drive him to claim what’s his?

Intrigue mounts as Philip reveals that he has been plagued for the past few years by an illegal antiques trader who believes he is in possession of a piece of Achilles’ helmet, a priceless relic that was stolen from him moments after he unearthed it on an archaeological dig. Emily must employ all of her cunning and expertise to thwart thieves who threaten not only her own safety, but that of those precious artifacts she holds so dear. A trail of overheard conversations, murderous assailants, and dead bodies leads her on a chase to uncover more than one buried truth.

The voice is pretty good, but damn, the manpain and whining are extreme. I think she’s telling the wrong story, but that’s a conclusion for next month.

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Whatcha Reading? June/July 2016

Well, I sure fell off on these, didn’t I? June was an exceptionally trying month, reading-wise.

I started with Alison Goodman’s The Dark Days Club, which my friends had all told me was excellent.

They were not wrong. It was great.

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I don’t often read Regency-era novels, but this one is true to period, also mentions Lord Byron (whom I love), and presents a unique “superhuman” circumstance in giving super strength and the power to stop monsters to a titled society lady. Helen’s reluctance to accept her gift warring with thoughts of “Lord Carlston’s lips” was a fairly compelling story line. Goodman balances the era’s perception of women with opened-minded characters who encourage Helen to embrace her strengths. I really enjoyed this one, and I’m looking forward to book two!

Unfortunately, June took a deep nose-dive when I received an ARC of Arsenic with Austen for review. I believe in reading outside your comfort zone; though I’m not a big fan of the cosy genre, I thought this one had potential, and I was sort of hoping the title was an allusion to the debate on whether or not Austen died as a result of an overdose of arsenic. You know medicines in those days weren’t exactly… helpful.

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This book began decently and quickly dissolved into a massive train wreck. Set in 2013, Emily, a professor at Reed College in Portland, receives word that her great aunt has died. Okay. She’s left an inheritance. Okay. It turns out to her aunt’s estate, $6 million dollars, and half the town of Stony Beach. Okay.

Except the lawyer mailed the death notice to the college and if she “hadn’t checked her box, she might have gotten it next fall!” No. That’s not how that works. Emily has a peculiar habit of verbally speaking to her late husband’s ghost, like, in actual questions she’s mentally answering for him. Oh, and my favorite: the unrequited teenage romance she dare not think of, but mentions every five minutes. The writing is poor, coupled with what I assume were supposed to be “humorous” quips regarding how Emily’s aunt drilled proper grammar and diction into her from a young age. The author also makes a point to call out Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, not as retelling of Austen she didn’t care for, but for being a work she can’t fathom being published by a serious house, let alone how the indie and self pub works make it into proper bookstores.

Here’s a tip: maybe don’t insult indie and self pub people. The road is different for everyone. Don’t knock someone because they didn’t take the same path you did. Did I like P+P+Z? No, I don’t begrudge it being in Barnes and Noble. There’s no reason to kick someone else, especially when your work is also flawed.

Aside from the eye-roll worthy dialogue, there’s no actual plot. Whole chapters pass by in which Emily is actually taking a survey of the townspeople asking how they feel about increasing the tourist trade; of course, the mayor and a seedy vampire-esque realtor are totally trying to get Emily to sell, to the point where they may have murdered her aunt.

Yeah, no. The author needed to do more research on how dead bodies work and how to investigate a crime.

No one dies from “acute gastroenteritis.” If your housekeeper breaks her neck falling down the basement stairs twelve hours before you return, you won’t smell blood and rotting flesh. In fact, you won’t smell blood unless someone bleeds out, which breaking your neck does not cause.

Most importantly, real police don’t watch episode of tv shows wherein the guy you suspect murdered your aunt played a murderer to “see how he did.” What? And for some reason, Emily doesn’t know what Netflix is. Okay. My mother is also 51, and SHE knows what Netflix is.

It’s also not a murder “mystery” if all of your “suspects” turn out to be involved in the murder.

The unfortunate consequence of this book was that my well ran dry. I struggled to come up with something decent to say, ended up profiling the book, and scrabbled around trying to replenish myself. Bad books are draining.

I picked up Leanna Renee Hieber’s Strangely Beautiful as my reward for completing that daunting task.

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Leanna is a dear friend of mine, and this book is actually a re-release of her first two novels, The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker and The Darkly Luminous Fight for Persephone Parker. I’ve long been a fan of Leanna’s work, having come aboard with Darker Still. Hot guys trapped in portraits and needing rescuing by daydreaming heroines? Yes, please!

