Reading Fun

Readers Are Just Awesome People!

I read this article and just had to pass along the link. It talks about the benefits of being a reader, not just for ourselves but for those around us. And by readers I mean those people who when they lift their eyes from the page need a few seconds to adjust to the reality they have just returned to.

This link leads to an Elite Daily article on why Readers are the best people to fall in love. The article discusses the psychological research that finds readers to be more empathetic and capable of understanding than non-readers. Have a look yourself. Enjoy!

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Authors I Love, Books I Love

Playing Favorites

I was on a fellow author’s website the other day and under his bio he had a list of his favorites: Favorite color, favorite drink, etc.  I thought that was a good idea.  But I decided to limit mine to favorite books.

Favorite Author:  Tie: James Rollins and JD Robb

Favorite Sci FI Book:  Ender’s Game by Scott Oswald Card

Favorite Action AdventureJurassic Park by Michael Crichton

Favorite Romance:   A Knight in Shining Armor by Jude Deveraux

Favorite Horror:  Cabinet of Curiosities by Lincoln Child and Douglas Preston (not sure it belongs here but that’s what popped into my head)

Favorite Book I was Required to Read:  I’m completely blank on this one.

Favorite Kid Book:  But Not the Hippopotamus by Sandra Boynton

Favorite Comic Strip:  Calvin and Hobbes

Favorite Kids Series(Read as an Adult):   Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling

Favorites Kid Series (Read as a Child): The Famous Five by Enid Blyton

Favorite Mind Blowing Book:  The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown

Favorite Food:  Hamburger (Just seeing if you’re paying attention.)

Favorite Guilty Pleasure Series:  The Twilight Series by Stephanie Meyers

Favorite Genre:  Thriller

As I look over my list, I agree with each statement.  Yet, I also realize that not one of the books by my favorite authors can be found in any of the above categories.   But Rollins and Robb are, without a doubt, my favorite authors. Whenever I see their name on a book, I pick it up without question.  Sometimes I don’t even bother reading the description before purchasing it.

So why weren’t my favorite authors responsible for my favorites reads? Because I assume I’m going to enjoy whatever they publish. My favorites, on the other hand, were a unique occurrence. I wasn’t expecting to enjoy the book as much as I did.

I’ve read other books by those authors but they don’t grab me the same way. Even though they wrote one of my favorite books, I am not a guaranteed customer for their next publication. I’d read the blurb and decide if it worked for me. So being thrilled by their book was a happy surprise, but not the beginning of a life long love of all the author’s works.

There was some recent research on best sellers that somewhat backs that up. The authors that are the most successful are those with a dedicated readership who publish regularly. And most of them do not dominate the number one spot for weeks and weeks. They do however make the list of the top sellers year after year.

For others, they are a bit of a one hit wonder. By the next year, they are off the list.

Anybody else find their favorites coming from their non-favorite authors? Feel free to comment below.  🙂

Authors I Love, Books I Love

It’s As if You’re One of the Family : The Accused by Lisa Scotoline

I first read Lisa Scotoline years and years ago, when I was really into legal thrillers. Scotoline has a series based around an all female law firm called Rosato and Associates. Scotolines last Rosato et al., outing was back in 2010. She’s done a few standalone’s in between. But, to be honest, they never really appealed to me. (Sorry, Lisa.) But now she’s back with another Rosato firm book, The Accused, with my favorite lead, Mary DiNunzio.

Mary was first introduced in 2000 in Everywhere that Mary Went. And there is something completely appealing about her. Maybe it’s my Catholic School upbringing , but Mary’s Catholic guilt rang true. Her very Italian parents, their concern, their over involvement in her life, albeit in the most loving way possible, all make you smile. They are a warm hug wrapped around a mystery.

And then there are the Tony’s. Mary has these three friends of her father’s, age seventy and up, who are all named Tony and just want to help. Pigeon Tony, Tony Two Feet, and Tony from Down the Block, are such great entertaining characters. Maybe it’s growing up on Long Island where I was exposed to a great deal of Italian culture, which is a rapid departure from the Scottish culture I experienced in my own home, but I recognized these guys too.

When you read these books, the mystery is engaging, but it’s the characters that make you feel like you’re part of the family. Scotoline does a great job of drawing you in and keeping you there. You care about her characters and you watch how much the other characters care about one another. Who wouldn’t root for someone the three Tony’s care so much about?

The story this time around revolves around a decades old mystery that a thirteen-year-old girl wants solve. But here’s the rub: the victim was her sister and she believes the man sent to prison for her murder is innocent.

