What I Read

Woah has it been a busy couple of weeks! I finally heard back from IRB that changes were needed on my dissertation proposal before the university would allow me to start my research. However, there was a deadline attached or I would have to start all over again with the application process which means another two months of waiting. Add to that, my teaching for my STEM in Libraries course was wrapping up which meant a mad dash to get all my grading done by the semester deadline. We took a week off for a mini vacation at my mother in laws…or what I affectionately call “Where Internet Goes to Die”. So nothing was getting done there like I had planned and it was hard for me to unwind knowing what I had waiting for me back home. But that is all behind me now! Everything has been caught up which means I can focus on writing again.

One of my previous posts was about self care and being a librarian I realized I neglected to add something to the list: Reading! In the past three weeks, I have been reading some books due out for publication soon. So I thought I would give a breakdown of what I read and my thoughts. Enjoy!

I admit that I started out slow with this book, but it was interesting. I love retellings and this one was a retelling of the Rumpelstiltskin tale. It was an interesting mix of fairytale and cultural history. Very much reminiscent of The Bear and the Nightingale. However, I found myself wanting more of a buildup between the romance of the characters.

This is the second book in the series about Digby and Zoe. Digby is difficult to describe. I imagine that he would be what Sherlock Holmes would have been like if a teenager and in modern society. He has quirks. Zoe wants nothing more than a normal life, but things get interesting when Digby is around. It picks up months after the first book left off. Digby is still looking for answers on his sister’s disappearance. Questions are answered, but even more are asked. Thankfully, the third book is already out.

I already wrote a post related to Joyful, but it is something I recently read. So it makes it to this list. It was an interesting read. Typically, the books I read on happiness are either from journalists or psychologists, but this one was a different perspective, a designer. It was interesting to read about how color affects our mood. I kept thinking about hygge while reading it. I will also leave you with an earworm… hygge is pronounced hoo-gah…when I started talking to my husband about how I wanted to replace our bedding and curtains, he said I was on my hygge kick again, so I smiled and repeated hygge three times…hygge is about a feeling you get…Do you have it yet? Can you hear the song? Here is a hint, “Ooga” and hygge sound alike…Blue Swede is also a Swedish rock band. Have you made the connection? It was probably easy for us because we tend to play the Guardians of the Galaxy Soundtrack almost as much as we play Queen, Billy Joel, and Journey. I will leave this video here for you in case you need some more prompting: Hooked on a Feeling- Blue Swede

Happy Fall and Happy Reading!

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Browsing the Shelves

This has been a slow couple of days for me in terms of creativity. We didn’t go anywhere for Thanksgiving and dinner was pretty much an open the box or bag and dump it in kind of meal. I wasn’t really feeling the inspiration. Then my husband ended up getting sick. My son didn’t feel good the next day, so I threw out our Turkey leftovers thinking it could be the possible culprit. Yesterday, I found out that there is a stomach bug going around the county, so maybe not a fowl culprit after all. Though I still wasn’t feeling the spirit to get much done. I did my shopping online as part of early-bird sales for cardholders for two stores. My son needed new sneakers, so we did brave one store during the late mornings on Thursday. The lines were still pretty long even at 11am.

Shopping this year has had me thinking about what shopping used to be like, not just for Black Friday, but in general. Where I live now does not have a major chain bookstore. We have a small independent shop that has some new books, but mostly they are used books. Today, I received a newsletter email from a learning professional discussing his recent trip to a bookstore in NYC. It was one of those brick and mortar stores that Amazon has been opening in major cities. The books on the shelf are determined by the popular items sold in the online store and then a group of very similar curated titles that the algorithm thinks the reader might also be interested in. Pretty cool idea, but it had me thinking back to bookstores when I was a kid.

When I was much much younger, it used to be a thrill to take my allowance, then later my paycheck, to the bookstore at the two malls I frequented: Waldens and Barnes & Noble. As a teenager, the only reason I went to malls was either for the movies or for the bookstore. Many times it was both. I could usually convince my dad to go with me to the movies if it included a stop at the bookstore. He was my partner in crime and would usually give extra money for books.

