books, Uncategorized

Books of 2016

This year I set myself a goal of reading fifty books over on Goodreads (you can check out my full list here). I am just one shy of completing the goal, and so with most of the month of December still ahead of me, I know I’m going to make it.

I’ve read some amazing books, and some not so great ones, and looking back at that list it feels like a lifetime ago that I read some of those titles. Wow, has this year been long and challenging or what?

Anyway, I thought I’d share with you some of my top picks because there are plenty of those and, personally, I find word-of-mouth to be the most reliable way to find books.

We’ll get the BIG ones out of the way first.

winter-finalWinter, by Marissa Meyer. This is the final book in the Lunar Chronicles series and WOW. It’s epic in both size and contents, and is the perfect ending for the series. I just adore the title character in this one, and am in awe of Meyer for the way she weaves so many plots (and fairytales) together into what is an incredible book. I can’t wait to see what she tackles next!

Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Laini Taylor – the entire series! Yup, I read through these three huge tomes in just a few months. The sheer size of the books made me nervous, but I’d heard so many fantastic things about them that I put my big girl pants on and got to it.  The third book is a hard, hard slog at some points, but totally worth it once you reach the end. I think it was a few days before I really engaged with a book again after finishing this one.

Right, into some regular sized books now huh?

Malus Domestica, by S.A. Hunt. Witches, youtubers, cats, possession, apple trees – what’s not to like? This was an engaging horror with an awesome protagonist, and some really cool secondary characters. I am very much looking forward to the next one in the series.

A Monster Calls, Patrick Ness. Don’t read this if you are not prepared to cry. Seriously. It’s a short book, but it’s heartbreakingly beautiful and I SOBBED. No shame in that.

viciousVicious, V.E. Schwab. I LOVED this book. The characters are awesome, the storytelling is fantastic, and it kept me gripped right through to the end. I can’t wait to read more from this author.

And lastly, non-fiction, just for fun: The Game Believes in You, Greg Toppo. If you have kids, and if you’re curious about how games can help kids to learn, curious about how so much of the world can be seen as a game, curious about education, and developments, you NEED to read this book. It totally blew my mind.

What did you read in 2016 that you’d recommend?? I’ve got a few on my list to read and/or finish, but I’d love to hear of new books!

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editing, Goodreads, January, publishing, reading, writing

Mid-January update

How is it already the middle of January??? And how has it taken me three days to get around to writing this post? lol

2015 has started out well. So far I have already finished writing the first draft of Alyssa’s novel, finished a round of edits on my next release (more on that later), edited one novel for someone else, and am partway through editing another. Critiqued yet another novel, read several books, spent a lot of time lying on the deck in the sun (reading), swimming in rivers, and hanging out with the kids.

Pretty epic, really.

Despite how busy all of that sounds, I actually feel fairly relaxed. The ‘reading on the deck in the sun’ is a big part of this. I can’t remember the last year when I had time to do this. To just relax and unwind. To disappear into a book – not critique it, not edit it, just enjoy the story. Goodreads would suggest it was 2011, because I read over 100 books that year, and since then it’s been pretty dismal. I’m very much looking forward to reading a lot more books in the months to come. I feel like I’m on holiday, and this is all basically because I’m not studying any more. I knew it was stressing me out, but I had no idea just how much!

Thank goodness I am done with that 😉

I’ve got some exciting stuff coming up in the near future, but will save that for another post! For now, I am off for a bush walk in the rain with a friend.

becoming, challenges, year ahead

Happy New Year! + Goals

Hey, it’s 2015!!!

How awesome 🙂

2014 kicked my butt, but I came out of it stronger and more ready for change than I imagined I would be going into it. I’m planning to spend 2015 living, learning, and becoming.

