The Books Read in 2012

I love reading.  This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who knows me or knows anyone who is a writer.

Back in January of 2012, I came up with the brilliant idea to record every book I read in the year.  I wanted to see how much I could devour.  At the start, I was on pretty good pace.  I had five books complete before the end of February.  It slowed down a bit as I finished up Genie Memories and moved onto another project.

Then came the Work Incident.  The one I’ve mentioned frequently.  The one that pretty much took it all out of me.  It’s hard to describe.  I can accept that I didn’t want to work on my own writing.  Being creative is hard work and the day job was draining everything I had out of me.  But the past five, six months have been so bad I haven’t even wanted to indulge in someone else’s world.  Reading became a chore.  That’s downright frightening if you ask me.

Overall I finished with a mere 14 books.  I hope, very much hope, that 2013 will be different.  Nonetheless, I did enjoy every page, however few there might have been.

The Rook by Daniel O’Malley : Brilliant, fantastic world and an excellent thriller.

The Lies of Locke Lamore by Scott Lynch : Wonderful epic fantasy with a heist thrown in the middle.  Read this while we were down in Belize and it was almost enough to distract me from the beach.

The Way of Shadows by Brent Weeks : Excellent characters, dark and complex story. Unfortunately I’m not hooked enough right now to read the entire trilogy but I’ll probably read his other work.

500 Ways to Be A Better Writer by Chuck Wendig : Foul mouthed and brilliant as always.

Exogene by T.C. McCarthy: War is not a pleasant thing, especially when your whole purpose is to fight for two years and then die.

Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed: Fantastic debut novel and an excellent tale for those tired of the stereotypical fantasy.

City of the Lost by Stephen Blackmoore: A dark horror, pulp, urban fantasy novel.  I called this one ‘awesomtastic’.

 Caine’s Law by Matthew Woodring Stover: Quite possibly my favorite author, this one wraps up the Acts of Caine quintet.

Redshirts by John Scalzi: On the surface a parody of Star Trek (and all those other sci-fi shows) but practically every writer I know that’s read this has gone “God, why didn’t I think of that?”  Funny and serious all at once.

Tome of the Undergates by Sam Sykes: Fantasy novel in which the heroes are anything but and each one hates one another so much that they would have no problem if the others died.  Very cool and the ending left open a lot of questions.  I will definitely pick up the next in the series.

The Hollow City by Dan Wells: Paranormal horror/thriller.  The main character is a paranoid schizophrenic who comes to realize that some of the delusions he sees are real.  Wells is one of the best out there for getting into the head of characters.  Feel in love with his stories upon reading I Am Not A Serial Killer about a young man who is afraid he’s going to become a serial killer.

The Hammer and the Blade by Paul S. Kemp: Straight up old fashioned fantasy.  I kind of needed this after a few rough weeks.

Blackbird by Chuck Wendig : A foul mouthed heroine with the ability to see how people are going to die just by touching them.  Very neat story about fate and what it takes to change it.

Partials by Dan Wells : Second book of the year by Wells and significantly different from his previous works.  Partials is a dystopian YA and I really enjoyed it.  And while I like Wells as an author, I am very much looking forward to the sequel (Fragments) because back in May, Wells did a Twitter contest and the end result is that my birth date will be mentioned somewhere in the novel.   So that’ll be fun.

The Chicon Haul

Go to a con, come back with books.  It was pretty inevitable.

The Dealer’s Room at Chicon was a pretty cool place.  Imagine this – an enormous room full of books, media, artwork, and clothing galore.  In the attached room of equal size was an area filled with classic arcade games and full-sized Battletech pods.  I found myself wandering down there to unwind just about every day.

Angry Robot was the recipient of most of my money. Mostly because they had a good deal and also because I’m really liking what they are putting out.  And no, it has nothing to do with my manuscript being there.  Honest.  Serious. Unless it helps then ‘full steam ahead!’

Fortunately, I was able to get everything into my suitcase without having to toss anything.

The Chicon Haul

The Hammer and the Blade by Paul Kemp 

Kill the demon. Steal the treasure. Retire to a life of luxury.

Sounds easy when you put it like that.  Unfortunately for Egil and Nix, when the demon they kill has friends in high places, retirement is not an option.

Between waiting at the airport, killing time at the con, and just lounging at home, I finished this one today.  Loved every page.  I think it’s because it’s a throwback to the books I enjoyed as a kid when I was first getting into fantasy.  Sure, there’s not a ton of dramatic characterization or expansive worlds to explore, but there’s enough hints and stuff that it kept me moving.

The Corpse Rat King by Lee Battersby

Marius don Hellespont and his apprentice, Gerd, are professional looters of battlefields. When they stumble upon the corpse of the King of Scorby and Gerd is killed, Marius is mistaken for the monarch by one of the dead soldiers and is transported down to the Kingdom of the Dead.

Just like the living citizens, the dead need a King — after all, the King is God’s representative, and someone needs to remind God where they are.  And so it comes to pass that Marius is banished to the surface with one message: if he wants to recover his life he must find the dead a King. Which he fully intends to do.

Just as soon as he stops running away.

Premise sounded interesting and I liked the cover.  I’d heard some good things about it from others and when I was talking to the guy at the Angry Robot booth, we got on the subject of the Open Call and my own submission.  He mentioned that CRK was selected from their first Open Call and that kind of sealed it.  As an aside, I didn’t even realize at the time I was picking it up on release day. Should have tried to find the author at Chicon and gotten an autograph.

The Damned Busters by Matthew Hughes

After accidentally summoning a demon while playing poker, the normally mild-mannered Chesney Anstruther refuses to sell his soul… which leads through various confusions to, well, Hell going on strike. Which means that nothing bad ever happens in the world – and that actually turns out to be a really bad thing.

