Category Archives: reading

Feasting on Books

I joined the Mystery & Suspense Reading Challenge (hosted by Book Chick City) this year, and while I began with good intentions, things slowly unraveled as I had to focus on other projects. I don’t get to read quite as much as I would like, but it’s also my M.O. to read in spurts. I’m a feast or famine reader.

Right now, I’m in Feast Reading mode. So who knows? I may make the 12 mark for the reading challenge after all. Earlier this year, I read Georgette Heyer’s The Unfinished Clue, Ian Rankin’s Doors Open, Y.S. Lee’s The Agency, and Maureen Ash’s The Alehouse Murders. All of four books. Wow.

But I’m working on it. I finally read The Body in the Tower, the second Agency book by Y.S. Lee, and I’m eager to read the third book next year. (I heart James.) If you like mysteries, the Victorian era, and romance, I highly recommend these novels.

That book started the reading frenzy so I immediately skated into Loose Screw (A Dusty Deals Mystery) by Rae Davies. I’d had my eye on this cozy mystery for a while and it was worth putting at the top of my list. It’s a lighthearted story with a lot of humor and quirky characters – and, of course, a dash of romance.

Then I read Absolute Liability (A Southern Fraud Thriller) by J.W. Becton. I’d describe it as a cozy thriller, if such a category exists. It’s gripping but not too dark or scary. I love the unique angle – Julia Jackson is an insurance fraud investigator for the state. I was in all the way from the first sentence, and I’m anticipating the second book in the series!

So that brings us to my current read: Ms. America and the Offing On Oahu (Ms. America Mysteries, No. 1) by Diana Dempsey, which I’m also loving. If you read ebooks, the last three novels I mentioned are only $.99 from Amazon and Barnes & Noble. They’re perfect steals!

I’ve still got a month before the challenge is over so we will see if I make it!

The Changing Face of Bookselling, or R.I.P. Borders

The news that Borders is officially shutting all its doors, and then reading this post on the MaggieCakes blog about the demise of bookshops inspired me to pen this post (figuratively speaking of course). And isn’t it true that expressions like ‘pen this or that’ are becoming more figurative than actual? Many authors start and finish their books and stories and poems today on a computer. And now that is passing over to how readers acquire and often read those books and stories and poems. But let’s go back for a minute to the Borders closing issue.

Is it the end of the world? Well, no. But when I learned that they had officially declared bankruptcy, which I knew was coming anyway, my heart still sunk a little. Even though it was never as convenient for me to go there, I’ve always fancied Borders. They carried a different selection of writing books and I did discover some gems there. But, alas, I don’t always have a lot of money and price often wins over preference and I end up buying my books from Barnes & Noble – or more commonly Amazon.

The problem with Borders closing its doors is that it’s the first step towards a chain reaction of other bookshops closing their physical doors. We’ve already seen this happen with video rental. It took a while but eventually Netflix and redbox forced stores like Hollywood Video and Blockbuster to say goodbye (the very last video rental store just closed in my area this winter). I’m not so sad about that development, but the point is things do change and establishments that put other establishments out of business (the local video rental store and book store for instance) are themselves facing extinction. Maybe it’s actually more fitting than we realize.

Is change always bad? No. Will print materials vanish entirely? Well, I can’t see the future so who knows. I do think the way we buy print books will be increasingly remote, which does make me sad because I love browsing. For me, it’s about lazily scanning the shelves for something that pops out and waves wildly, saying, “I’m here! Read me!” It’s a little more difficult to browse beyond the bestseller shelf online (another physical expression gone figurative). But who knows what will spring up because of these changes in how we buy.

So while I’m still more of print book reader and love physical bookshops, I’m hardly opposed to buying online or books going digital. I’m excited at what ebooks make possible for both readers and writers and what may come as the technology improves (I’m rooting for more interactive novels). After all, ebooks have made publishing my novels independently possible, and I know readers have given my books a shot in digital format when they may not have in print. What I wish is that physical bookstores and the online world could live in harmony. But we can’t have it all.

How do you feel about all of this? Do you prefer print books or ebooks? Buying in a store or online? What do you think the future holds for readers?

Photo by Tim Walker

How Writing Changed the Way I Read

Today’s post comes to us from one of my favorite people on Twitter, Jennie Ivins, better known as Autumn2May. This is her perspective on how writing her own novel has altered her view of reading. Enjoy!

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Reading and writing have always gone hand in hand. One really can’t learn to write without knowing how to read. So then knowing how to write well must make reading easier, right? Well, sort of.

I started writing my book in October of last year. I had never written before and really didn’t know what to expect. After finishing my first rough draft, I discovered two things about writing. The first is that writing is just as addicting as reading and the second is that once you start writing as a serious pastime, reading is never the same again.

The whole time I was working on my first draft, I completely shunned all reading. I didn’t think I had the time and some part of me thought that if I started reading again, that my work would start sounding like whatever book I was reading. Luckily both of those things turned out to be false, but that’s another story. However, when I finally picked up a new book in January I was surprised by what I discovered. My perspective on the writing itself had changed dramatically!

Every once in a while I would notice a really good paragraph or phrasing and wonder if the author had a hard time writing it or if it was created in one of those moments where the words just flow out exactly the way you want them too. I also noticed the patterns of how the author wrote and words and phrases I could tell they used a lot. I had never noticed things like that before I started writing, and I think it made me appreciate the work itself more than I did before.

