After I posted my 2019 Reading Year in Review, there were a couple of requests for me to give a ranking of the category romance novels I’d read according to their heat levels. For those who might be unfamiliar with that term, it essentially refers to the sensuality level or raciness of the story. While there are several different explanations for how to rate such things, Continue reading “2019 Romance Titles Ranked By Heat Level”
Would you like to know what I’ve been reading the last twelve months? I made a list.
As I have done for the past few years, in 2019 I kept a list of the books I read. Generally books I read only for fun and not for school, but sometimes they crossed over. I realized a while back I just wasn’t reading enough for pleasure, and that was making my life, well, much less pleasurable. Reading has always been a vigorous Continue reading “2019 Reading Year in Review”
This month is the book-iversary for Finis., and I haven’t had a lot of time to devote to it while I’ve been promoting The Sharp Edges of Water and starting the school year back up. But I have managed to get a few IG posts. I don’t know if they’re as visually dynamic as the one I made recently for SEW, but they do tell a little bit of a story in a series of three posts. My favorite part of all of this is that these posts contain new character cards for Elsa, Lois, and Gerard that were made by my daughter. Her interpretations of these characters go beyond what I visualized, and I really like them! I’ll let you head over to IG to read the accompanying text, but here are the visual details.
I am not a good photographer. I’m not even a mediocre photographer. I have trouble taking decent pictures of inanimate objects in natural light, let alone anything more complicated than that.
But I’m trying to make the effort over on Instagram to make worthwhile posts. Tonight I made a book post that I actually think might not be too bad. It took me a while. And since I don’t share nearly enough photos here on the blog, I’m sharing it with you here.
This Saturday at 3 p.m. you should drop by Blue Willow Bookshop if you’re in Houston, because we’re having a party there and then for The Sharp Edges of Water. Expect poetry and gifts and merriment. Expect Houston and Los Angeles. Expect mermaids. Bring your questions. It should be fun.
Today I have a few announcements: some upcoming readings and a sneak preview opportunity for you.
The most exciting news here is my upcoming event at one of Houston’s most beloved independent bookstores, Blue Willow Bookshop! If you’re going to be in town, definitely mark your calendars now for Saturday, August 17th, at 3:00, when I’ll be reading from and discussing The Sharp Edges of Water. This promises to be a fun event with an author Q&A––that’s right, bring your questions for me!––and door prizes and books galore! Even if you already have a copy of my book, come and pick one up as a gift for a friend or family member who likes to read or write. You can check out Blue Willow’s site here for more details. Their address is 14532 Memorial at Dairy Ashford 77079. I don’t mind telling you that the Blue Willow event is a Very Big Deal, and it would be really helpful to make a strong showing there, so please come out for it and pick up one (or more) of my books there!
I’ll also be reading with a few other Mutabilis Press poets at River Oaks Bookstore in Houston on Saturday, August 10th, at 4:00. We’ll celebrating the new anthology, The Enchantment of the Ordinary, and while I’ll be reading my poem from that book, I’ll also be sharing a more recent poem or two, including from the Moss Wood Writing Retreat I attended back in June. The bookstore address is 3270 Westheimer Rd. 77098.
Finally, would you like a sneak preview of my next book? I’m offering my readers the chance to get a free advance reading copy of either of my next two books––one fiction and one poetry, depending on your preference––before they’re published. You’ll even have the opportunity to give me beta-reader feedback on it if you’d like to! In order to take advantage of this offer, just post a review of The Sharp Edges of Water on Amazon. Now, if you follow the writing/publishing industry, you might have heard that Amazon has been taking down people’s reviews in an effort to remove illegitimate ones, though some genuine ones have been removed inadvertently in this process. I have not experienced this (knock on wood!) and also know that all my reviews are genuine and not planted (except for one baffling troll who posted a weird review of Finis. back in the day). Anyway, Amazon has changed the rules for how reviews get accepted. Fortunately, we know how to navigate their guidelines. You can watch a full explanation here, but I’ve summarized the basics for you:
- To contribute a review on Amazon, you have to have spent at least $50 there in the last year, not including promotional discounts.
- Amazon doesn’t allow reviews to be posted from people in the author’s household, or from more than one person connected to any same household or bank account or credit card.
- Amazon doesn’t allow paid reviews, so your review shouldn’t indicate that you’ve received compensation for it.
- Amazon deletes reviews that come in under two days after you’ve purchased a book from them because they assume you can’t possibly have read the book so quickly.
- Avoid sounding too chummy with the author in your review: in other words, please don’t ever refer to the author by their first name only, but by either both first and last name or just their last name or “the author”; also avoid sounding “unbiased” by not indicating in your review that you regularly see the author in person or are friends with them in real life.