I picked The Accused up thinking, well this should be all right. But I’d forgotten how much I enjoy this series. I ended up reading longer than I planned and later than I planned. I finished the book in two days. It was great. Another lost in a book moment. 🙂

Books I Love, Reading Fun

A Suggestion For When You Can’t Spend A Lot Of Time With A Book

Sorry for the long absence. I haven’t blogged about anything in a while because I haven’t read much lately. Well, I’ve read a few things, but not really anything I’d recommend. I live by the motto, if you don’t have anything good to say, yadda, yadda, yadda.

And life did get a little hectic, making reading difficult. Actually, that’s not entirely true. Life did get hectic but I have been reading. Just not novels. . . something else . . .um, well . . . okay, okay. I’ve been reading comic books.

I know, I know. No intelligent adult is supposed to admit that publicly. But it’s true and it has completely filled the reading void. I have been busy. The kind of busy that means large portions of time will go between reading sessions. Enough time that it’s hard to get into a book.

And, to be perfectly frank, I haven’t had the time to get lost in a book. But a comic book is different. A short little story that I can read in one sitting and walk away feeling satisfied.

Oh, what comic book? Um, well, Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

I know, I know, but I used to love that show. I was so upset when it went off the air. And the comics take up right where the show left off. It’s fun, fantastical, and irreverent.

And the Buffy comic is overseen by Joss Whedon. Who doesn’t love Joss Whedon? So yes, I am an adult woman, with kids, who likes comics. So if you’re looking for a short little something, try comics.

Now if you’ll excuse me, Calvin and Hobbes are waiting for me. ☺

Books I Love

A Game of Thrones: I Can’t Believe How Much I Liked This Book!

I just finished reading the A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin. And it was incredible! And I have to tell you, I wasn’t expecting it to be. Here’s how it came about:

Two friends know I am always on the search for a good book. They both recommended it in the same week. One friend is a female physician who tends towards mysteries. The other is a male cop who tends towards hard-boiled action novels. These two have nothing in common. These are the friends that you know you will never introduce to one another. Because after the first few minutes of small talk, Mexico’s Zone of silence will sound like a drunken frat party in comparison.

Needless to say, I was intrigued to find out what it was about the one book that had both of them recommending it. It’s not that I hadn’t heard about A Game of Thrones. Anybody not currently residing under a rock has heard of A Game of Thrones.

In case any rock dwellers are reading, A Game of Thrones is a series of books that has been turned into an incredibly popular HBO series. If you ask any one about the series they will inevitably mention one of three themes: violence, sex and incest. Generally, that’s not what pulls me in. Plus, from what I could tell, it seemed to be based in the Middle Ages. Again, not my thing. But I gave it a shot.

Holy cow! It was so good! The novel is told through the eyes of about seven characters. Right off the bat, Martin is breaking rules. If you read anything about how not to write a novel, they say do not use too many points of views. Martin does and he does it wonderfully. Each character he portrays he does so with full detail, emotional, physical, and mental. You are completely engrossed in the character and the world they are seeing.

And what a world! Intrigue, backstabbing, love, loyalty, honor, desperation. It’s all there. I was hooked from page one. So much, that I read the first two books in a about two days. (Page total: approximately 1500). Then I borrowed Season One from a friend.

I am currently wading my way through Book 4: A Feast for Crows. More on the other books in upcoming blogs. Any other Thrones fans out there?

Authors I Love, Books I Love

A ‘Drop Everything Until You Finish It’ Book: Ender’s Game.

Aaah, the joy of finding a new author to love!  Is there truly anything better?  And last weekend, I found one.  I was at the movies and a preview for Ender’s Game came on.  It looked intriguing, especially when they said it was based on the international best-selling book.  I thought, hmm, that’s weird I haven’t heard of it.  So when I got home, I looked it up.  It was published in 1985, when I was twelve.  I forgave myself for not being aware of it.

Then  I picked up the original version (there’s also a movie tie-in version), and brought it home.  And if  it had been an option, I would have ignored the rest of the world for the next twenty four hours.  It’s one of those books.  You know the type, you just wish the word would go away so you could finish the story without interruption.

Enders Game by Orson Scott Card is set way in the future after we have been visited by aliens whom we were barely able to repel. In response, the world unites to find the best and the brightest to be the future military officers who will finally defeat this foe.  And where do they look?  At the children.  And the lucky(?) chosen are sent to Battle School, in space, where they are cut off from all family and friends.

Andrew Higgins, aka Ender, is chosen.  But not only is he chosen, he is believed to be THE best and the brightest.  He is to be groomed to lead the entire fleet.  At the ripe old age of six, he is placed in Battle School and he has to grow up.  Fast.