It was actually very similar to when I became a chef. I appreciated a well made meal more because I knew how easy it was to mess up and how hard it was to get it just right. I noticed each ingredient separately and noted how they mixed together to form the finished food rather than just focusing on the overall taste and whether I personally liked it or not. Reading after being a writer is very much the same. You appreciate the bits and pieces of the writing more even if the whole book isn’t really your cup of tea. It does however making reading pieces that aren’t written quite as well a bit harder. You tend to see the errors more and analyze what you might have done differently, even when you’re trying not to.

But there is also more of a sense of understanding for the author. Bad or good someone put their blood, sweat, and tears into the story and that deserves a certain amount of respect. It certainly gave me a lot more respect for anyone that can get a novel published. Putting your heart and soul into something then releasing it to be critiqued by the world is a scary proposition, whether you are a famous writer for the Big Six or just indie published your book yesterday.

Overall I think that being a writer has made me a more mature reader and given me a greater love and admiration for truly well written stories. And if you ever think you have a story in you, don’t be afraid to let it out. All stories deserve to be told.

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Jennie Ivins is a stay-at-home mom with three boys (one set of twins & one singleton) who for some reason likes living in Central New Jersey. She married a geek and enjoys watching other geeks discuss their geeky ways. In her pre-mom life, she worked as a chef’s apprentice and a retail store manager. She loves taking pictures and cooking, but her other loves include art, science, music, computers, history and anything else shiny that happens across her field of vision. She is currently writing her first series of fantasy books and enjoying it more than she thought humanly possible. However, she has found writing about herself in the third person to be a rather odd thing to have to do. If you’d like to say hi, you can usually find her on Twitter or as Autumn2May. 🙂

Photos by Matt Jiggins & Glory Foods

What Makes a Book Worth Rereading?

I’m not much for rereading novels. Generally speaking, once I’ve read it, I’m done. Even if I loved the book and will sing its praises for years to come, I will probably never pick it up again. This contrasts greatly with my sister who almost never reads new books but goes back and rereads her favorites. Me, I’m always looking ahead to the next one on my (very) long to-read list.

There are exceptions. Pride & Prejudice and Persuasion are two books I’ve read at least parts of more times than I can count. But those two are old favorites. More recently, as in the last year, I read The Unfinished Clue by Georgette Heyer and spent a couple of weeks reading certain parts over and over again until the obsession finally waned. But I’m certain I’ll go back to it again when I have time. After I finish the second book in The Agency series by Y.S. Lee, I will definitely go back and reread the first one.

So what is it about these novels that brings me back? Simply put, character interaction. As much as I love mystery and action-adventure, the common denominator of all these novels is a couple I love to watch interact. I’m a girl and a sucker for a good romance. Notice I said good romance. Not just any will do. Good for me equals two multi-layered characters who have fabulous conversations that make me want to go back to the beginning and start all over again in case I missed a word. I want them to be a match intellectually, but different enough to start a fire.

So that’s what makes a novel worth a second (or third or fourth) read to me. How about you? What books have you read over and over and why?

Photo by Jo Naylor

What Are You Reading This Summer?

I don’t know what it is about summer, but it makes me want to read. Winter does not have that effect on me, which boggles my mind. But all I want to do in summer is get a few good books, plop down on a beach, and get to it. And I generally reach for the meatier books too; classics like The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe and The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins. Huge books that require more time and mental energy. This year I’m taking a different track. I’m reading the YA fantasy Gladius and the Bartlett Trial byJ.A. Paul right now. After that comes The Agency: The Body in the Tower by Y.S. Lee and Never Tell a Lie by Hallie Ephron. Beyond that, I’m not sure, but all this talk about ginormous classics makes me want to start on The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins.

So that’s enough about me. How about you? What books do you reach for in summer? What are you reading now and/or planning to read? And since I mentioned it, what is your favorite season for reading?

Photo by Eli Duke

>Reading to Recharge

>I don’t have as much time to read as I used to, but reading fiction really helps me to refresh and write my own work with more energy. When I go too long without reading, I feel empty – like I’m out of fuel. So while reading is an important tool to learn how to write well, it’s also an energy source.

So finding the time to read is really the trick. Once I started writing my book, all the spare time I used to read turned into my time to write. That’s not going to change any time soon so it’s time to find another way. I’m coming to a point where I need to read to keep sane. I haven’t figured out what to do at home, but I’m using my upcoming beach vacation to read the first book in the Gideon Trilogy. It’s taunting me from across the room as I write. Just a little bit longer, and it’s all mine!

As a writer, how important is reading to you? What do you like to read? How do you make time for it?

>Tension in Fiction


It seems odd that tension should be so important to good storytelling. One definition of tension is mental or emotional strain. Think of tense situations or relationships you’ve been involved in. How did they feel? Uncomfortable, awkward, even painful? In real life we avoid tense situations. So if tension is so heinous, why do we desire tension in novels, even if we don’t know it? Why do we put down books that don’t keep the tension going from scene to scene?

Simply put, tension in novels keeps us interested. When tension lags, desire to read on lags. When tension is high, you read faster, wanting to know what’s next. Readers live on that kind of mental stress. When I think of books that I read the fastest, it’s usually because tension was high on page one and didn’t let up. In fact, it often intensified.

I’d never analyzed this until recently, but I’m fascinated by how obnoxious tension is in real scenarios and yet how desirable in fiction. Thrillers, mysteries, romances, literary novels – all thrive on tension. Tension between characters, whether enemies or lovers, is the stuff of life in a novel.

What are your thoughts on tension in fiction? Why do you think it’s important to keeping momentum?

Photo by rick