I’ve lined up a few specific challenges. There is, naturally, the Goodreads challenge, and then Andi roped me, along with some others, into the 101 in 1001 challenge. I’ve already managed to tick one thing off each of these lists – but I can’t update the book until it’s published. Damnit! The trouble with reading pre-published books 😉 The beauty, on the other hand, is that I was among the first to finish the series, and DAMN. I want to be Melissa Pearl when I grow up lol. Well, the Spec Fic version of her anyway.

Back to the whole new year goals thing…

This year is a lot about me working through some stuff. Hopefully the last ‘big’ stuff I’ve got sitting in the back of my brain. I may post more about it at some point, but I’m still processing. It’s stuff I had thought/naively hoped I had dealt with, but as with all trauma stuff, it crops up at the most unhelpful times and I know now that it’s something I need to really face head on in order to finally put it to bed. So I’ve given myself some overarching goals for the year so that I stay conscious of the direction I want to be moving in. As follows:

Work towards spending more time on my own writing than on other peoples – I LOVE helping other people out, but I have a tendency to prioritize it over my own writing. If I have a piece of my work to edit, as well as a piece of someone elses? Yeah, I will pick theirs almost every time. I am starting the year off by always working on my own stuff, even just a little, before so much as looking at whatever else is on my plate. MY writing is important too.

Read more published works than pre-published – this ties in a little with the above. I read a LOT of pre-published stuff. I love to help out! And while that’s all well and good, it’s not really helping me push my own writing forward. I need to be branching out, exploring more, learning more from people who are further into their careers than I am.

Reconnect with myself, feel at ease in my body and mind, and fight against my fears – this is a hard one to quantify. I have a number of books lined up to read which have been suggested by others or selected by myself. I am focusing on being more present, more aware. Of owning my feelings, of being comfortable just being me, and casting off what I have felt others expected from me.

One interesting thing that I learned/rediscovered this year was that I really love the way my body feels after exertion. The massive hike with the kids made me feel alive in a way I haven’t since giving birth and I want more of that. I want to feel the pull of my muscles, I want to be out of breath with it. I want that elation that comes along with achieving something awesome. Something I didn’t think I could do. I don’t imagine I’ll be climbing mountains in the very near future, but hey, one day, I might be.

So, there are the goals, the plans. The hopes. I guess, over all, I want to make me an important person to myself. That might sound stupid to some people, but I’ve spent most of my life making myself insignificant and putting everyone else ahead of me. Sometimes, this is vital – for example, when you have small kids – but a lot of the time, it’s not really helping anyone. It’s certainly not helping me. I’m important too, and I need to be an advocate for myself.

I still feel a little resistant about writing that, but hopefully by the end of the year it will just be a normal thought. A part of who I am.

*forces self to actually post this and not relegate it to the bottomless pit of ‘drafts’*.

books, reading

Print books and the rise of an old desire

Since finishing study, I have accumulated a pile of paper books. Now, I’ve been an e-book convert or close to 3 years now, so this is a strange occurrence for me. I (hate to confess this but have to…) actually do not have a bookshelf. *waits for the gasps and outrage*. Hear me out, please? I have kids, and in their early years they liked nothing more than to trash my book shelves. I had two. The moment I was out of the room for anything, the books would end up all over the floor and I just couldn’t stand it. Those book defenseless books 😦

So, I packed up the ones I couldn’t part with and kept them in boxes under the bed, and I donated the rest to charity. The bookshelves became toy shelves and I no longer had to worry that any books would be destroyed in the making of my small people.

IMG_20141016_072540564That was about 5 years ago.

And now that they are all substantially older, I am beginning to think it might be time to start a new bookshelf*. Break open the boxes and set my books free. Because, as much as I love to read on my kindle, as much time as I’ve spent teaching them that it isn’t just a book, but a whole library, I don’t think they really get it. Since I’ve started reading print books again, they have started realizing that I do spend a fair bit of time reading. The kindle appears to be just another ‘screen’ as far as they are concerned lol. So, lead by example right?

