This Week’s Book Recommendations

While considering how to relate my thoughts on Patricia McKillip, one of my favorite authors this week, I thought I might relate to music. With stories you can have a simple plot line believable characters and decent writing. Or, you can have writing that is pure artistry. Similarly, in music you can have layers of tone and vocals that reverberate through your soul, or you can have a simple melody with lyrics that so many identify with, will want to be identified with, as to make it a bestseller. McKillip’s writing is that style of tone upon tone that speaks to your soul. Most suggest you start her readings with Riddle-Master
(which I did Love). It’s a World Fantasy Award winning piece and, as she and another few writers I enjoy have won World Fantasy Awards, I’ll often go to their website first if I’m looking for a new read. My recommendation is to start with Song for the Basilisk. Her approach to the opening in this book is pure genius. Don’t expect ‘sword and horses’ male style action adventure fantasy writing or the romance that’s overtaken the majority of urban fantasy. McKillip’s magical lyrical writings are simply original and often compared to Tolkien (for originality, she’s not a copycat Tolkien). People who write blogs write. For that reason alone, I think most of us should branch out and read the work of artists every now and again. I’ve seen others say they have writers block. My first response is always ‘sit down with a good book’. I’m always eager to get to the keyboard once I put one down. There is not one of McKillip’s writings that I could not wholeheartedly recommend. It’s only a matter of where you start. That said, if you need constant fast moving action, these books may not be for you.

  The other book I’ll recommend this week is Dean Koontz The Taking. Koontz is a master of suspense and mystery. He also ventures into horror. I pretty much wholeheartedly avoid horror. However, I have no problems tackling books where the gruesomeness is not closely related to reality. The Taking would probably be classified as horror suspense. I’m recommending this as his use of language and imagery is superb. I suppose the horror didn’t really get to me because part of my brain was watching his phrasing and admiring how he put words together to paint a picture in my mind. For those of you who enjoy noticing the turn of a phrase, this is the book for you. One reviewer was not enamored of the phrasing, preferring their action suspense to have fewer descriptors. It’s something I enjoy. My favorite Koontz books are his Odd Thomas series, but I’ll write about those another time.

I started with Goodreads.com last week. Entered my book list, subscribed to a few groups and am trying it out. It’s too early to tell if this is something I’ll stick with. The jury’s still out. There are things I like and things I hate about this site. I found some interesting groups but I don’t think I’ve yet found the optimum groups for me. When you browse science fiction/fantasy groups you’ll find there are 776 groups. Try to narrow found to urban fantasy and you’ll find a significant number are school age (“my school doesn’t let us log into Twitter..”) and completely enamored of the most highly sexed of the urban fantasies out there. Can’t say I want the recommendations from that group. But, I haven’t made a dent in the group list or completely given it a chance yet. Still browsing to see if there are few that will match my interests. For now, I’m more comfortable searching the fantasy and science fiction awards sites looking to add books to my ‘to read ‘pile. In addition to browsing the World Fantasy Award site that I’m most fond of, you can also find respectable recommendations by going to the British Fantasy Award site, Hugo Awards, or the Locus Awards (that are reader nominated) and Nebulas.  In truth, I haven’t explored the Locus or Nebulas all that much yet. I often scan previous year’s winners, grab a few names and look them up on Amazon. If I like an author, I then continue to read all they have published – so it’s a slow process. Yet, surprisingly, I often find myself without any books on my pile that I’m dying to read. I do wander through a bunch that I call as entertaining as sitcoms. It was recommended, you bought it, it was enjoyable enough, you read it.  So many seem to be stuck reading (and recommending)what’s only come out recently. Yet, because of the success of the movie, some run to Tolkien without also realizing that other fantastic and engrossing books have been written in years past (and I love Tolkien). Have mentioned in my previous post on books, that I’m also a fan of really good mystery. Happy to hear your recommendations. On the blog I’ll write about only books I’m recommending. I’ve been more pointed in some of my reviews at Goodreads.com. If there’s nothing truly excited to see on TV, why not turn it off and grab a good book?

My Drug of Choice – Books

Books are my drug. Some become addicted to Valium or alcohol in order to relax and unwind; my drug of choice is embroiling myself in a captivating story to the exclusion of everything else. Unlike television where your mind can easily wander, the process of reading demands enough attention that all those concerns rattling about your brain are effectively quieted.  Imagination is duly engaged as you fill in images and details of characters and places the author paints for you.

