Tag Archives: Favorite Authors

Good Reads and Goodreads

Lately, I’ve been doing a ton of reading alongside my writing. While the school year poses an insane challenge to getting everything done, even a quick fifteen minute read before bed leaves me content.

So, what have I been reading?

A whole mix of things, really. Sometimes, I’m reading short stories. Others, I’m reading books in advance of my freshmen English students. I tend to bounce a lot, switching between literature and young adult, then fantasy, then suspense, etc., and on the nights I can only cram in a small amount, I’ll knock out a short story. I admit I switch back to young adult fairly regularly, a fact I attribute to originally writing YA, and to the genre “growing up” a bit over the years. Currently, Christopher Pike’s Thirst 2 has taken up residence on my nightstand, alongside Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart and an anthology of H.P. Lovecraft tales—all of them equally adored as my go-to reads before bed.

Speaking of that nightstand—no matter what the genre, it seems the books are piling up. This is due to my currently exploding To Read bookcase (yes, I said bookcase), which is about to get fuller with the six book order I just placed on Amazon. I should probably put a hold on any more book purchases, or break down and get a Kindle, but I’m still a greedy little kid whenever I hit a bookstore or hop onto Amazon. The only thing that would make it all better would be finding more time to read, since over meals and before bed is simply not enough!

In the past, I wrote some [long-winded] reviews of books here on my blog, and posted what I was reading on my Links Page. This worked out great, until I ended up finding I was tackling more books than I could keep up with while simultaneously writing about writerly topics. So, I moved on over to Goodreads to both write about what I’d read but also keep track of what I’d finished. Hopefully, you’ve heard of Goodreads, and if you haven’t, I’d like to tell you a few reasons you should check it out.

Goodreads is a social network-style website devoted to readers and all their reading finds. On the basic level, you can keep track of books you’ve read and are currently reading, as well as books you want to read. You can also share detailed reviews that you can link to your social media sites, and create customizable badges to proudly display your books on any blog or website (like the one I have to the right, for example).

But the networking aspect of Goodreads is what makes it the true reader’s home—here you can find readers of similar styles and choose to friend them or follow their reviews. You can also find your favorite authors and follow their blogs, books, and reviews. This might be my favorite feature, as I love hearing what some of my favorite authors are reading and their thoughts on books I might have read as well. In addition, Goodreads hosts groups and forums so that you can share your love of books/authors/genres with other like-minded individuals. I haven’t taken full advantage of this feature, but for those more into the social media aspect, it’s a real boon.

While I am no longer writing the detailed reviews I used to, I’ve still made a habit to share some thoughts on my reading on Goodreads for anyone who might be interested. I don’t follow others’ reviews as much as I’d like to, instead keeping tabs on a few connections that have exhibited similar interests or solid, thoughtful reviews.

What about you—do you follow book reviews and share your reading on Goodreads, or do you use/reference an alternative website? If you do use Goodreads, what features do you use, and have you found it helpful in connecting with other readers and writers?

If you are on Goodreads, I’d love to be connected. You can find me here. And if you aren’t there yet…well, I guess we know what you’ll be signing up for momentarily…. 🙂

Happy reading, everyone!

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Juliet Dark’s THE DEMON LOVER

Oh my goodness, am I excited to tell you about this book!

For years I’ve loved Carol Goodman‘s work. You’ll even find her book, The Lake of Dead Languages, listed as one of my favorites on my Links page. Ms. Goodman’s stories usually fall into the genre of contemporary/mainstream literature, and her style is quite gothic and eloquent. So, suffice it to say I was delighted to discover she’d made a crossover, writing a gothic paranormal romance under the pseudonym of Juliet Dark.

And what a read it was! Goodman/Dark’s prose is enchanting, and her imagery is mind-boggling and rich. Every time I read her work, I find passages to read over and over for their lush beauty.

The same held true in The Demon Lover, in which a college professor with a background in the supernatural—vampires, fairies, incubi, and the like—found her way to an unusual college in the remote town of Fairwick, New York. Callie McFay has spent her life sharing her knowledge of supernatural creatures in literature, and something about the town draws her in. She is also captivated by an old Victorian home in the area, but soon finds there is something more to her love of the house than she realized. Callie has a demon lover, a man made of shadow who comes to her in her dreams and sucks her life breath in exchange for the love they share, and while she realizes the danger of their affair, she must find a way to separate her heart.

What I found delightful about this book—besides breathtaking love scenes and settings filled with beautiful detail—was the collection of other mythical creatures Callie finds in Fairwick. Callie learns a lot about herself as well as her supernatural studies through these people, and the relationships between the characters are natural and well-portrayed. In truth, when I finished the book and realized it was the start of a series, I decided I might very well have found my next Sookie Stackhouse collection. The difference between Charlaine Harris and Juliet Dark, however, is tremendous. Callie’s tale sits closer to the dark, gothic world of Thornfield Hall in Brontë’s Jane Eyre (another favorite!) than that of Sookie’s Louisiana world, and her story is far more serious.