Now, onto the books…. I grabbed The Strain a few months ago because it was going for 50c at the library. And then I went to the Warehouse on Saturday morning to find they were getting rid of books for a ridiculous $1.47. So I grabbed Doctor Sleep, Cujo, and Grim. And then yesterday Carnival of Souls(officially Carnival of Secrets) arrived in the post from the lovely Book Chatter Cath. I’m looking forward to doing a lot of reading!!!

*Naturally, the kids have bookshelves, two, jam packed with books.

writing

E for Exploration

One of the things I love most about being a writer is the endless possibilities it presents – not only to explore our inner selves but also the opportunity it gives us to explore the unknown, the fantastical, the magical, the untouchable.

All writers have heard the old saying ‘write what you know’, and while I think this is good advice to newer writers, I also think it can be taken too literally. I mean, we all know what it is to yearn for something – a person, a job, a toy. Most of  us have experienced love, shame, anger, we’re all human (at least I assume you are if you’re reading this – hello to any super intelligent animals and alien beings!). We can extend that range of human emotions to imagine ourselves in almost any position; and this is what it means to me to write what I know.

Because, quite frankly, I’m far more interested in writing about places and happenings that I don’t know, than ones that I do. Putting all those human emotions to the test in situations I’ll never encounter really appeals.

Part of the beauty of writing speculative fiction is that you can ask any question, broach any topic and explore any world you could possibly imagine – and the flipside is that there are writers who can imagine worlds you can’t, and you then get to explore those in your reading. Pretty awesome, if you ask me.

Exploration and escapism go hand in hand for me, both as a writer and a reader. Always has, always will.

reading

Currently reading…

I’ve been reading a few web comics this week – not something I normally have time for, but I came across Blindsprings and really liked the idea of a ‘princess’ who didn’t want to be ‘rescued’. Which led me to stumbling across Namesakes, which is pretty intriguing as well. I love the idea of there being multiple ‘Dorothy’s who come to Oz to conquer evil.

Blindsprings is

an all ages comic, featuring magic, secret societies and hidden gateways to fantastic places. The comic should appeal to anyone who loves Ghibli or Disney animated movies!

Here is the Blurb from Namesakes:

Namesake is the story of Emma Crewe, a woman who discovers she can visit other worlds. She finds out that these are places she already knows – fantasy and fairy lands made famous through the spoken word, literature and cinema. Her power as a Namesake forces her to act as a protagonist in these familiar stories as she figures out how to get home.

But as she travels, she discovers that those controlling her story have their own selfish goals in mind – and her fate is the key to everyone’s happy ending.

Join Emma, her sister Elaine and their friends as they tumble down the rabbit hole.

If you like, adventure, humor, stories of friendship, fairy tales and fantasy, this is the webcomic for you.

Definitely worth checking out!

authors, reading

What’s on my reading list this year

Last month I posted about my Goodreads Challenge for the year, a mere 30 books (and I’m already behind, at just 3 so far!). Having such a low number really means that I will need to be a bit more choosy when it comes to what I’m reading. It means I will be more inclined to set things aside if they aren’t capturing me, and it means doing a little planning.

I’m usually the kind of gal who grabs books willy nilly, and I’m definitely guilty of only reading a fraction of the books that I purchase. In an ideal world, I will read them all one day, but time is short and getting shorter.

So, what do I HAVE to read this year?

Naturally, my text books: The Essentials of Family Therapy, and The Handbook of Transcultural Counselling & Psychotherapy.

Now that we’ve got the academic things out of the way, I MUST read The Cormorant by Chuck Wendig. I loved the first two books in the series and am very excited to read the third. Miriam Black is a fantastic character and I can’t wait to see what she gets up to this time around.

I also have got to get my hands on a copy of The Dream Thieves, by Maggie Stiefvater. The Raven Boys was my first ever Stiefvater book and I just adore her wonderful way with words. Really looking forward to reading book 2.

I’d also love to read Cress, book 3 of the Lunar Chronicles by Melissa Meyer. I liked the first two, after not really expecting to, and she’s definitely an author whose work I’ll be following.

