It’s Monday, What Are You Reading?

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It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to read my blog and realize that I’m a Bibliophile. I think any good writer is also a good reader, time permitting, but there’s always an exception to the rule. I, however, am probably a bit over the top where my reading is concerned. It’s extremely weird to me to go for any length of time, months for example, without reading.

I’ve got my Kindle Fire attached to my hip and when it’s charging, there’s generally a book in my hand…or I’m writing, cooking, or sleeping. No, it would not be the first time someone suggested I “get a hobby”. However, since my hobbies always turn into a full-time job, it’s probably best I just stick to books.

For the past three years I have challenged myself via Goodreads to read a certain amount of books. For one, it’s a great way to keep track of what you read on a yearly basis. Two, it’s fun. Three, it’s a nice way to challenge yourself. (If you decide to join, please feel free to send me a friend request.)

Last year I reached my 90 book goal, and I was far from trying to meet the deadline at the last minute. In fact, I originally started with a much lower number and slowly had to increase the number each time I passed a goal because I still had plenty left to read.

I read 80 books for the 2011 challenge. That initially seemed difficult, but I do manage to rack up the books pretty quickly. I even manage to squeeze in time to re-read an entire series of books (or three) on a semi-regular basis, which of course, does not count toward the challenge, but is still an awful lot of material to be reading.

This year I didn’t want to attempt to break the 90 book record and aim for 95 or even 100, but there’s a very strong possibility that I’ll go over the 60 I’ve committed myself to read. I am currently at 50, and it’s not even officially the middle of August. I’ve got five books on hold at my library, none of which have been released yet so I’ll be ahead of the pack on that front. I’ve also got several on deck as we speak. It’s rare when I am truly without something to read.

My re-reads over the past two weeks have been: Dead Witch Walking, The Good, The Bad, & The Undead, Every Which Way But Dead, A Fistful of Charms, and For A Few Demons More, by Kim Harrison. I love these books, some more than others. I stumbled upon this series of books one day in search for something new to read. The first three books were in a lovely Barnes & Noble display and the person on the display plugging her books was Jim Butcher, who is without question one of my absolute favorite authors. That was about eight years ago. I have read every single one of Kim’s books in the Hollows series, and clearly I’ve read them all more than once.

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In 2015 the series will come to a close and it will be a sad time for me and for everyone who loves these books. All good things must come to an end, but the Hollows is a must-read series, especially if you love and/or enjoy urban fantasy. It will make you laugh out loud, cry, cheer, and think. It’s been an extremely interesting journey from Dead Witch Walking to the most recent book, Ever After, which was released at the beginning of this year. On a very positive note, Kim has always been amazingly kind to me on Facebook, which I find incredibly sweet and will never forget about her. She doesn’t have to say a word or respond to anything, and yet, she does. That says a lot about her as a person, and it’s something I respect and admire. Her blog, which is also on WordPress, can be found here: http://kimharrison.wordpress.com/.

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I finished reading Affliction a few weeks ago. If you haven’t read the 20+ books that come before it, take a pass. If you have, and you’ve stuck with the series from the very beginning, you won’t want to miss this one. I was expecting to cringe my way through it, but I was nicely surprised to come away feeling good about it. I almost read it a second time, but since I really don’t have the time right now for that, it will have to wait a while. Maybe I’ll do it next year before the next book comes out.

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I recently finished reading Raylan by Elmore Leonard, which is loosely based off of Season 2 of Justified, as well as an episode from Season 4 that was particularly laugh out loud hilarious. I laughed so hard I cried, and I’ve watched it several times for the additional laughs. The rest didn’t follow along with anything in particular and if it did, it was bits and pieces that were changed around, but a great deal of it was based on real people in Harlan County, Kentucky.

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If you’re not a fan of the show or you’ve never heard of it or seen it, you’re probably living under a rock, and thus may only be able to appreciate the book if you’ve read the other two books that feature the Raylan Givens character, which is brilliantly brought to life on screen by the amazingly talented Timothy Olyphant. Tim breathes so much life and humor into the character, and as a fan of his already, I went into the pilot episode of Justified not knowing anything about the character and immediately became hooked. I own each season on DVD, and there’s no higher compliment I can pay a show than that. If I take the time to pre-order it a good year in advance, you know I’m crazy about it.

Justified has received seven Primetime Emmy Award nominations since its inception. That’s not a lot considering how amazing the show is, but I’m still extremely proud of each one. The show has an amazing cast of characters.