I loved this book. Loved, loved, loved it. I am a slow reader, but I found myself reading it everywhere—on the cardio machines at the gym, at stoplights, standing in lines, and for an hour or two every night—because the world Goodman/Dark creates is so detailed. She is an author able to make characters out of setting, breathing life into things as simple as snow, wind, and plant life, and thus it is no wonder I found myself as seduced by the shadowed incubus as poor Callie.

I highly recommend this one, folks. For now, I’m off to pre-order the second book.

Happy reading! 🙂


The Readathon

This morning I woke up, rolled out of bed, and finally realized I’m on summer vacation.

Really—it can take that long. And I will probably have this realization every week when I remember I don’t really have to set my alarm clock (which I’ll still do, because I can’t stand wasting the whole day). Fortunately, I’ve done a pretty good job of “chilling out” as I threatened to do in my last post.

To start, I locked myself in my house to do nothing but read for three days! Okay, I did take some breaks—I did the housework, I went to the gym everyday (and worked it so hard I’m still having trouble walking), I ran a couple errands (and by ran, I mean hobbled from my car into each destination because my legs are so sore), I planned with my collaborating teacher about next year, and I also went to a few appointments—but otherwise, I did a darn good job of reading, reading, and more reading. I don’t think I’ve done that much straight reading since my teen years, and I have to tell you, it felt fantastic!

Only eight of twelve…but you’ll want to read them all!

I started by finishing Charlaine Harris’Deadlocked. It’s the twelfth book of the Sookie Stackhouse/Southern Vampire series, the very series on which HBO loosely based their True Blood series (I stress loosely). The books are a real treat, and though I can tell, and understand, that Ms. Harris is winding down the series, I still find the characters and their adventures incredibly entertaining. Sookie is a telepathic waitress in the small Louisiana town of Bon Temps. With the frustrating ability to read everybody’s mind, she is thrilled to discover she can’t read the minds of vampires—so naturally, she takes up with one. From there she takes up with a whole slew of vampires…and eventually, a whole collection of interesting beings. Also important to note is that vampires are now mainstreamed into society, thanks to the creation of a synthetic called “True Blood” that keeps them from having to feed off humans (except for fun).

Hilarious? It is. The joy of Harris’s series is that she manages to intertwine all sorts of fantastical creatures in a modern setting, mixing race (humans versus supernaturals), southern town culture, love, government (vampire politics), and the dealings of an average southern girl as she handles some not-so-average events. The series is fun, genuine, and clever, and I have delighted in the whole thing. I will admit I had trouble really getting into it until the second book, but since then I’ve been hooked. I also watch the show, but only because I love a good train wreck, and this show is by all means a train wreck that jumped off the book storyline halfway through season one (Why? Why?!). View at your own risk, and know the books are about a hundred times better…eh, the Math teacher in me needs to revise. Make that a million.

After my delightful adventure in Sookieville, I decided to tackle some of the blog posts I’d missed. I’m still catching up, but it was refreshing to have a bounty of posts waiting for me in my inbox from my favorite bloggers. Some of them were funny, some thoughtful, others clever or artistic—at some point in the future, I will showcase all my favorite blogs here. I really love the people whose writing I’m reading, both because they’re amazing and because most of them are some truly fascinating people with the best hearts in the world.

Next up: half of the final reflections I asked my Precalculus students to write at the end of the year (still going through those, too!). This assignment is one I started a couple years ago, and it is the very one that made me want to teach English. The papers are honest, thoughtful, and interesting, and I get a kick out of reading my students’ page-long descriptions of what they learned/hated/mastered, and how they grew (or didn’t grow) as students. In the math classroom, we don’t often get to see this reflective side—and so I suppose now you can see why I figured out English was the way to go. 🙂

Finally, I opted to tackle one of the books from my reading list to prepare for teaching English in the fall. Ellen Foster, by Kaye Gibbons, is one that some close colleagues weren’t sure about because they hadn’t yet had the opportunity to read it. I am so glad I picked it up! Brave, warm, and heart wrenching, the tale is written in Ellen’s 9- to 11-year-old narration as she leads you through her troubled life. The story bounces a bit between her present life and her old life, carrying through the death of her mother, her abusive father, her discovery of a “new mama,” and all the experiences in between. The book also covers issues of race, the culture of the South, and of course, domestic violence. Ellen is definitely an endearing character, and I can’t wait to explore the book more (and again, and again…) in the fall with my students. It’s a fast read, so I encourage you to check it out.

What’s next? I intend to spend a good chunk of tomorrow editing my book, but naturally I’ll need to pick another book to read. My to-read stack is a bit out of control, and I haven’t decided on fantasy or literary just yet…

Only time will tell. If, that is, my muscles will let me get out of this chair.