Watch the video for a full explanation of how all these things––and others specific to authors and not readers––work, but these simple guidelines I’ve distilled for you will get you most of the way there. To find my book on Amazon, be sure to type in the title and my last name into the search bar. (And once I get 50 reviews, my book will actually get into their searches! So yes, reviews do matter, even if they aren’t 5-star reviews.)
Thank you again for all your love and support, and I hope to see you on August 17th at Blue Willow! Bring your friends. And if you take me up on the review/ARC opportunity, send me a screenshot of your review on Amazon, then tell me which book (fiction or poetry) you’d like to get a sneak preview of. Until then~
All the best.
Sometimes you read a book that defies some of the more basic “rules” of writing, or one that’s outside your usual category, but it works for you in so many ways that you can’t help but tell people about it. Naomi Novik’s Spinning Silver, which I just finished reading on vacation last week, embodies both of these for me.
This book follows Novik’s Uprooted in what I hope will become a series of standalone novels. Both these excellent stories take familiar western European fairy tales and then transform them into an uncanny valley version of themselves, blow them up and out into something so original that you might not recognize the source material in it. Whereas Uprooted played fast and loose with “Beauty and the Beast” in a medieval Slavic world with magic, Spinning Silver borrows key elements of “Rumpelstiltskin” and drops them in the middle of…Russia perhaps? At the time of horse-drawn wagons, the Jews as money-lenders in walled communities inside of walled towns, the tsar and the boyars.
And how does this story break conventional wisdom? It’s a multi-POV novel where all POVs are told from the first person, and new perspectives come into the story late in the novel. Yet all the voices are distinctive and clear, and they all enhance the story well. This is a novel where marriages are strategic and the three young women at the center of the story grow and think and create agency within the limits of their world and the situations, magical or mundane, they find themselves in.
Spinning Silver falls squarely in the YA category, which I often enjoy but which is not usually my very first choice. It doesn’t shy away from genuine violence now and then, but those scenes are vital and artfully crafted, and I could easily recommend this book to any sharp reader as young as late middle school. If I could find a way to weave it into the curriculum for one of my high school classes, I would. The writing is gorgeous, and the structure of the novel really lends itself to deconstructive analysis as a model for what works.
And for those of you who like a long book for your money, this one will do — without feeling like its pacing drags. You should also look into Uprooted if you like fairy tales, and if you like alt-history, Novik’s Temeraire series is particularly charming: the Napoleonic Wars fought from the sky on the backs of dragons.
Spinning Silver won the 2019 Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel and was nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Novel (also in 2019). I am just not remotely surprised.
It is no secret to people who know me that I hoard books, maybe a little bit. We have thousands of books in our house and have given up any pretense of calling our living room anything but a library. I have an entire bookshelf in my bedroom just to house my TBR list. The acquisition of books that interest me makes me feel genuinely happy and excited about life because I cannot wait to read all those stories. Our Little Free Library might have been constructed in part to help me make peace with letting go of books now and then because we don’t live in a Tardis or have an Undetectable Extension Charm on our house (more’s the pity).
But yo, my job is not to be a Reader Just For Fun. So sometimes it takes me longer than I’d like to get around to reading books on that TBR bookshelf.
Over Spring Break, I finally read The Frog Prince by Elle Lothlorien, a novel which had sat on my TBR bookshelf for several years, enticing me with its romantic-comedy plot and not-pink cover art, and seriously, I cannot believe I waited so long to read it! I devoured it in three days and loved loved loved it!
This book is a romance, but it’s a very sweet one — meaning the main plot of the story is about an amorous relationship, but it’s not an explicit read. I would feel comfortable recommending this book to my high school students who enjoy romantic comedies.
And the comedy? I laughed so much in the first several chapters of this book that I had to put it down occasionally until I finished giggling. Lothlorien’s voice is strong and funny, and her writing style, very engaging. I will admit the book isn’t a laugh-a-minute all the way through: the comedy does dial down just a bit as we get into the thick of the plot to make way for a compelling story. The characters are fun and realistic, I genuinely cared about what was happening to them, and the writing is really good from sentence-level to narrative architecture.
This book is called The Frog Prince but it doesn’t have tons of parallels to the Grimm Brothers’ “Iron Heinrich.” (Think Naomi Novik’s Uprooted and “Beauty and the Beast.”) Lothlorien’s book is pretty original. But if you want an enjoyable romantic comedy in a modern setting with the same kind of feels as a fairy tale, this book is a good choice for you.