The series received its first nomination for Outstanding Original Main Title Theme Music (I LOVE this song! You will always hear me singing it whenever the show is on.). For the second season, it received four nominations for the 63rd Primetime Emmy Awards: Timothy Olyphant for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series (I’m not sure who I have to kill for him to win, but I am more than willing to do it.), Walton Goggins for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series (The same applies here.), Margo Martindale for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series, and Jeremy Davies for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series, with Margo Martindale winning, quite deservedly. I cried when she accepted the award. She is downright incredible. For the third season, it received two nominations for the 64th Primetime Emmy Awards, with Jeremy Davies winning for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series (he’s truly hilarious), and a nomination for Outstanding Art Direction for a Single-Camera Series. I know this show will continue to shine, awards or no awards.

I’d forgotten that I’d read only part of Raylan when it was released in February 2012. I was probably distracted at the time since Season 3 was in full swing. I decided to re-visit it so I wouldn’t miss anything, and got an immense kick out of it. It is brilliant in a way that only Elmore Leonard can deliver.

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What else is on my current reading list? Beautiful Redemption by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl, The Seven Daughters of Eve by Bryan Sykes, Beyond Belief by Jenna Miscavige Hill, and Graveyard Child by M.L.N. Hanover. These books are all drastically different from one another, which gives me the freedom to jump from one to the other if I find my interest is lagging or I’m too tired to follow anything complex.

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The Beautiful Creatures novels are far better in book format than the film version. Key characters were cut entirely from the movie, which was horribly disappointing seeing as they were the best characters, and the richer characters they kept in the film were incredibly dull on screen, so if you’ve been wanting to see the movie, skip it and read the books.

Yes, it’s a good “young adult” series, but I’m an adult-adult and I’m still following through. I don’t think it’s one of those things where you need to worry about it being “age appropriate” or not. It’s something a 12 year old could read, but they might not get the gist of it or the nuances you get as a reader over age 20.

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The Seven Daughters of Eve is about genetic ancestry. If you’re trying to trace your ancestry or you’re simply interested in how it’s done on a scientific level, this book is for you. I have very rich ancestry that I am deeply connected to on a level most people are not. This book will take me a while to read, but it’s definitely a must-read.

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Beyond Belief is about Jenna Miscavige Hill’s escape from Scientology. I generally roll my eyes when anyone says anything in regard to Scientology, but I have to admit that I am intrigued that so many high-ranking members are leaving “the church” and continue to do so. The level of brain-washing that Jenna talks about in this book is enough to make any free-thinking individual cringe. As an educated woman, I’ve never been one for anything that feels “cult-ish”, and I’ve never been a very good follower. Hell, there are times where I have serious issues with organized religion and the people that blindly follow it, as well as the message it sends all across the board. However, I think anybody willing to walk away from what they know in their heart is wrong deserves credit for it. It could not have been an easy journey. I find it incredibly scary, creepy, and just plain disturbing what “the church” does, all the while claiming not to have any part in it, to those who leave. They do everything within their considerable power to discredit the honesty of those who leave. Clearly they wouldn’t all have the same story to tell if something extremely bizarre wasn’t going on within the organization. I will never be able to call it a religion with a straight face.

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Graveyard Child is the 5th book in the Black Sun’s Daughter series created by M.L.N. Hanover (A pseudonym of fantasy author Daniel Abraham). This series is one of the most original I have ever read, and I read pretty heavily on the dark urban fantasy front. This book is fan-freaking-tastic. It’s a fast read and highly entertaining, but if you’re going to check it out, start from the beginning by picking up a copy of Unclean Spirits. This is a series I happened upon, but it has been a very happy accident. This is a very unique story that I can’t help, but thoroughly enjoy.

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Ok, now it’s your turn. What are you reading? What genres do you enjoy the most and why? Hit the comment button and lets discuss it all.

Moving Towards The Finish Line

” Writers are not just people who sit down and write. They hazard themselves. Every time you compose a book, your composition of yourself is at stake.” ~E.L. Doctorow

One of the things I love most about being a writer is being able to enjoy another writer’s work, especially when that writer is completely different from me in style, story-telling ability, and topic. Even if we’re technically in the same genre, I know where I excel and I know where I don’t. I don’t compare myself to anyone because I know I’m not the absolute best in the world. I’m also not idiotic enough to consider myself completely without talent. The nice thing about writing is that there’s an audience for everyone, and no true need for everyone to attempt to compete with anyone other than themselves.

I admit I had a moment about a year and a half ago when I was in a Barnes & Noble with my Aunt. She knows what I’m writing, she absolutely loves the story and the characters, but she hadn’t realized up until that point exactly how much competition is in this genre. Aisles and aisles full of nothing, but books you either pick up or leave behind.

