December 31, 2013

What I read in 2013

2013 was a record year for me in terms of number of books read. I wound up reading 102 books since January 1st! I'm sure that this is the first time in my life that I've read over 100 books in a year.

The ratings for the books I read broke down as follows:
  • 5 stars - 26 books
  • 4 stars - 44 books
  • 3 stars - 30 books
  • 2 stars - 2 books
This comes out to an average rating of 3.92 stars per book read in 2013.

When I counted the number of indie books I read this year, I was astounded to find that HALF of the 102 books were indie published! I didn't set out to read so many indie books. Some of them were books written by other indie authors I got to know, and some I picked up not knowing they were indie. It just shows how far the indie publishing business has progressed in the last couple of years.

In case you're interested, the ratings for the indie books were:
  • 5 stars - 9 books
  • 4 stars - 24 books
  • 3 stars - 18 books
The average rating of 3.82 was slightly lower than the overall average, but there were definitely some great books among the indies that I read.

For the Authors A to Z challenge, the average score was an even lower 3.73, broken out as follows:
  • 5 stars - 5 books
  • 4 stars - 10 books
  • 3 stars - 10 books
  • 2 stars - 1 book

That shouldn't be a surprise since I read some books as part of the challenge that I normally wouldn't read.

In my next post, I'll list my top ten favorite books of 2013. Stay tuned!

December 27, 2013

Cover reveal - Keep Your Enemies Close

I'm putting the finishing touches on my latest novel, titled Keep Your Enemies Close, and here's the  cover for the book! It will be released in early January 2014. Stay tuned!

First, the probes arrived. Then the mother ship landed. Then Lia’s world changed forever.

With the alien invaders’ arrival, Lia and her best friend, Bryn, sign up for military duty to protect their town. When the aliens attack, however, Lia and her comrades are helpless to stop them. Worse, after the attack, she discovers that several of the townspeople, including her family, were abducted. Despite Lia’s pleading, no one wants to save those taken by the aliens.

Desperate to rescue her parents and her little sister, Lia turns to the only source of help she can find… a captured alien invader. 

December 21, 2013

100 books in 2013

It's hard for me to believe, but I finished reading my 100th book of 2013! I don't think I've ever read that many books in one year, even when I was in school and had required reading assignments. At the beginning of the year, I didn't have a goal to read 100 books, and things started off slowly. I averaged six or seven books a month for the first four months. Then summer hit and I started reading at least ten books a month through most of the summer and fall. Things have tapered off again since then, but not before I managed to reach the 100-book milestone before the end of the year.

Will I now set a goal to try to exceed my 2013 reading total in 2014? No way, are you crazy! :-) I'm sure I'll still keep reading at a good clip next year, but I have a feeling that 2013 was the exception, not the new rule.

December 14, 2013

Announcing Through a Tangled Wood

I'm happy to announce the release of Through a Tangled Wood, a collection of fairy tale re-tellings written by a group of great indie authors... oh, and me. As if that wasn't enticing enough, the anthology is FREE! So get your copy now before they run out. OK, they won't run out, but why wait?

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A variety of writers come together to twist traditional fairy tales into unusual and mysterious stories. From Beauty and the Beast, to Hansel and Gretel, to the Ugly Duckling, these stories will be sure to pull you into a fantastical world of princes, romance, and maybe a little science fiction.

"Plan B" by Katie French. When Nolan is selected as one of the few candidates to work in the Breeders’ hospital, he thinks all his troubles are over. Now he can afford precious medicine to save his ailing father. He’s heard of the Breeders’ cruelty, of their inhuman experiments, but he’s sure they’re fabrications. Then he stumbles into the Plan B room and learns how truly awful the Breeders can be.

"Tailless" by Ariele Sieling. A retelling of the Ugly Duckling, set on a far away planet in an unknown galaxy. While fighting a war with her people's biggest enemy, young Bode struggles to understand why she feels out of place in her community, and why she, unlike her comrades, was born without a tail.

"I Am the Maid" by Sarah Dalton. A hostile zombie killing Maid Marian meets an ill-behaved ex-soldier Robin in this post-apocalyptic retelling of Robin Hood. When a young girl falls deathly sick, the two are forced to join forces in order to outwit the Sheriff, and the mysterious Guy Gisbon.

"Three Wishes" by Marijon Braden. When Aladdin rubbed the magic lamp, things went pretty well for him. But a few thousand years later, the world has changed and the genie is old, cranky, and doesn't play fair. Young Alison thinks she's found the answer to all her prayers, but instead finds that having wishes come true isn't all it's cracked up to be.

"Killing Snow White" by Jamie Campbell. A magical retelling of the story of Snow White, told entirely by the Evil Queen who supposedly tried to poison her. Think Snow White is innocent? Think again.

"A House in the Woods" by H.S. Stone. At the conclusion of a scavenger hunt for Old World artifacts, Hansel and Gretel find themselves lost on the outskirts of the city after dark. They stumble upon a house in the nearby woods, hoping that they will find help inside, but the house's inhabitant has other ideas.

“Flight” by Zoe Cannon. A retelling of Beauty and the Beast. Dragged to the palace at swordpoint, commanded to cure the cursed prince with a kiss, Lucia wants nothing more than to return to her solitary world of books and magical study. But she soon discovers that she and the prince share more in common than she could have imagined… and that the truth behind his curse could destroy—or save—them both.

December 7, 2013

Book review: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

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It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will become busier still.

Liesel Meminger is a foster girl living outside of Munich, who scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement. 

Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)

When I chose The Book Thief as the final book in the Authors A to Z reading challenge, I thought I'd be finishing the challenge on a high note, given the great reviews of the book I saw. However, a story of an adopted girl's life in World War II Germany is not normally the type that I can get into, and I feared I was going to be disappointed like I was with The Cave Man. In the end, the book was somewhere in between.

Let me get the negative comments out of the way first. The Book Thief was too long. There were parts of the story where I started to skim because I was getting bored. Given the genre, I expected that, but I did it less often than I thought I would.

I still gave the book 4 stars instead of a lower rating because of the wonderful writing. More than once, I re-read a passage because Markus Zuzak's use of words was remarkably poetic yet appropriate and I wanted to learn how he did it. I felt like an unworthy apprentice watching a master at work.

Having Death narrate the story was also a stroke of genius. Not only was it an original point of view, but it offered a perspective on death that both soothed the horrors in the book and at the same time heightened my emotional responses to them. If that seems contradictory, it's because it should be, but the author is so good he still pulls it off.

I understand why so many people raved about The Book Thief. If it fell into one of the genres that I'm a fan of, I would undoubtedly give it 5 stars. However, given that the subject matter would have put me to sleep in the hands of a lesser writer, I applaud Mr. Zuzak for his work.

I read this book as part of the Authors A to Z reading challenge. This marks the end of the challenge!