Ow, ow, ow…

🙂


On Christopher Pike, Young Adult Thriller Extraordinaire

Last week, I noticed a large book on my best friend’s coffee table: Remember Me, the trilogy. Despite the fact that she’d bought it several weeks earlier with me at her side, I still squealed when I saw it, quickly scooping it up and clutching it tenderly to my chest. “Oh…” I sighed. “Have I told you how much this book means to me? I love Christopher Pike.” She’d already heard this story at least three times, but since her mother was in town and sitting next to me on the couch, I continued gushing for five straight minutes about an author who happens to be my ultimate hero.

You see, long ago, I was a little girl with a taste for books that exceeded my love of ice cream (and that’s saying a lot). All I did was read, read, read, and in doing so, I rapidly outgrew the books in my age range. My friend Carrie had a similar problem, and one afternoon when we were ten, while my mom sang along to the car stereo and we talked quietly in the back seat, Carrie handed me a brand new paperback and leaned close to my ear.

The cover that caught my eye—and started a long-running reading obsession.

“You can’t tell your mom,” she said. I grabbed the book, a brightly colored paperback with a dead girl on the cover and the most interesting, violent-looking font screaming the title and the author’s name across the cover.

Christopher Pike. Remember Me.

“I like his name. What’s it about?” I flipped the book over, scanning the blurb on the back before I gasped aloud. “Oh wow! This looks so neat!”

“He’s great,” Carrie said. “But I think it’s supposed to be for older kids. My mom didn’t want me to read it, so I bought it. I have more, too.”

I smiled, sticking the book in my bag so that I could start reading it as soon as I got home. Carrie had already introduced me to V.C. Andrews—an author whose work was most definitely NOT for kids—so I kept this little secret between us.

That is, until I decided Christopher Pike was the most genius writer I’d ever come across, and then I just had to tell my parents about the amazing plots he created. Thankfully, they knew I had a good sense of right, wrong, and reality, and since my mother had a love of scary movies, it all worked out pretty well. (I still kept the V.C. Andrews to myself.)

Within about six weeks, I’d read all six of Pike’s previously published books. I carried them with me everywhere, terrified by the thrill-ride on every page and yet delighted with the themes written upon them. Here was an author who wrote about teens in a mature, honest manner, but in an unusually addictive way. He never dumbed down the content; instead he let all his characters run wild in completely shocking plots. They lived on the edge—they drank, they smoked, they had sex (or they knew about other teens having sex, because their virginal naivety actually managed to be their fatal flaw). I rooted for every character, even the seriously bad ones: there were teens torturing their loved ones, teens who found monsters while drinking in the woods, teens who somehow found a mental link to ancient goddesses, teens who happened to be ancient creatures, and teens who had mythical origins and thus transformed into clawed predatory beasts! And of course, there were some plain old classically terrifying teens who just killed their classmates.

It really didn’t matter what they were doing—Pike wrote his teens from an adult point of view and let them do bad stuff, while still crafting a compelling and well-written story.

I was so enthralled with his concepts I kept right on reading, eagerly awaiting every next book’s release date. Some of them were so good, I read them twice in a row. Chain Letter (1986), Spellbound (1988), Scavenger Hunt (1989), Witch (1990), and my absolute favorite, Whisper of Death (1991) were some of the titles I wouldn’t stop talking about. Somehow, the man wrote three or four books a year (!), and I collected them like candy, enjoying the long row of paperbacks across my bookshelf; each of them had the same neon-colored binding and scratch-style font that had captured my heart, and I treasured my collection all through middle school and into the start of high school. I even wrote fan mail, telling Mr. Pike how superb I thought he was, and that I loved him. I might even have offered to marry him.

Whatever I said in those letters, I do remember what he made me feel: an excitement for reading, an unparalleled transfixion to every work, and most importantly, a passion for the art of writing and an inspiration to start writing on my own. Christopher Pike is, after all, the very reason I have a young adult horror manuscript tucked safely away in my fire safe box, awaiting the day I might decide to continue working on it.

In the 90s, Pike released some adult stories that I also read—Sati and Season of Passage, to name a couple—but his true voice really echoed with teenagers. He wrote a collection called Spooksville for a younger audience that I never read, but not surprisingly, the books in it were also a big hit. At some point I learned a little more about Mr. Pike, which is actually not that much: his real name is Kevin Christopher McFadden, and he is incredibly elusive and private about his life. Even while researching for this post, I didn’t find much else on him except for a plethora of fan bloggers—and there are tons of us, all inspired by a vast collection of incredible books we read in our impressionable youth.

As an adult, I get tingles whenever I pass the work of Christopher Pike at the bookstore. I run my fingers over the spines, hoping that today’s readers are enjoying them at least half as much as I did. No matter what your age, if you’ve never read a Christopher Pike book, I highly encourage you to do so. You can find a complete listing of his works here: Works by the Amazing Christopher Pike

I’ve reread a few pieces over the years, and have also kept up on the occasional adult novel he’s released—but now that my friend has Remember Me, I’m tempted to move my entire to-read stack aside and instead reread every book by the man who inspired me with his phenomenal thriller work.

That said, I think I’m going to pick up an old classic from Barnes and Noble this weekend. 🙂

Happy reading, everyone!


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