From the moment I decided to blog, I knew I would write about books.  There’s been this neglected category sitting off in the right column for books and writing from the very first day my blog was published. It’s time to put something there. While looking for new things to read, I found Charlaine Harris’s website and thoroughly enjoyed her approach to reviewing books. She is committed to no negative reviews, simply covering the books she enjoys and not mentioning others. Every few weeks, she gives you only a few sentences regarding each book she’s read that she recommends.

 Before you decide whether you’d like to follow what I may babble about books, let me share a few things. One, I am the kind of person that if while waiting in line for a movie some cretinous fool exits and loudly gives away the ending – well, I’d duly love to angrily pummel said fool into unconsciousness. Don’t like spoilers. Preference is to let the author unfold the story line at their own pace. For this reason I rarely read book reviews. Too many have adopted a style that closely follows their grade school requirement for a book review detailing the story to prove to a teacher they’ve read it. I won’t even read the book jacket synopsis – they often share what you wouldn’t find out from the story until the 4th or 5th chapter. If I like something, I simply tackle everything else that author has ever written, usually in seriatim order.

My current approach to books is 100% enjoyment. Having an English lit degree, I’ve spent more than the requisite time engulfed in the writings of famous depressed and suicidal authors. Although I don’t disparage anyone from reading these classics now, I’ve no desire to read books to trigger empathetic emotions regarding life’s hardships and inequities. Real horror gives me nightmares.  What I voraciously revel in is fiction, specifically urban fantasy, fantasy and mystery. My complete addiction is to books that present the world as a place of magical possibilities, although you’ll see some books seep in that are strictly mystery. You may wonder that I’m not compelled to continuously improve myself through my reading selections. Working in a business environment, constant learning is a given. Besides, my reading is replacing the mind numbing dribble that occupies most of network TV.  Given that, I find my choices a huge improvement. If well-stocked with a pile of books or files on my Kindle, I’ll read a book a night rather than watching TV to unwind.

 

Pet peeves include reviewers that appear to set out to prove themselves more intelligent than the next person through their negativity or those who demand the story itself be different than the author chose. I have as many opinions as the next person (if not more). Might occasionally let myself point out certain devices I attribute to a publisher more than an author in hopes that authors can take this information to their publishers to facilitate change. Two devices I detest are the 1. The cliffhanger “tune in next week…” and 2. diluting the intensity of a story with constant repetition of previous developments. The cliffhanger annoys me as many feel forced and if I like an author I will buy the next book in the series. I don’t need them to shoot someone in the heart on the last page to compel me to return and see what happens. With repetition within a book or from previous books, it can become insulting; I wonder if some believe their readers are complete morons who have to be told points over and over.

Favorite authors include Janet Evanovich, Patricia McKillip, C.E. Murphy, Kelley Armstrong, Kim Harrison, Deborah Harkness, Charles de Lint, Charlaine Harris, Sue Grafton and Dan Brown. There are many others I’ll cover when I mention their books. If you have some that fit with the above, please share in comments. I’m constantly searching for new authors to add to my reading pile. I avoid realistically gruesome and books that put more weight on detailing sexual encounters than plot. I’m not addicted to vampires – guessing that it’s publishers denoting them popular and pushing them as the fantasy character of choice. That’s what’s out in fantasy, so that’s what I’ve been reading (and enjoying).

There’s so much more I could say about books and reading. To prevent this post from becoming a painful and tedious dissertation, I’ll stop here and add a bit with each post of book recommendations. However, sharing this as you may find my approach to book reviews unorthodox.

What’s Worth Reading:

Deborah Harkness debut into the world of fiction and grown up fantasy, A Discovery of Witches, is a truly enchanting read. There’s good reason that it’s currently number two on the New York Times Hardcover bestsellers list. Genuine, fully developed characters pursue the threads of this well written and inventive mystery. My only complaint is that I must wait for the remainder of her trilogy to be published.

C.E. Murphy is one of my all time favorite authors. Urban Shaman is first in her witty world of fantastical creatures, The Walker Papers Series. You might call Joanna a reluctant shaman, but regardless of what you call her you’ll love this character. Each book in the series is so arresting that I only pick them up when I can read them cover to cover without interruption.

As a push to get myself writing a bit more about books, I’m resurrecting this for the Gallery Of Favorites with Alea at Premeditated Leftovers.