It’s nice to know there are  a few series that I’m keen to follow on with, though now I’m a bit sad that I’m not branching out or have any new authors whose work I want to line up. I’m going to have to go on the hunt.

You can help me here – I’ve recently been reminded that I love a good serial killer book. Not specifically police oriented stuff, but you know, people, serial killers, figuring out who it is stuff. I’d like to read some more of this type of book, with a futuristic earth setting if anyone knows who writes that kind of stuff. I’m planning on finally writing Saving Tomorrow next year, and I need some inspiration.

Delaney’s story has been four years in the making already and once I’m clear of study I want to give another shot. The main thing that has been holding me back is that futuristic writing needs a different kind of world building to fantasy, or even things set on other planets, and I know that I have to bring the city to life in order to make the most of this story.

So, suggestions welcome! Cities, action, murder, killers, grey areas, futuristic earth. Gimme gimme gimme.

Thanks 😉

Also, if there is anything that you think I should desperately be reading, let me know. I’m totally open to finding some new authors to adore, though my reading habits are often dictated by the rather small size of my book budget. I’ve got a few books lined up for the near future from some writer friends, but you can never have too many books, right?

reading

Goodreads reading challenge 2014

I’ve been signing up for this challenge for the last 3 years – and managed to top my goal every year. It’s great to have a target in mind, and when you need do nothing more than update your goodreads to track it (which I do, anyway) there is really no reason not to.*

The first year I opted for 75 books, but dropped back to 50 the last two due to study, and the decision not to finish crappy books. I’ve done a lot more beginning and setting aside in these last two years than ever before, and you know what? I feel heaps better for it. When I look back on what I read last year, most of it was pretty good.

This year I am dropping my goal number even lower – down to 35. With the increased study load, I know it will be a lot harder to find time to read for pleasure, but it’s a good way to make sure I am reading quality books, not snacking on crap. I’m starting the year off right, and have chosen The Scorpio Races as my first book. It’s been on my kindle for the better part of a year, and I have been saving it for the right time.

The time is now 🙂

I fell in love with Maggie Stiefvater’s writing in June last year when I read The Raven Boys. Oh how I loved that book. I’m not the biggest fan of YA, but this really captured me. So I know I’m going to enjoy The Scorpio Races.

I don’t have anything beyond that lined up, so if you have suggestions for relatively inexpensive e-books, I’d love to hear them.

*My only issue with Goodreads is that I can’t count the books I read to give my writer friends feedback on until they are published, and sometimes that’s not the same year I read it. Also, I can’t include the books I read as an intern for Entangled. Between the two of those things, that’s probably an extra 20 books a year. So, while 35 *might* seem low, there is a lot of behind the scenes reading going on ;-)**

**let’s not even think about all the academic stuff I’ll be reading!! Trying not to dwell on that until the papers actually start lol.

Uncategorized

What’s in store for 2013

I love this period over the end of one year and the beginning of the next. I love the buzz that happens when people talk about their fresh starts, hopes and dreams for the new year. It echoes the way I feel and just makes it all so much better!

Obviously, after a pretty rough year last year I am hoping for a little bit of an easier time in 2013. Whether that happens or not is yet to be seen. No-one can predict these things.

This year, for me, is a lot about finishing things. I didn’t even realize this until I sat down just now and looked over the list I was posting to the blog. My other list is a lot bigger, and filled with each step required to achieve the goal – but I won’t bore you with all of that here. I am going to keep it really simple.

I want to finish Sun-Touched and submit it. It’s currently a finished first draft, and I’m really looking forward to diving back into that world and fleshing it out more, and then sending it out into the world.

I also want to finish writing Shell and Bone, get that ready and submit that as well. As for any other writing? Well, it’s purely a bonus. I am quite sure I won’t be able to resist starting something new, but these two projects are my main squeezes this year as far as I can tell.

