I’ve been on a reading jag lately. It’s what I’m doing instead of writing because writing is hard work and requires thinking. Reading is not hard work, and requires only a joyful focus on the result of someone else’s efforts.
A variety of books and authors are waiting their turn on my coffee table, in bookcases, and on my Kindle and Nook tablet. I’m being very selective about the books I choose. Here’s how I do it.
1. Great cover art, and
2. A short synopsis that intrigues me, and
3. A good hook on the first page of the novel.
4. Or….the book is written by someone I know in person or through online contacts, and I want to sample that author’s work.
5. Or…there’s an online buzz about the book.
My most recent reads include Song of the Beast by Carol Berg, an award-winning author of high fantasy; Crossing Colfax, the most recent anthology from Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers; Words Left Behind: tales from a life gladly lived, memoir by Nancy L. Reed, and The Stranger on the Train by Abbie Taylor. Now I’m reading Haunted, an Anna Strong vampire novel by Jeanne C. Stein.
I read for entertainment, so I want solid narrative and dialogue with no little annoyances to drag me out of the story (typos, dialect, word repetitions, or timeline screwups). I want memoir to tell me something new about the author. I want thrillers and suspense to keep me turning the pages. I like tight writing for some genres, and expanded beautiful prose for others.
Rarely do I decide to read a book based on the reviews on amazon.com or Goodreads. I do look at the spread of rankings, however, and then look for reviews from Publisher’s Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, Library Journal, and BookList, as well as favorite blogging sites such as Lesa’s Book Critiques and Buried Under Books.
So how did I choose those books I listed above? For Carol Berg’s novel, I attended a dinner where she was the featured guest. That reminded me I hadn’t read any of her books yet and don’t read much high fantasy, so I choose the standalone Song of the Beast to get my feet wet in the genre. This is where I fell in love with dragons.
Crossing Colfax was a must read anthology because I had met most of the authors included at the RMFW Colorado Gold Conference or through blogging contacts. These stories inspired me to read lots more as I strive to master the art. For me, writing short stories is hard.
Words Left Behind: tales from a life gladly lived is memoir written by a good friend up here in Northern Colorado, and this first publication was released through another friend’s new indie project, Wooden Pants Publishing. I’m more motivated now to self-publish something of my own one of these days.
Abbie Taylor’s book, The Stranger on the Train, was a pick off the shelf at the library. I had a tough time putting it down to do important stuff like laundry and supper preparation.
Haunted is written by Jeanne C. Stein, a Colorado author who is also a regular contributor on the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Blog where I’m co-editor.Even though I’m not usually a fan of vampires, I’m hooked on this kick-ass Anna Strong character and will have to read more novels in the series.. She’s tough, likable, and sometimes brutal. The story arc in Haunted is current and gripping.
You might wonder if I’ve been in a dark place this winter, considering the cover art on most of these selections. I assure you, that is only a coincidence. I also read the light and delightful A Wedding in Provence by Ellen Sussman. I wanted to list it last because there’s nothing more beautiful than a field of lavender in the South of France. Sussman’s book was a fun read, romantic and sexy, and full of family drama as two grown and slightly dysfunctional grown daughters attend their mother’s wedding.