Friday, September 18, 2020

FALL INTO READING: My Current List and An Update from Smoky California


It's already halfway through September. I don't know about you, but this year has been one giant blur. Everything from March until now has been an eternal disappointment, society-wise, especially in California, since our businesses and schools have been forced to remain closed for such an extensive period of time. The small pleasures of life - like sitting inside at a coffee shop or dining at the local pub - have been stripped away, replaced with cold, clinical regulations enforced by a remorseless state administration. Salons have only just reopened here in California, for example. Restaurants are still being forced to serve diners in parking lots, under canvas tents with port-a-cools thundering in the background. My college just announced that classes will be held online until at least May 2021. And to top it all off, the state is on fire. A perfect storm of chaos, and frankly, I'm angry. Angry at everything. Tired. Overworked. Stressed out trying to figure out the logistics of surviving in this new, unfamiliar world. 

Because of everything that is happening in the world, I've found it hard to focus on my favorite passion: reading! With school being moved exclusively online, I no longer have the luxury of studying on campus. At home, my first responsibility is to meet the needs of my child, which means often my homework is done at night, after she goes to bed. By the time I'm done with homework, I crawl into bed, done for the day. This leaves little time for reading for pleasure. 

That being said, I have decided to attempt to rearrange my schedule. With the prospect of yet another online semester looming on the horizon, I can no longer tell myself, "It's just for a few more months." At this point, I'll be home until next summer at least, so reorganizing my approach to college at home has brought me a lot of peace of mind. Frankly, online college is not a very fruitful experience, and has produced mostly frustration for me. I don't feel that I'm learning efficiently, and honestly, these COVID semesters should be about 50% off the original tuition, because students are barely getting 50% of the value of the education. But I digress. I can only do my best, which is all any of us can do, right? 

To wrap this little ramble-bramble festival up, I'm going to share with you my list of current reads. These are books that are on my Kindle, have been purchased at the local book store, or snagged at a thrift shop (seriously: you can find the coolest books at the thrift store: I have found so many books for my daughter there!). 

I am sharing these books simply to further the original creative intent of the authors. I don't own the book cover images. You can purchase any of these books through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc. I highly encourage you to go out and support these writers' work! I am sharing them here so that you can have a chance to discover these authors as well and purchase their books. 

Here we go! 

The Traitor Queen by Danielle L. Jensen 

OMG. I read the first installment, The Bridge Kingdom, last September and I was madly obsessed with it. I have been literally counting down the months until this sequel released, and I'm going to devour it. It's a brilliant blend of whimsical fantasy, hardcore action, and sizzling romance. I cannot recommend this book enough. 

From Blood and Ash by Jennifer L. Armentrout 

I first discovered Jennifer's work when I was a staff member of NA Alley (which some of you may recall!). We featured her there as a burgeoning voice of New Adult fiction, and I interviewed her some time later here on Writing Belle (the interview is somewhere in my archives, probably dated around 2012). I was very excited to discover this book on Kindle in the past week. The promise of adventure, romance, and fantasy really caught my attention. Jennifer is incredibly witty and talented as a novelist, and I'm looking forward to checking this out. 

Where She Fell by Kaitlin Ward 

And here is one of those thrift-store gems I came across. I am reading the book to determine rather or not it is appropriate to use as reading material in a middle grade writing class that I'm teaching this semester, and I haven't decided yet. The book follows the adventures of a girl named Eliza who accidentally falls into an underground cavernous ecosystem and struggles to not only survive...but escape. So far it's been a solid story and an interesting concept. I'd rate it at about a PG level, content-wise.

Beyond the Bright Sea, by Lauren Wolk 

This book recommendation came directly from one of my students, and I always love to see what kids are reading these days. This is a middle-grade historical fiction piece about a girl who hails from mysterious origins near the sea. The reviews are shining and I have heard, also, that Wolk's first novel, Wolf Hollow, is also worth the time to read. I'm excited to try this one and see how it goes! 

Midnight Sun, by Stephanie Meyer 

What is wrong with me that I can't let go of Twilight? Love it or hate it, you can't deny that Meyer has had unbelievable success with her series of star-crossed human and vampire lovers. I'll never forget how cool I used to think Edward was for sparkling in the sun (I was 16, give me a break). I fondly remember Twilight as the first real "mainstream" novel that I read in the romance genre, and how wholeheartedly I was committed to Team Jacob for a time. While I won't be rereading the series again, I am interested in seeing how Midnight Sun turned out, because this was a long-awaited treat for original fans of the series. 

The Forever War, by Joe Haldeman 

A time-traveling, mind-bending tale set amidst war in the galaxies, I have been trying to get this finished since March, and it hasn't worked out yet. It is often very difficult for me to get into science-fiction because of the over-abundance of details, but I have heard that this is a really good book, so I'm still giving it my best shot. 

To Sleep in a Sea of Stars, by Christopher Paolini

Regardless of how I may feel personally about science-fiction novels, I am always willing to try new things. Paolini was always one of my favorite authors when I was in high school, because his story was similar to mine. He was originally self-published and became successful at 19 (just like me!). Granted, the Eragon books have sold many millions of copies, but Cassidy Hart has done pretty well for herself, too. I think he's inspirational as an author and I have always admired how much work he puts into building his fictional worlds. This is his first adult novel, and it follows the tale of xenobiologist Kira as she unearths an alien relic and possibly gets involved in some epic space battles in the process. I want to read this one as soon as possible, as I'm sure he's done an excellent job of building the world! 

That's all I've got for now. I couldn't possibly include every single book in my TBR stack. I mean, I could. But that would be a very long blog post indeed. Instead, I just narrowed it down to the books that are in my focus this particular WEEK. I hope you check these books out! You can purchase any of them on Amazon or Barnes & Noble! In addition, you can look any of these titles up on GoodReads and you will immediately be directed to more information about the book itself and their corresponding authors! Enjoy! 

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