I have a couple books that I am going to finish this year if it kills me. The first of which is Perdido Street Station. A friend recommended it to me YEARS ago. I started reading it at the beginning of 2011, and I am only about 30% through. It’s so long. I’ve really enjoyed what I’ve read, but there just never seemed to be a good time to finish it off. The quick reads have won out in the last couple years. Mindless books. Well, it’s time. As soon as I finish the book I am currently reading, I am switching back to Perdido until it’s done.

I also have The Artists Way sitting around. I read the intro and first chapter and that was as far as I got. Several of my good writers friends recommend it though, so this year I am finally going to work through it. I think its a good time to do that, as I really need to work on finding some balance in my life and making sure that I get time out from the every day grind to work on my creativity.

Another recommendation has been Writing The Other. I started reading this last year too, but started skipping exercises and forced myself to put the book down. It’s all very well and good reading books on writing, but the real learning happens when you put those things into practice. I decided that until I had time to do that, I was going to set the book aside.

I have a lot of learning to do. And I expect (hope) that this year will be a year of great growth. I am now able to admit that I’m a lazy writer, and I want to change that. I waste a lot of time on mindless, stupid crap, and I don’t want to do that anymore. It’s time to stop letting that little voice in my head demotivate me. Time to push past my ‘play it safe’ barrier, time to stop waiting for someone else to tell me to fix something and just get on and do it myself, because I shouldn’t rely on other people to tell me whats wrong*. Most of the time I know what’s wrong. I do. I’m just being lazy because I’m exhausted all the time.

Well, screw exhaustion. It’s not going to beat me this year. I’ve just finished reading 2k to 10k and I’m totally ready to get on the bandwagon and outline and write, and actually make the most of the extremely limited time I do have. I want to see Sun-Touched heading towards publication of some kind or another. I want to write other novels, and edit those novels and see them out in the world too. And it’s only going to happen if I put the hard work in.

So, that’s me. Really. One novel, one novella. A bunch of reading and learning and everything else that goes along with this writers gig. There are a lot of other things I am working towards, but I think they can be summed up in the words balance, and harmony. That’s what I’m hoping, for me, and our family.

*I know my writing buddies are there to help, they are amazing writers and their input is fantastic – but think how much more valuable their feedback will be to me if what I’m giving them is free of the same old things that keep cropping up? I’m pretty certain they are getting tired of seeing the same basic issues 😉 I know I would be! Time to do them, and myself, a favour. 

Uncategorized

Operation: Clear out the Kindle

My Kindle is dying. I hope it will be a slow death because I don’t want to replace it until we can get the new Kindle Paperwhite over here and who knows when that’s going to be. My current Kindle is not quite two years old, so I am sure it will hang in there for just a little longer.

Ivy was going to inherit it when I got a new one, but it has something loose that rattles around inside it, and now it’s doing random stuff like typing letters all over the page, or scrolling down when I’m not pressing any buttons, and sometimes it won’t turn on until I’ve tried three times. Hang in there, Kindle, hang in there.

The other reason I need it to last for just a little longer is that I have so many books on it and I can’t remember which ones were ones I really wanted to read, which were given to me, and which I just got because they were free. In response, I’ve slipped into mega reading mode, going through the books one at a time, giving them until around the 5% mark to see whether I want to continue reading them, and then deleting them either when I finish, or if I don’t want to read.

I’m also not going to buy any new books. Of course, it’s easier said that done. For instance, I saw a link to this Humble eBook Bundle that I simply couldn’t resist. Buy books for charity? I’m sold! I haven’t put them on my Kindle though, they are in a folder, and they can sit there and wait until I get a new e-reader.

So yes, that’s probably my reading taken care of for the rest of the year. I’m so looking forward to purging all this academic stuff from my head. Summer months are fabulous for just chilling out and forgetting about articles and assignments and theories and applications.

One more day until my essay is due. I should be done tonight, and then there are just a few little exercises to do and I am done. I can’t wait.