Strangely Beautiful was an interesting read, like the X-Men, but with ghosts. I really like the Guard, especially Elijah. It wasn’t so much the story that got me as seeing the progression in Leanna’s writing. It’s clearly her voice, her signature level of detail (especially regarding dresses!), and her flow, but it’s a rare opportunity to get to go back and see where she started, and since I was having difficulty regaining my own voice, it was a tremendous comfort and help. Plus, the image of Hades/Death unhinging his jaw and vomiting pomegrante is both horrific and delightful.

Following that, I got the chance to read Leanna’s next Eterna Files book, Eterna and Omega, before its August 9th release!

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Leanna gets the best covers. I read this book in three days and it only took me that long because I had to attend The Day Job. I even brought it with me to the gym. I wrote a review for Eterna and Omega for Criminal Element, so when that’s up, I’ll cross post it here.

If it wasn’t painfully obvious, I loved this book and I love this series. It needed more Lavinia, but that’s a personal issue and not one having to do with the book. The great thing about being a book reviewer is getting to read things before they come out. The bad thing about being a book reviewer is than having to wait until NEXT August for book three, which Leanna is still writing. Oh well.

So that’s it! Giant post, three good books, one book I deeply regret. On the slate for August is an ARC of Whispers Beyond the Veil, and my poor attempts to shuffle through my TBR.

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Whatcha Reading: May 2016

May was a bit of a wash. I read two really great books, most of a book that just didn’t do it for me, and got 15 pages into another before I quit due to overwhelming interior design. I’ve debating talking about the books I didn’t enjoy. I feel… guilty… when people rave and I find it just wasn’t for me. I also know that’s silly. Reading is as subjective as writing. So let’s start with the ones I loved.

WINK, POPPY, MIDNIGHT by April Tucholke

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Occasionally, I wonder how I’ve acquired my peculiar and wonderful set of friends and I’m always baffled by April’s work. She’s such a vivid storyteller and everything she writes has a distinctly modern Gothic vibe to it. It’s like catnip to me. WINK, POPPY, MIDNIGHT is a short read, but damn did April pack in everything I’ve come to love from her work and then some.

Every story needs a hero.
Every story needs a villain.
Every story needs a secret.

Wink is the odd, mysterious neighbor girl, wild red hair and freckles. Poppy is the blond bully and the beautiful, manipulative high school queen bee. Midnight is the sweet, uncertain boy caught between them. Wink. Poppy. Midnight. Two girls. One boy. Three voices that burst onto the page in short, sharp, bewitching chapters, and spiral swiftly and inexorably toward something terrible or tricky or tremendous.

What really happened?
Someone knows.
Someone is lying.

I can’t wait to see what she does next. We have plans for a midnight tea party and séance in the future.

STRIKE by Delilah S. Dawson

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I really enjoyed HIT, the precursor to STRIKE, and I was hoping reading a more action-based book would help me on my quest to write an action-based book. Though I didn’t enjoy it as much I did HIT, STRIKE had the same snarky teenage humor and it’s kinda gratifying to read a book set in places you frequent. Delilah and I live in the same town, and this book is based locally, so it was kinda cool.

As for the other two…

I don’t want to name names. I don’t really want these things to be reviews per say. The first book I was really excited about. It’s a retelling of an old pirate story, and while it started out fine, I found it extremely slow and unfortunately tropey. The multiple POVs felt unnecessary and detracted from the story, and the plot was extremely obvious. I made it 90% through, leaving two chapters unread. Why? Because I didn’t care enough to find out what happened. I read that far hoping it would pick up, but alas…

The last book wasn’t so much a story issue as a design issue. I’ve learned a lesson in that I need to look at the interior of books before I buy them. This book I’ve heard rave reviews over, and I was excited to pick it up. Unfortunately, it’s a fact of life for those of us who’ve studied designed that over-designing ruins your life. This book is formatted to look like a journal, with sticky notes (printed, of course), different “handwriting,” medical logs, etc.

A LOT of money was sunk into its production.

Unfortunately, that leaves it basically unreadable for me. I don’t like “noise” when I’m trying to get into a story. I made it 15 pages before I developed a headache. It was just too overwhelming. I know some people love that, but it isn’t for me. I might check out the eBook and see if that’s a better solution for me, but sadly the physical copy is too overdone for me to focus.

Both of these books are in the donation pile.

So, what’s on the slate for June? I’ve finally start THE DARK DAYS CLUB by Alison Goodman. So many of my friends recommended this one, and I have to say so far it’s pretty good. I’m only 50 pages in, but I’m enjoying it so far. I’m very very slowly chipping away at the dreaded TBR pile.

What have you read this month?