There’s only one thing for it. Satan offers Chesney the ultimate deal – sign the damned contract, and he can have his heart’s desire. And thus the strangest superhero duo ever seen – in Hell or on Earth – is born!

Name aside, I like Hughes’ writing.  He’s clever, witty, and entertaining.  The premise of this one sounded pretty cool so it was a no-brainier.  Plus it looks good on the shelf.  Seriously though – when I approach the AR booth, the guy manning it pointed at my name badge, then this book, and said “Your not the Matt Hughes, are you?”  Laughed, said no, then let him know that I had a full submission in with them.  That got us on a short conversation about pen names and the like.  Hopefully I didn’t embarrass myself too much.

Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig

Miriam Black knows when you will die. She’s foreseen hundreds of car crashes, heart attacks, strokes, and suicides.

But when Miriam hitches a ride with Louis Darling and shakes his hand, she sees that in thirty days Louis will be murdered while he calls her name. Louis will die because he met her, and she will be the next victim.

No matter what she does she can’t save Louis. But if she wants to stay alive, she’ll have to try.

Chuck Wendig is a hell of a story teller.  Beyond that, he’s a strong advocate for sharing knowledge with other writers.  I follow his blog and have a couple of his non-fiction books on writing.  All solid advice.  I read the first five chapters of Blackbirds in e-book format but really wanted a paperback copy.  As a bonus, I got a signed copy.  I would have gone for a signing myself but I’m very scared of Wendig’s beard.  Dude, it’s scary.

There were also author signings and I got books signed by Jim C. Hines, Patrick Rothfuss, and Robert J. Sawyer.  I also picked up a gift for my brother and got him an signed drawing from one of his favorite artists.  I’m sure I’ll send it to him at some point but I’d like to see how long I can drag the torture out.

Shlock Mercenary

My First eBook

This past week marked my first ever Cover-to-Cover reading of an eBook.  Initial impressions are about as I expected plus one major thing that I didn’t really count on.

First off, the book I read – The Black God’s War by Moses Siregar – was a good book.  I enjoyed it so none of what follows should be considered a critique on the novel or the author.  They did their job.  This is about other things entirely.

Now onto the critique – I did my reading on my iPad2.  This worked out well enough.  Clear and crisp.  The problem was that it was yet another computer screen and after a full day of staring at monitors for the day job, the absolute last thing I wanted to do was pick up another screen for liesure reading.  More often than not, I found myself putting off reading because I didn’t want to go through that.

The Black God’s War was a fantasy book and like many in the genre, there is a map available at the front to help get your bearings.  In a digital format, there is no ‘front’ of the book.  I had to remember what page I was on, skim the pages back, look at the map, then go back to my previous spot.  Sure, I could have setup a book mark but why?  With a paperback, I could just stick my finger in place and I’d be done with it.

Along those lines, the ability of eReaders to quickly skim back and forth reduces the chance of stumbling across favorite scenes once more.  Think about it – when you had to go look at a the map or maybe remind yourself something that happened earlier, how often have you come across a favorite scene and re-read it again?  You get to relive all those emotions once again.  Now, the pages just go by.  Unseen and unread.  Quick skim seems to rob the reader of that pleasure.

Of all the differences between eReader and Physical Book, the one that I did not  expect was just how important the physical nature of the book was to the story.

When reading on the iPad, there’s a running page count along the bottom.  I can tell if I’m at page 301 out of 423 or 172 out of 300.  If I rotate the screen from portrait to landscape, those numbers change.  So there’s no realness to what they mean.  They are just numbers.

However when I’m reading a physical copy, I know that I’m halfway through or three quarters of the way or whatever.  Now, all of a sudden, that setback the protagonist just encountered?  That means something.  The end is rapidly approaching, how is he going to get out of it?  The tension builds.  Gotta keep turning those pages.  I never once, not even in the most climatic of scenes, got that feeling on the eReader.

Your mileage may vary but I suspect it will be a while before I pick up another eBook.

The Book Stack

So how’s things?

Over here, busy is the word.  The school year just ended and there’s only four weeks of training before Grandmas Marathon.  What little writing I’ve done has been world building for the next novel and fine tuning a query letter.

So, lacking any actual content, here’s the stack of books waiting for me:

The Stepsister Scheme by Jim C. Hines

Cinderella, Snow White, and Sleeping Beauty as Charlie’s Angels.  I picked this up a few weeks ago because I’ve read Hines before and I know he’s a good author.  This book hasn’t disappointed me yet.  It’s fun, charming, and turns some of the old fairy tales on end.  Even Steph, who is a very picky reader when it comes to fantasy, loved it.

The Unincorporated Man by Dani Kollin & Eytan Kollin

I saw this one in the store sometime back but didn’t have the money to pick it up.  After reading the recent Locus interview (PDF) with the authors, I had our local bookstore order it for me.  This will probably be the next one after the Stepsister Scheme.

WWW: Watch by Robert J. Sawyer

The first book, WWW: Wake was fantastic.  A blind girl is given an implant to allow her to see and while it works, it also lets her see the World Wide Web.  And there’s something growing out there.  Reading Wake just sent my brain into a fantastic fit.  I’m hoping that Wake will do the same.

Germline by T.C. McCarthy

McCarthy’s debut novel.  I received an ARC of this and hope to write a review for Adventures in Sci Fi Publishing.  The book itself doesn’t hit shelves until late July.  Kind of fun having a copy in my hands ahead of time.  This will probably come after the Unincorporated Man.

Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson

Sanderson is one of the big stars in the fantasy world right now.  He’s the guy who was chosen to finish Robert Jordan’s epic Wheel of Time series and he’s one of the voices behind Writing Excuses, probably my favorite writing related podcast.  I’ll give this one a shot sometime this summer.