Okay, so far, it sounds like your run of the mill sci-fi adventure.  But it is not.  Card does an incredible job of letting you see the world and the people around Ender through Ender’s eyes.  And those eyes, albeit, young are sharp and wise beyond their years.  Yet, at the same time, his thoughts are still tinged with a child-like vulnerability.  You want the best for Ender, especially when those around him seem determined to make life for him as difficult as possible to prepare him to lead.

It is both heart breaking and inspiring to see Ender shoulder the responsibility placed on his young shoulders.  You root for him, cry for him, and just wish the world could give him a break.  Or maybe a friend.  At the same time, you see the logic in his decisions.  And the action!  It is page turning and chock full.

When trying to come up with a similar book, I naturally thought of The Hunger Games.  But then I realized that wasn’t true.  The sci-fi and action are only a backdrop for the story.  Not the focus.  The story is about human interactions and perseverance.   Which made me realize it is actually like another favorite of mine, The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay.  They are both stories about boys who realize the incredible power they both hold.  That power comes from their commitment to make a difference.

After I finished the book (and, yes, I did that in one day), I went out and bought five more books from the series.  I am officially an Orson Scott Card groupie.  So if you need a new reading addiction, check out Ender’s Game.  But be warned, your life may have to go on hold until you finish it!  🙂

Books I Love

The Enduring Intrigue of the Romanovs

If there is one topic that is guaranteed to get me to pull a book off a shelf, physical or digital, it is the Romanov’s. I have been fascinated with them since I was a child. When I was a kid, I joined a reading club at my local library. (Yes, yes. We’ve already discussed my incredibly geeky upbringing.) One summer, I think I was ten, I discovered a series of children’s books that covered the entire Romanov family. I read all twelve of them cover to cover. And hence, a reading obsession began.

For those unfamiliar with the family, the Romanovs were the last ruling family of Russia. They ruled from 1613 to 1917. And while the family in its totality is intriguing, it is the last Czar and his family that truly inspires fascination.

Tsar Nicholas came to power in 1894. The Tsarina, a German born princess, was not well regarded by the Russian people, especially after two events: one she provided only daughters until the couples fifth child. But the Tsarevich, Alexei, was stricken with hemophilia and was sickly for all his days. The other event was the introduction of Rasputin to the royal circle. And who isn’t fascinated by the mad monk?

And then when the family was finally executed by the Bolsheviks in 1918, mystery surrounded their demise. Rumors abound that some survived the assassination. And then there’s Anna Anderson. Honestly, I could go on and on. Suffice it to say, I’ve read pretty much everything on the family and I still can’t get enough.

So as I was scrolling through books, looking for a new read, I found The Romanov Cross by Robert Masello. And it was incredible! Granted, anything with the Romanovs will keep my interest, but this was a new twist on an old mystery. It imported the rumors about Rasputin and Anastasia, twirling them together in a new way. Add in a dash of a potential humanity-ending disease and voile, captivating entertainment. Set in Russia and Alaska, it mixed history with mystery and a healthy dose of what if.

As I write this, I can’t help but think of one of my other favorite Romanov-themed novels, The Romanov Prophesy by Steve Berry. I’ve read it at least three times. The novel follows Miles Lord as he is chased across the globe while tracking down a modern day heir to the Romanov throne. Love that book! Easily one of my all-time favorites.

So, if you’re looking for a good book to read, try The Romanov Curse by Robert Masello or The Romanov Prophesy by Steve Berry. And if anyone out there has any Romanov-themed books to recommend, I’d love to hear from you! 🙂

Books I Love

Going, going, gone! Michael Grant’s last installment in the Gone Series

Previously, I have chatted about Young Adult novels: They are not just for kids. Originally, I started roaming the shelves looking for books for my nephew. Of course, I had to read them before I handed them over. I was shocked to find a number of series that had me absolutely hooked. Nowhere is that more apparent than with Michael Grant’s Gone series.

The sixth and final book in the series, Light, was released at the beginning of April. And like all the other books, I couldn’t put it down. Literally. I ignored the other things I had to do that day, unable to focus on anything but the story. I forced myself to get some work done, placing myself in a location far from the book. I lasted two hours. Then I sprinted back home and curled up on the couch. Again. It’s that kind of series.

For those unfamiliar with the series, let me give you a little back story. One morning, all of the people older than the age of fifteen, in a Californian town called Perdido Beach, disappear. Poof. All that are left are the kids, newborns through age fourteen. And an impermeable wall now surrounds the town. The kids have no idea what happened. Are they the only one left? Is there anyone on the other side of the wall? Are all the adults even alive?