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Whatcha Reading? February 2016

I’m sure I’ll think of a better name for these posts at some point, but I thought it would be interesting to talk a bit about the books I’ve read each month. I know people are always looking for things to read (I know I am), and while reviews are great and incredibly important to authors, I’d be here forever if I did an in-depth review on everything. Instead, here’s a brief tour of February’s books!

Finding Center by Katherine Locke

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I’ve never really been one for romance, but I absolutely adore Katherine Locke’s District Ballet Company series. I read Turning Pointe and Finding Center when they first released, and though I’d pre-ordered Finding Center, I didn’t get around to reading it until now. Sometimes I forget I have an eReader and even more books to go through.

The romance is flavoring on top of book devoted to portraying mental illness, therapy, and recovery in a positive light. It’s an incredibly accurate depiction, and the writing is gorgeous.

Zed and ballet are my two greatest loves

It took all of Aly’s strength to get them back after a tragic accident ripped them from her six years ago. A long road to recovery led to her return, dancing full-time for the District Ballet Company and carrying Zed’s child. But Aly is slipping. Each day becomes a fight to keep her career from crumbling under the weight of younger talent, the scrutiny of the public eye and the limitations of her ever-changing body. A fight she fears she’s losing.

I’m scared Aly is broken to her core

Zed recognizes the signs, but he doesn’t know how to fix her. The accident left him with his own demons, and while he wants nothing more than to take care of the woman he loves, it’s getting harder the farther downward she spirals. When Aly’s life is threatened and Zed’s injuries prevent him from saving her, he’s never felt so useless, so afraid he’s not capable of being the man Aly and their child needs.

With new life comes new hope. And with their fractured lives already hanging by a thread, Aly and Zed must discover if they have what it takes—both together and apart—to rebuild and carry on.

The prequel novella, Turning Pointe, is free if you want to check it out, which you do.

Second Line and Chasing Ghosts by Kira Butler

These two short stories are part of Kira’s Short Fictions and Curiosities series. I enjoy serialized fiction, and there’s a new story posted every month, for FREE.

Chasing Ghosts was essentially a dash through a time-capsual manor, where everything was left in media res. Second Line was a beautiful ghost story set against Katrina-ravenged New Orleans. I enjoyed both very much, and I can’t wait to read what’s up next.

The Damsel and the Daggerman by Delilah S. Dawson

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Remember when I said I sometimes forget I have an eReader? It’s always a nice surprise to find a Blud book I haven’t read.

Bad boy knife-thrower Marco Taresque is the hottest and most dangerous performer in the caravan. He keeps to himself until a pesky female journalist arrives, anxious to interview him about his checkered past—his last assistant disappeared under mysterious and bloody circumstances, earning him the nickname “The Deadly Daggerman.”

Unsinkable journalist and adventurer Jacinda Harville doesn’t take no for an answer, and she’s determined to wear down Marco no matter how threatening—or incredibly desirable—he might appear. He agrees to an interview—but only if she’ll let him strap her to a spinning table and throw knives at her body. How can she say no? And how can she resist him when he leans close for a kiss that strikes her more sharply than any blade? It’s the first time she’s let a man get the better of her, and she’s determined it will be the last…

Like all of Delilah’s Blud books, Damsel doesn’t disappoint. There’s a nice subversion of tropes, more caravan adventures, and some infuriating and sexy banter. Bonus: you don’t have to read any of the novellas in order.

Wake of Vultures by Lila Bowen

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This one I wasn’t sure about. Weird West, much like romance, isn’t exactly in my wheelhouse. When I found I was on the Diversity in Weird West panel, I pulled Wake from my shelf so I wouldn’t feel like a total poser. Touted as Lonesome Dove meets Buffy, I was sure what to expect.

Nettie Lonesome lives in a land of hard people and hard ground dusted with sand. She’s a half-breed who dresses like a boy, raised by folks who don’t call her a slave but use her like one. She knows of nothing else. That is, until the day a stranger attacks her. When nothing, not even a sickle to the eye can stop him, Nettie stabs him through the heart with a chunk of wood, and he turns into black sand.

And just like that, Nettie can see.

But her newfound ability is a blessing and a curse. Even if she doesn’t understand what’s under her own skin, she can sense what everyone else is hiding — at least physically. The world is full of evil, and now she knows the source of all the sand in the desert. Haunted by the spirits, Nettie has no choice but to set out on a quest that might lead to her true kin… if the monsters along the way don’t kill her first.

I should have expected an insanely intense ride. Nettie, a biracial, genderqueer bronc wrangler turned monster hunter, has an incredibly strong voice, and the pacing is phenominal. I can’t remember the last time I finished a book so quickly. Just go read it, okay? The sequel, Horde of Crows, comes out later this year, and I can’t wait.