Sci-Fi used to be more traditional in the sense that the sections were very clearly labeled. If you wrote about vampires, werewolves, witches, warlocks, etc., you fell into the Science Fiction and/or Fantasy genre. There weren’t a lot of sub-genres, but now sub-genres are a constant. You have a ton of books in the Young Adult Fiction section, and a great many more in Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, Dark Urban Fantasy, etc., and it is very easy to get confused in the fiction section because so many of the covers jump out at you, but not every single story is worth every single person’s time. That’s why there are enough writers for all the readers of the world, we don’t all write the same things and we don’t all read the same things.

One very important thing for me, as a female in a new-to-me side of writing (Previously I wrote nothing, but outspoken opinions and facts. You will find that even my fiction work has a lot of factual information in it because of that. I do my research in an almost obsessive compulsive manner.), is to try to be as uncritical publicly about other female writers as humanly possible. I’m sick of women constantly bashing each other, constantly behaving like we all need to be put in separate corners, and just plain being mean and catty, when we have the choice to be polite and respectful. If you don’t have anything nice to day, don’t say anything at all. We’ve all heard that at least once in our lives, but acting on that tiny bit of poise and grace seems to be lost on a great many people.

Many years ago I openly admit to writing some pretty scathing, unpleasant reviews of Tanya Huff’s Blood novels. If you were a fan of the show “Blood Ties” and read the books which they are loosely based upon, you might be able to understand how shocked, dismayed, and utterly disappointed I was when the books and the show were 100% opposites of one another. Most of us can say that about a lot of books that are later turned into a TV show or movie, but for me, these were especially distracting. The show was so fantastic, so well written and well acted, and a huge part of me expected the books to be on the same level.

I refuse to say more than that because I’d be breaking my own rule. Right here, right now, I publicly apologize to Tanya if she ever read those reviews because as a writer, for me to criticize another female author’s work is just plain disrespectful. It’s one thing to tell a friend or a family member that you didn’t like a book and why, but to publicly tear it apart on several different forums where my book reviews are highly rated is wrong. I only have the ability to delete them from one site, and I plan on doing so because again, it was wrong and I own that. I would not want to be treated that way when my books are published, and I have to pay Tanya the same courtesy, kindness, and respect that is warranted.

For the record, I know I’m not for everyone and I do not expect everyone to fall in love with me, my work, or the style in which I write. I will have plenty of people who will dislike me, and many won’t even know why they dislike me, but it’s the nature of the beast and I’ve been there before, so I know how to handle it.

I have just finished reading “Ever After”, the 11th book in Kim Harrison’s Hollows’ series, which is a series of books I have been reading since day one. It is because of Kim that I became a reader of Vicki Pettersson’s Signs of The Zodiac novels, books I love and highly recommend to others. If Kim had not given Vicki’s work such high praise, I may never have read those books, so I thank her for that gift that keeps on giving.

After finishing Kim’s last book, “A Perfect Blood” in February of 2012, I casually mentioned how much I enjoyed it on Facebook. I can’t tell you how shocked I was when, later that same day, I received a response from Kim. That left a real impression on me. I like her and I respect her work, even though I threatened to stop reading her books several years ago after the death of a character I was extremely attached to. These books have become a yearly main-stay for me. Every year around January or February a new Hollows’ novel comes out and I pre-order it several months in advance.

I enjoyed “Ever After” in a way that puts my own work into perspective for me. It reminds me that I’m writing something different, even though the genre is the same, and that my current manuscript is chock full of my bizarre and twisted sense of humor.

Believe it or not, I am the person that can laugh at a funeral. Not because someone’s death or grief is funny, not because I’m morbid, but because I can tell you something about that person that will make you laugh and smile, and remember them in a positive way. On the way to my father’s funeral the limo driver actually turned to me to say “Are you sure we’re going to a funeral?”, because everyone with me was sharing stories and telling jokes, and it helped lighten a very heavy day where, at times, my anger was thicker than the laughter. We laughed, we cried, we had our moments of silent remembrance, but we were all being honest and real and to me, that is always genuine, quality humanity. Even if the day ended with me wanting to commit murder, tell people off, etc. I am sure we have all felt that way at one time or another in regard to family.

I have had to write this current novel as a means of healing from a lot of loss. It didn’t start out that way, but it became therapeutic at some point to get it all out of my system. I come from a huge extended family, but there are days when I feel like the sole survivor because out of my immediate family, I am one of the only people remaining. It’s a painful part of life, but we survive, we move forward, and someplace along the way maybe we end up less alone than when we first started.

If you’re on the fence about “Ever After”, it is 100% worth reading and completely unlike my own work. It was a good outlet for me to read it this week, and now I can go back to writing my own work which was re-vamped early last week and is moving closer and closer towards the finish line.

Until next time…..Lisa

**For those that are interested, the ABOUT LISA section has been re-vamped as well.**