While the bookstores of my youth were chain bookstores, they held just as much magic for me as the independent stores that people still mourn today. So many choices and so many worlds to explore. My go-to sections were always the Historical Romances and the Sci-Fi/Fantasy sections. I never left the store without at least four paperbacks in hand. Many of my favorite authors were discovered through browsing the shelves for hours before I decided how my money would be spent that day. There were no smartphones to allow for “showrooming” by adding books to a virtual cart for purchase later (or at a cheaper price) while browsing a physical space. If I really wanted something, I had to get it there. One of my favorite authors today is Tamora Pierce and I happened on her books by chance because one had been misshelved and I saw it while looking for something else.

I have several booklists now of to-be-read items both on Amazon and through my local library’s website, but browsing through a virtual list is not the same as browsing the physical shelves. It is not the same at the used bookstores or the library either because while there are plenty of treasures, these are not always new books. Plus, today we read reviews from other readers or blog posts before we purchase. There are even media campaigns against certain authors even before their books are published. Our choices are shaped by the input of others. Our discovery has been hampered by the information available to us.

I think this year, I might take my son to one of the malls a couple of hours away just so he can browse the shelves at the bookstore and find a treasure of his own. No starred reviews, no comments from teachers about what is on his reading level, no feedback from strangers about why no one should read the book or why everyone should read the book. Just discovery and enjoyment.

Author Interview & Book Review: Dead Reckoning

About a month ago I received an email from the awesome people at Bloomsbury with a list of YA titles for review. I got very excited when I saw Mercedes Lackey’s name on the list. I have been reading her books for over 20 years. I also loved the Shadow Grail books she co-wrote with Rosemary Edghill (who is an X-Men fan BTW). It got even better when I read the description:

From bestselling authors Mercedes Lackey and Rosemary Edghill, comes a new thriller DEAD RECKONING. Jett Gallatin expected trouble in Aslop, Texas—but not zombies. Jett is a girl disguised as a boy, living as a gambler in the old West as she searches for her long-lost brother. Honoria Gibbons is a smart, self-sufficient young woman who also happens to be a fabulous inventor. Both young women travel the prairie alone – until they are brought together by a zombie invasion! As Jett and Honoria investigate, they soon learn that these zombies aren’t rising from the dead of their own accord … but who would want an undead army? And why? This gunslinging, hair-raising, romp will leave you on the edge of your seat.


DEAD RECKONING is a historical zombie apocalypse gender bender. It is like the authors rooted through my brain and picked all my favorites to wrap up in one book. Now somewhere I read a blurb for the book comparing it to Carrie Ryan’s THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH. Personally, I don’t think the two can be compared because they are playing two completely different ball games.

THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH is a dystopian series that takes place many years after the fall (i.e. the zombie apocalypse). They are not trying to solve where the zombies came from or even how to stop it; the characters are merely trying to survive. It was also heavy on the romance. DEAD RECKONING, while just as primitive of a landscape though with cool steampunkish tech like Gibbons’ Auto-Tachypod, takes place at the beginning of a small scale  zombie uprising and yes, they want to solve and stop it. In other words, heavy on the mystery. The characters in DEAD RECKONING are complete strangers, not friends since childhood, who band together to stop a threat from harming others. The characters also have completely different personalities that perfectly complement each other.

As if reading such a fantastic book wasn’t enough, I got the chance to submit some questions for the authors. I have talked to authors before, but this is my first legit interview. As I have said before, authors are my rockstars. Does that mean I am a groupie? Hmm…

Rosemary Edghill was kind enough to send out a wonderful reply to my questions. Now before we get started, everyone give Rosemary a virtual cupcake cause today is her birthday! Yay!

*Internet Hoards Singing*

Now, on with the show…

Q: I love supernatural books where the monsters are the evil-they-have-to-be-killed kind of monsters (you know, not the sparkly love interest types), so I have to ask, what inspired you to write a historical western featuring zombies?

R:We started with the characters: Gibbons the rationalist, and Jett the … not-so-rationalist. We wanted a threat that would pit them against each other as well as against it: so clearly it had to be something that looked supernatural. There’s been a lot of stuff done lately to retcon zombies from supernatural creatures to natural ones (plague, alien organism, yadda), so they made the perfect slipstream monster for Dead Reckoning. And in 1865, we’re still near the beginning of the zombie myth. The concept hadn’t really made it out into the popular culture yet — even Gibbons is barely familiar with it — so it also gave us a chance to work with an archetype very familiar to our readers yet fairly-unknown to our protagonists. Which was a lot of fun.