The May Queen Murders by Sarah Jude (ARC)

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If you follow me on Twitter, you may have seen that I was commissioned to design eight character cards for this book. Though I spoke with Sarah about design, inspiration, and the personalities of her characters, I wasn’t going to get the chance to read it until May.

Until an ARC fell into my outstreched claws.

Stay on the roads. Don’t enter the woods. Never go out at night. 

Those are the rules in Rowan’s Glen, a remote farming community in the Missouri Ozarks where Ivy Templeton’s family has lived for centuries. It’s an old-fashioned way of life, full of superstition and traditions, and sixteen-year-old Ivy loves it. The other kids at school may think the Glen kids are weird, but Ivy doesn’t care—she has her cousin Heather as her best friend. The two girls share everything with each other—or so Ivy thinks. When Heather goes missing after a May Day celebration, Ivy discovers that both her best friend and her beloved hometown are as full of secrets as the woods that surround them.

The May Queen Murders, much like Wake of Vultures, blew me away. The setting echoes M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village, with plenty of twists and surprises along the way. I’m kinda of mad at myself for failing to puzzle out the mystery. Okay, I’m really mad at myself. It was great read, full of suspense and superstition, and it was so refreshing to see a Mexican-American main character. There’s plenty of diversity, and of course, my favorite–murder.

It’s available for pre-order, so get on it.

Follow @SarahEJude on Twitter to check out the character cards, and stay tuned to find out how you can get a set of your own.

And that’s it! That’s everything I’ve read in February. I think. This month is starting off with Cecilia Dominic’s The Mountain’s Shadow, and hopefully many more.

What did you read this month?

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Courting Casualties: The Oval Portrait, by Edgar Allan Poe

In which I read a story of art and madness.

Intro/Outro music is Ghost Story by Kevin McLeod, used under the Creative Commons License.

Counting Casualties is also available through iTunes! If you enjoy the show, please consider subscribing. Have a suggestion for a future episode? Tweet me @ExquisitelyOdd.

Thanks for listening and, as always,
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For my Patron Saint, on his 205th Birthday

In honor of Edgar Allan Poe’s 205th birthday, here’s one of my favorite short stories: “The Oval Portrait.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ej3Y3IhdMvM

 

Edgar Allan Poe has had one of the greatest influences over my writing life. I own him a debt I can never repay but for my adoration. Though it’s doubtful the Poe Toaster will make his appearance this night, I raise my glass of cognac in Poe’s honor and leave three roses on my desk.

Happy 205th Birthday, Mr. Poe.

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January 19, 2014 · 1:28 am

In Which I Read “LIGEIA”

It’s a day late (not really, I posted it Tuesday night), but I wanted to give you a gift this holiday season, and what better gift that reading Poe-etry? I picked a bit of “Ligeia” to share with you. Happy Christmas, Glorious Winter, or simply have a nice Thursday.

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December 26, 2013 · 12:55 pm

My Top Five Books of 2013!

Because I just don’t talk about books enough! Here are my top five favorite reads of this year.

Most of these books are available at Barnes and Noble (BarnesandNoble.com) and Amazon, in both print and ebook variety, with the exception of Gris Grimly’s Frankenstein. You gotta hit up MadCreator.com for that one.

THE BOOKS:
In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters
Gris Grimly’s Frankenstein
Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea by April G. Tucholke
Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard
Darker Still (Magic Most Foul series) by Leanna Renee Hieber

Thank you for watching, and here’s to a new year of adventures and haunting book shops.

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December 19, 2013 · 8:41 pm

VEDA Day Nine: Hopes, Dreams, and THE KILLING TYPE

In which I discuss my publishing dreams and read you a sizable chunk of my novel. Did this really just happen?

Yeah, it did.

If you’re watching this on my blog, meaning here, click the tabs above to find out more about THE KILLING TYPE.

Want more? Check out my FREE short story, THE WAITING ROOM.

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VEDA Day Six: Storytime with the Ghost Girl

In which I read a passage from Leanna Renee Hieber’s The Twisted Tragedy of Miss Natalie Stewart, gush about Nathaniel Veil, and forget a few things.


Find Leanna on her website and read The Double Life of Incorporate Things on her blog
Don’t forget to visit her on GoodReads.

The Double Life of Incorporate Things updates Tuesdays (which means there’s a new one today!)

 

Don’t forget to come back tomorrow for a special guest post by Mina Vaughn where we talk fashion, fetish, and writing erotic comedy. Betcha didn’t see that one coming!

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