Unsurprisingly, some of the kids try to take over and others are forced into hero roles. And then we add in the superpowers. I know, I know. It sounds weird. And you’re thinking, okay Lord of the Flies meets X-Men. Actually, you’re not too far off, except for losing the whole Xavier-morality part. Think Magneto alone. (Yes, yes, I know. My nerd is showing.) But, damn, the books are addictive!

Across the series, the kids face different trials. Namely: Hunger, Lies, Plague, and Fear, which coincidently are the names of books two through four. In the final installment, all the battles come full circle and the kids face the truth of the kind of people they are. And the kind of people they want to be. At the end, they know they are not children. They haven’t been since the adults disappeared.

So if you’re looking to get lost, try the Gone series. You won’t be disappointed. I sure wasn’t. 🙂

Books I Love

Diagnosing Great Books: What Makes a Book Stay With You

So, I was thinking about books the other day and my absolute love of them. Now I have been a huge reader since, well, since Dr. Seuss. But there is that turning point in a readers life when books literally change the way you look at them and the expectations you have for them.

I think that may be why I struggle at times to find a ‘good’ book, never mind a ‘great’ book. I’ve read some incredible ones and it’s difficult then to be okay with a book that’s, well, okay.

So I was trying to pin point those critical books. You know, the ones that made you realize that books could do more than just help you pass the time. Two came immediately to mind, both published back in 1990 when I was a junior in high school. (I will spare you the sad description of crimped hair, purple eye shadow, and white fringed books. Oops, sorry about that.)

Anyway, when I wasn’t holding my breath through a halo of Aqua Net or wistfully sighing over Matt Rosen (name changed to protect me), I was reading incessantly. Yup, a real social animal was I. But I digress. The two books that radically changed my expectations are The Eight by Catherine Neville and Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton.

Jurassic Park is familiar, of course, to one and all. Scientists re-create dinosaurs on an island and unsurprisingly, the dinosaurs break loose, trying to kill everyone on said island. But it’s not just the adventure that pulled me into the story. It was the science. It sounded so possible, providing that ‘what if’ factor. Since then, I have loved books that use science or history to pull us into a ‘what if’ adventure. It stretches your mind and opens your eyes to the possibilities. How can you not love that?

The Eight is probably not as well known, although it was an international bestseller. Ostensibly, The Eight is about a search for a chess set that spans almost two hundred years. But it is a much more complicated, and rich narrative than that. You feel for the characters and each twist and turn, leaves you wanting more. It was that very complexity that created my second expectation for great books.

So, now for a book to be ‘great’ in my mind, it must have that complexity and the ‘what if’ factor. James Rollins usually meets the criteria, as does Carol O’Connell and J.D. Robb. Oh, and of course, Michael Grant’s Gone series. What about you? What or who makes a book ‘great’ in your mind?

Books I Love

YA Books: Not just for kids anymore

Let’s face it. Since the release of the Harry Potter, Twilight and Hunger Games series, young adult books are not just for the young any more.

What? You haven’t read Hunger Games yet? Not even the first one? Okay. Stop reading and step away from the computer. Go immediately to your bookstore or e-book distributor, download or buy Hunger Games. Read it. I’ll wait . . . .

Thanks for rejoining us to our blog already in progress. So where was I? Oh right. YA books. I know the idea for me was not at first appealing. All I could remember were the schmaltzy teen romances from my day. But that’s not what YA is anymore.

In the publishing world, the YA market is literally exploding. Twilight demonstrated this huge group hungry for books and the publishing world has responded. Think great thrillers without the sex. (well, usually.)

One great read is the Gone series by Michael Grant. The series tells the story about a town where all the adults above the age of fifteen disappear one day and a weird force field surrounds the town, keeping them in. Half the kids have some form of mutant powers and half do not. It becomes a modern day Lord of the flies. Absolutely addicting!

A second series to check out is by Dan Wells. The first book is called Partials, the second Fragments. The stories are set after disease and war with Partials has wiped out all but 35,000 people from the planet. Partials, incredibly powerful bio-synthetic humans, are at war with the remaining humans. And all human babies born die within days of birth from a disease called RM. A young woman, Kira Walker, is looking for a cure and along the way finds an ally in a Partial. Together, they are attacked by both sides as they struggle to save humanity.

So when you’re desperate for a new book, take a little stroll through the YA aisles. I have and I’ve found some gems. Maybe you’ll discover your own riches!