Q: I like gender benders where the girl pretends to be a guy, I was taught Shakespeare did it in his plays because he was worried about the male actor’s psyche of being in a dress and wanted to get the guy back in tights -or whatever- as soon as possible. Why did you decide to have Jett disguised as a boy in the story? Why not keep her gender secret longer than you did?

R:Jett is a Southerner in the post-Civil War period. She’s lost everything: her home, her family, her future. All she has left is her quest to find her twin brother. But in the mid-1800s, a young woman couldn’t just go off and do as she pleased. It would be the equivalent of, say, an eight-year-old child’s position today. People wouldn’t take them seriously. They’d always be calling Child Protective Services and trying to send them home. Of course, there isn’t a Child Protective Services in the Old West, but if Jett were travelling as Philippa Sheridan instead of as Jett Galatin, she would be exposed to a huge amount of danger — and have far less freedom.

As for why we decided to reveal her masquerade so soon…

If we kept it a secret, we’d have to present her to the reader as a boy, and that would mean we wouldn’t be able to tell any of the story from her point of view. It would also shift the focus of the story we were telling to her disguise, and we wanted it to be about her relationship with Gibbons, and the two of them dealing with the zombie apocalypse. Last of all, if we revealed the truth about her disguise at a point much later in the story, the readers would already have gotten used to thinking of her as a boy, and there’d be this whole “Wait, what? What’s going on now?” thing. And that would lose forward momentum at a point where we wanted the pace to pick up and head full-tilt into certain doom…

Q:I love all the background info you have regarding the mythos behind zombie lore and superstition. How much research did you do before you wrote the book?

R: I started out in Regency Romances (and I’m a huge history junkie to boot!), and Misty’s Elemental Mages series is set in the Victorian period. We were both pretty familiar with the time period. (And my heroes have always been cowboys…) The main part of the research we had to do was to figure out what people of that period could know about zombies, based on the information available. The other part was in making sure that the real-life technology we described (such as the telegraph) worked as it would have worked in that time and place.

The one thing I had to do a lot of handwaving on was the food, actually. Canning technology was just starting to become widespread — it had been driven by the need to feed the army (on both sides) during the Civil War — and I knew there were a lot of canned goods available on the frontier (such as peaches, tomatoes, and condensed milk), but try as I might, I couldn’t get a full list of what might be on the shelves of the General Store. So I tried to distract everybody, and concentrated on what I did know…

Q: How did the whole process of collaboration work with writing DEAD RECKONING?

R: This is our tenth book together, so we’ve got it down to a science by now.

We use Google Docs a great deal. We start by breaking the story in chat. At that point it looks like a really long book report full of spoilers. Then I go off and do a scene-by-scene breakdown. For example, the first scene in the book looked like this:

SCN 01: We establish the tiny Western town of Alsop, Texas. It’s spring, but a Texas spring is like anyplace else’s deep winter. It’s the beginning of the droving season, when thousands of head of cattle are driven north along the Chisholm Trail to Kansas railheads. It’s just dusk when a lone figure on a gleaming black stallion rides into town. The figure’s fancy turnout — silver conches and stamping on the black leather saddle, silver-studded reins and bridle, silver-studded saddlebags — proclaim them less of a working cowboy than a “bad man” — a “shootist” — a gunslinger. The rider, too, is wearing black studded with silver, from the silver heels and toe-caps on the boots, to the silver spurs on the boots, to the silver conches on the black leather vest, to the silver-studded hatband on the black Stetson. The only touch of contrast is the ivory handles on the matched pair of Colt Peacemakers he wears strapped to his hips. The fact that they’re tied down proclaims him as someone who lives and dies by the gun. The town of Alsop is a single street, with a livery stable at one end and a church at the other. Between the two are the usual buildings: hotel and dining parlor, general store, telegraph office, newspaper, sheriff’s office. And of course the saloon. The prairie wind blows dust, discarded paper, and the inevitable tumbleweeds across the street as the black rider’s horse ambles slowly up the street and stops in front of the saloon.

As you see, there’s a lot of background information included, mainly so it’s there when we need it.

Next, we divvy up the scenes and start writing. We post them in Google Docs, broken out into chapters, and revise each other’s work as we go. When the book is done, one or the other of us downloads all the chapters, assembles them into a single document, does a last polish, and off it goes…

Q: Both White Fox and Jett left us with questions, is there already a sequel in the works for DEAD RECKONING?

R: Yup! We’re off to Denver! And imagine my glee when I found a detailed map of the city from the very year I need…

Q: What would you say is different about writing for young adults rather than adults?

R: Wow. That’s a hard one. (My work has always been tagged “of interest to teens” from my very first book, which was a space opera titled HELLFLOWER, so I may not be the best person to ask.) I think it’s always a case of knowing what’s important to your audience, and telling that audience a story that won’t bore it. So if my main character is a sixteen-year old, I do my best to look at the world from that perspective. If my main character were fifty, the perspective would change…

Q: I am a fan of the romance genre, what would you say is your favorite genre to work with? (BTW congrats to Rosemary who with the addition of the Western has now written a book in every genre). *high five*

R: *high fives you back* If I were guessing about Misty, I’d say “historical fantasy” would be her answer. My favorite is urban fantasy, because I am totally in love with the idea that something wonderful and strange will suddenly show up in the middle of an ordinary day and an ordinary life and then there will be Adventures.. At least, I like to think it’s wonderful Sometimes it’s monsters, but in that case, a hero/ine is never far behind!

Q: Which books or authors would you say most inspired your writing?

R: ::laughs:: All of them! Mark Twain, Damon Runyon, Robert Heinlein, J.R.R. Tolkien, Andre Norton (who I got to collaborate with OMG!), Georgette Heyer, “Doc” Smith, Leslie Charteris, Raymond Chandler, Theodore Sturgeon, Robert E. Howard, H.P. Lovecraft, Fritz Leiber, C. L. Moore… Each one of them taught me something — about how to tell a story, about how to make a character “real”, about Sense of Wonder, which I think is the most important gift a writer can give themselves and their readers.

Q: I know many authors that are now using iPads to write on the go, what is your writing preference: paper and pen/pencil, desktop, laptop, or mobile device?

R: I adore my iPad, but I can barely write emails on it — the touchpad is incredibly frustrating. So it’s computer (laptop or desktop) for me. I actually wrote my first couple of books on an IBM Selectric (yeah, I know, the dark ages), and I used to write my shorter stuff longhand. But from the moment I got my hands on my first computer (an Apple ][e ) I’ve never looked back. Revision is so much easier!!!!

Q: Any advice for unpublished writers?

R: Misty’s advice and mine is about the same (I know, as I’ve heard her give hers A LOT): write! There’s nothing to beat Butt In Chair to help you hone your writing discipline and your craft. The basic rules are pretty simple:

1. Write.

2. Finish what you write.

3. Submit what you write.

You’ll face a lot of rejection, frustration, and disappointment along the way. But these three rules are the only ones I know to turn someone from Unpublished Writer to Published Writer.

Q: Between City of Heroes and the Marvelverse, you have both plied your craft in the realm of those a bit superhuman…If you could have any super power, what would it be and why?

R: Misty may chime in later, but for me: FLYING!!! I want to soar above the towers of Gotham, or Metropolis, or the Big Apple! No contest!

Q: Thank you very much for sharing your works and words with us, is there anything else you would like to add?

R: I started out in fandom, writing fanfic, and the one thing I miss as a “pro” writer is the amount of feedback I used to get. Like the book? Hate the book? I want to know! You can find me in my usual hangouts: http://rosemary-edghill.dreamwidth.org/ and http://www.facebook.com/rosemary.edghill


Now if that wasn’t just fabulousness in itself…Imagine if you will that Cowboys vs Aliens, Wild Wild West, and Walking Dead were all put into a blender…this book will appeal to readers who love historicals, steampunk, supernatural, and mysteries. Though the authors comment at the beginning of the book that they apologize for some of the rather unenlightened attitudes and language of the book, it is a clean read…well, clean other than disintegrating corpses. The target audience is grades 7-12 and is perfect to give to those middle schoolers looking for a good zombie book. It will even appeal to boys. 

*Update: Check out Bloomsbury Teens Facebook page for great prizes related to the books release! https://www.facebook.com/BloomsburyTeens

Supernaturally Rocks

http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?lt1=_blank&bc1=000000&IS2=1&bg1=FFFFFF&fc1=000000&lc1=0000FF&t=notquitsupe-20&o=1&p=8&l=as4&m=amazon&f=ifr&ref=ss_til&asins=0061985864

Being normal is so overrated.

As Evie, is beginning to learn, real high school is nothing like a high school tv drama. There are things like homework, PE, and oh, yeah, those lockers. Yes, those coveted lockers from the first book. Not to mention a long distance relationship with college-boy, Lend.

Confused? I am of course talking about Supernaturally by Kiersten White. This is the sequel to the oh so wonderful Paranormalcy. First thing I have to say is that I have some absolute cover love for these books. Fair hair and eyed Evie standing in her gorgeous dresses. I really hope that they don’t change the cover when book two finally hits the bookstore shelves because it is absolutely gorgeous. Yeah, I know, don’t judge a book by its cover, but I admit that and the title are what first caught my interest in Paranormalcy.

Book two continues Evie’s story with her trying to adjust to a normal life outside of the International Paranormal Containment Agency. Well, maybe more like not adjusting. Her shapeshifting boyfriend is away at college and she isn’t exactly fitting in with the whole normal high school girl scene except for missing said boyfriend and making plans to attend the same college on early admission. In the first book, it was a desire for prom and in this one the goal is Georgetown.

It is no surprise that Evie is seriously tempted by Raquel’s request to help IPCA out again with a couple missions, but of course things don’t always go so simply for her. However, hasn’t she learned from all those episodes of Easton Heights that lying and boyfriends don’t mix?

Mingled throughout the teenage drama, you have Jack the boy who just doesn’t want to grow up, a paranormal hunting UberVampire, sneaky paranormal locals, and yes, ex-boyfriend faery drama once again. There is even NASCAR, but you will have to keep reading to find out how that fits in the mix (yeah, not exactly Evie’s sparkly pink scene).

Did I mention that this book is all age teen appropriate? Yeah, those bleeping “bleeps” are so endearing. It kinda fits with a character that has a pink taser gun affectionately nickname Tasey.

Questions will be answered but even more will be asked so book three better not be too far away. So put on your hottest paranormal hunting heels with coordinating sparkly pink accessories and head to your closest bookstore to place your pre-order for the July 26, 2011 release.

Reader Roundup

Thought I would share some goodies with everyone today…
Once upon a time when I was an undergrad, I worked for Waldenbooks (you know, those almost extinct places known as bookstores, in fact I think that one may in fact be extinct). St the time, most of my paycheck went towards supporting my reading habit. As a librarian, this habit continues. In fact, I tend to bring home more than I could possibly read and end up sending it all back or adding my name back to the hold lists. This doesn’t stop me from wanting more books. The cheaper the better.
How can it get any better than free?
NetGalley is a website that connects book reviewers and librarians with publishers in want of reviews for their books. They only provide digital copies of the books, but these range from already release to already on the market. We aren’t talking no name companies either, these are big name authors and publishers. Some titles are available for immediate download and others have a more stringent approval system. It is worth checking out. In fact many of the books you have seen reviewed on this blog have come from NetGalley.
LibraryThing and Goodreads are both websites that offer free books to their members in the form of contests. Think of it as placing your name in a hat and crossing your fingers that you will be picked. Many of these titles have hundreds of people vying for only a handful of copies; so your chances of winning are close to that of winning the lottery. I have known people who have received copies, so it can happen.
Remember that if you request a copy of a book for review purposes that you should actually review it. Failure to do so may not only hurt your chances or working with that publisher again, but also for other reviews.
You also might want to try some author stalking. NO! Put down the binoculars! I don’t mean that kind of stalking! Check out the author’s website. If they have a blog, follow it. Hang on their every tweet, just don’t become an annoying gnat (you know the bug that buzzes annoyingly non-stop in your ear, get the idea?). You never know when there might be an impromptu giveaway directly from the author or their publicist.
A lot of book blogs also give away their Advance Readers Copies (ARCs) to followers and those that comment on their posts. (Sorry, this blog, does not yet host giveaways. Digital ARCs,yeah, non-transferable. But keep posted cause you never know when that might change). I find a lot of ARCs to give to my teen reviewers at the library by keeping an eye on the list-serves and blog rolls. Here are some websites I know of that offer free book contests, both ARCs and published:
Free Book Friday
Writerspace
Dead Rules Giveaways to Support Teen Reading
If you know of any other interesting places to get free books or ARCs, post the, to the comments below. Happy Reading!